“The climate has changed before.”
“Earth is actually cooling.”
“They predicted an Ice Age in the 1970s.”
“Climate change is a leftist agenda hoax perpetrated by George Soros and the Chinese.”
These common statements are either categorically false, or don’t represent anything like good faith arguments. When only 15% of conservative Republicans believe that human-influenced climate change exists at all, and 36% of Americans identify as conservative, what you have is a recipe for policy obstruction, misinformation, and thrallhood to the wealthy that is guaranteed to lead to human extinction.
That’s it. That’s not hyperbole or scare tactics. That’s scientific consensus. That’s the peer-reviewed math, folks.
It’s a zero-sum extinction game that we’ve already lost as long as these people are suffered to hold forth on non-information, use it to manipulate others and worse, determine policy that affects everyone. That they don’t believe in the game, or that they’re playing it – that they’ve turned human survival into a political game at all – doesn’t change the reality or the stakes.
In much the same way that a person who is “totally not racist” can, by virtue of saying and doing very racist things, be a racist in spite of their impaired self-awareness, so too can deniers of climate change actually advocate for something for which they don’t believe they’re advocating: human extinction.
Unpacked, racism contains a portfolio of expected attitudes, actions, and consequences for minorities. That’s what makes it such a loaded word, and why people resent being called racist. It’s why racism gets people fired; it means something. Climate denial doesn’t really mean anything; when people are racists, the net result is racism. When people are climate denialists, the net result isn’t merely denialism.
To frame it as simple denial is to reduce it to an argument over a matter of opinion. If you’re denying it, it’s something that can be denied by definition. This is obviously extraordinarily dangerous, and not an accurate reflection of the available information and the stakes. Denial in this instance is passive: “Oh, well, I just happen to disagree based on misinformation and political agenda so I’m not going to sign off on that and will advocate for directly harmful policies instead.” The phrase “climate change denial” doesn’t communicate what you’re actually about. Much like the word “atheism”, it only communicates what you aren’t.
If you’re a climate change denier, what you are is an advocate for human extinction, and whether your precious opinion agrees is immaterial; your cognitive dissonance is going to get us all killed. You are an extinctionist.
Well-meaning calls to “reach across the aisle” or be willfully obtuse for phantom social capital are, at this point, misguided about the nature of the problem. We are dealing with people who, by the nature of their bias, cannot permit their minds to be changed. Toning yourself down to appeal to centrists also isn’t going to work. Either people can process this information and give a shit about it, or they can’t. Speaking plainly is the only way to reach people that can be reached at this point. We don’t have time to coddle everyone who wants to dig in their heels.
That begins by calling climate deniers what they are: advocates for human extinction. Extinctionists.