Climate change dialogue has gone North Korean, which needs to stop, and even climate advocates are now agreeing

North Korea may seem a funny place to stop on the climate change road, but it’s not. The country is currently run by a vivacious chubby tyrant named Kim Jong-un, who succeeded his father, another tyrant named Kim Jong-il. Kim Jong-il was, according to official records, a remarkable man. His first round of golf was a dazzling 38 under par, including 11 holes in one, and immediately after that round he retired from golf forever.

There’s more. His other talents make that look like amateur hour. He learned to walk when three weeks old, learned to speak five weeks later, and authored 1,500 books while in university. He wrote six full operas in two years, “all of which are better than any in the history of music” according to his official biography.

What, you don’t believe all that? Luckily, you don’t have to, because you probably don’t live in North Korea. All these feats are undoubtedly true for the average North Korean, because that’s how their world works – a deity is built on myth and legend, and the whole system works because it is not an option to not believe. Non-believers are taken out behind the barn and don’t come back. Crudely but effectively, the system works.

But it doesn’t work that way here. It is surely contentious to say so, but the evidence is clear that the current climate change debate has exactly the same hallmarks as North Korea’s method of enforced harmony. If you challenge anything to do with climate change, you are a “denier” or at best a “skeptic”, and you are spared from a North Korean fate only by our blasted system of courts and rights.

A necessary disclaimer, first. I am not saying anything about climate change itself. The climate does indeed appear to be changing, and I refuse to say that human activity is definitively not involved. I simply don’t know; there is actual science involved in tracking changes in our environment, but there is little science in social-engineering extrapolation. The climate change narrative has strayed a long, long way from that burdensome scientific rigour into the world of rampant speculation and sociological wishful-thinking, where gleeful imaginations soar to fill catalogues of endless societal ailments and a need for someone to blame.

Consider this partial (partial, I got bored searching) list of afflictions that climate change is bringing to the world:

  • Decreased protein content in plants
  • Depleted fish stocks
  • Increased fish metabolism (resulting in higher mercury absorption)
  • Increased diarrhea, fever and liver disease in humans
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Thinner shells in shellfish
  • Reduced sense of smell in fish
  • Global vegetable supply to fall by up to 35 percent
  • Food riots and political unrest
  • Increasing Flesh-eating disease, malaria and Lyme disease
  • Exacerbated and increased poverty and forced migration
  • Discouraged female education and promotion of child marriage
  • Increased sexism
  • Promotion of racism including “environmental racism”
  • Shrinking boreal forests
  • Increased feelings of loneliness, lethargy and restless nights, primarily among women and low income people
  • More snowfall, more extreme cold, more tropical storms/hurricanes
  • A threat to US national security

If you are working to save the planet, and find that this catalogue of evils bounces uselessly off the thick skulls of climate skeptics, rest easy – there are strategies for that. The Environmental Defense Fund offers “5 critical tips” to talk to climate change skeptics, with this friendly advice: “The trick is to use patience, tolerance, an optimistic tone – and last, but not least, a keen understanding of your audience – to nudge your climate-skeptic sister or father-in-law. You may find they’re suddenly open to your views.”

Or, just throw them in jail. “Climate change denial should be a crime,” Mark Hertsgaard argued in a Sept. 7 article in the Nation, titled “Climate Denialism Is Literally Killing Us,” that “murder is murder” and “we should punish it as such.”

Or, as put elsewhere, “Oil companies should be taken to court ‘for knowingly killing people all over the world.’” according to the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

One has to wonder why it is a crime to point out a few things such as: every advancement that went into the industrial processes that are being blamed for these global ailments have had the effect of increasing longevity and reducing extreme poverty. The burning of fossil fuels is, undeniably and unequivocally, responsible directly for keeping alive almost all of the earth’s population. Without burning fossil fuels, several billion people would die next week of cold, and several billion more would die in the weeks after from starvation. It is speculation to say that climate change might reduce food production by 30 percent; it is fact to say that abolishing fossil fuels would cut food production by 99 percent.

Does that sound like unjustified hyperbole, enough to land me in jail? Well what does the “no new fossil fuel infrastructure” movement think will happen? I’m not making this up, that’s what they say: no new wells, no new pipelines, no new truck terminals, no new anything. In a few short years, well before anyone is ready for a meaningful renewable alternative, there is no hope of keeping 7 billion people alive.

There must be a path to speak rationally and find a way forward without the nonsensical implications of murder or jail time. People get this; even Schwarzenegger. In his bombastic indictment of oil companies, he also offered this thoughtful (for him) tidbit on gender (!) relations: “We make mistakes, and we don’t take it seriously. And then when you really think about it, you say, ‘Maybe I went too far,’” Schwarzenegger said. “You’ve got to be very sensitive about it, and you’ve got to think about the way that women feel—and if they feel uncomfortable, then you did not do the right thing.”

Hmm, maybe that’s not the best example…here’s a less-neanderthal analysis from a US climate change commentator, who I grudgingly admit may be getting the point across in a civilized manner that somehow eludes me. This from Matthew Nisbet of the Center for Climate Change Communication:

“For too long, as scholars, we have focused narrowly on general public attitudes, evaluating by way of opinion polls or experiments strategies to more effectively communicate climate change risks.

Like many environmentalists and philanthropists, our research has been motivated by a desire to create a sense of public urgency, believing that intensifying voter pressure on elected officials was the key to policy change.

As scholars, our unhealthy obsession with the psychology and communication strategies of “deniers” has also reinforced a bunker mentality among climate advocates that is highly resistant to legitimate criticism or alternative ideas… the emphasis has been on delivering a single narrative, and punishing those who dissent from that narrative. Such attacks are not so much about the specifics of climate science or policy, but instead about controlling who has the authority to speak on the subject.”

Fine. I’ll leave it at that – a description woefully short of cheap laughs, but from a source (who was once “a leading proponent of the mobilization doctrine” while promoting Obama) whose credentials are as potent as any climate change activist. Big deal though, I bet he hasn’t written even one decent opera.

Read more insightful analysis from Terry Etam here. To reach Terry, click here

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