Anthropogenic global warming is a scientific hypothesis, not an article of religious or ideological dogma. Skepticism and doubt are entirely appropriate in the realm of science, in which truth is determined by evidence, experimentation, and observation, not by consensus or revelation. Yet when it comes to global warming, dissent is treated as heresy -- as a pernicious belief whose exponents must be shamed, shunned, or silenced.
Newsweek is hardly the only offender. At the Live Earth concert in New Jersey last month, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. denounced climate-change skeptics as "corporate toadies" for "villainous" enemies of America and the human race. "This is treason," he shouted, "and we need to start treating them now as traitors."
Some environmentalists and commentators have suggested that global-warming "denial" be made a crime, much as Holocaust denial is in some countries. Others have proposed that climate-change dissidents be prosecuted in Nuremberg-style trials. The Weather Channel's Heidi Cullen has suggested that television meteorologists be stripped of their American Meteorological Society certification if they dare to question predictions of catastrophic global warming.
A few weeks ago, the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Marlo Lewis published an article opposing mandatory limits on carbon-dioxide emissions, arguing that Congress should not impose caps until the technology exists to produce energy that doesn't depend on carbon dioxide. In response to Lewis's reasonable piece, the president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, Michael Eckhart, issued a threat:
"Take this warning from me, Marlo. It is my intention to destroy your career as a liar. If you produce one more editorial against climate change, I will launch a campaign against your professional integrity. I will call you a liar and charlatan to the Harvard community of which you and I are members. I will call you out as a man who has been bought by Corporate America."
This is the zealotry and intolerance of the auto-da-fé. The last place it belongs is in public-policy debate. The interesting and complicated phenomenon of climate change is still being figured out, and as much as those determined to turn it into a crusade of good vs. evil may insist otherwise, the issue of global warming isn't a closed book. Smearing those who buck the "scientific consensus" as traitors, toadies, or enemies of humankind may be emotionally satisfying and even professionally lucrative. It is also indefensible, hyperbolic bullying. That the bullies are sure they are doing the right thing is not a point in their defense.
"The greatest dangers to liberty," Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, "lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."
So the same people who would have us release every murderous thug from GITMO would feel no qualms in imposing trials for crimes against humanity on people who question a scientific theory, or even more alarming don't necessarily question the theory but who to resolve the problem.
This attitude permeates also. I pointed out earlier this week the intimidation tactics that the owner of Biologists Helping Bookstores is engaged in which people at the Guardian thought was funny, and it does seem harmless enough until you look at what is being said, "I don't like that idea therefore I want to hide it from people."
Don't get me wrong I am sure this stuff happens on the political right also, although I have been unable to think of any concrete examples. When it does it is just as reprehensible, but I do think it is much more common from the political left.
Free Speech, Global Warming, Politics