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Should Climate Change Deniers Face Consequences?

06/11/2015 12:28 EDT | Updated 06/11/2016 05:59 EDT
Shutterstock / Calin Tatu

I'm no Gandhi, Edwin Snowden, or Martin Luther King Jr., but I've always had a great interest in social and moral debate. It has largely been fueled by a good dose of Scottish flare for argument (real arguing, not fighting). Yet because I started out in close proximity to my elders' conservative Christian convictions, I once joined in arguing about moral issues that I've come to see much differently.

Always passionate about my convictions, I like to think my change of opinion was because my first priority was to respect the facts. The science and the truth. And while my parents didn't get past grade nine, there was always a healthy respect in our home for university education and bettering yourself by reading books.

Most of the big changes in my world-view happened some years ago. Since, while engaging in the public square, I've argued for the rights of the homeless, greater choice for women's reproductive rights, the right to assisted suicide, and the need to recognize same-sex marriage.

These days my concern has been the increasing threat of human caused climate change and the straggling - even refusal - of our government and industries to rapidly transition to sustainable, renewable energy sources.

Now living in British Columbia, my recent focus has been our provincial government's almost pathological pursuit of its LNG ambitions: with its fracking, poisoning of aquifers, and the proposed facilities dumping of heated, chlorinated water into our already overheated ocean, threatening the destruction of our herring and other aquatic life.

Yet this piece isn't about BC's LNG, or any other particular moral issue. It's rather a deeper question for all citizens:

"Where does all the vehement, incongruous and adamant opposition to these moral arguments go, after the debate is settled?"

Moral debate obviously didn't start with the topics we, and our contemporaries, have addressed. Since the time our species formed their small communities, we've taken sides. We've been fighting for human rights, irrespective of skin color; we've been fighting for freedom from religion. The right to profess no belief in the gods and theological doctrines, without fear of reprisal. Including burning at the stake.

Now we are beginning to jeopardize our climate's stability, egged on by many who fervently proclaim "it is all a hoax." "A charade." Those who also side with multinational corporations, their billionaire owners, and politicians who openly admit they "create their own reality."

Just like those who, at the time, executed heretics, imprisoned the Galileos and tortured the atheists during the Inquisition, defended the slave trade, thought First Nations residency schools were just, interned our own citizens, defended the tobacco industry and asbestos factories.

But ask yourself, where are they now? What happened to their arguments and opposition that frustrated moral progress? In short, how is there no accountability for defending the indefensible, and the harm that inevitably comes of it?

A little esoteric and metaphysical sounding, I realize. But bear with me.

Wouldn't it be interesting if those who once tortured others, to say the Earth is the center of our solar system, to see things now? More mundane, ask someone who once was certain banning smoking in a café was the next step to fascism, what they now think? Imagine, as climate change brings the last two humans to their end, what the denier would then think about "the science"?

All too late, I know.

It may be that I still have a latent Christian hope. In Christian theology, those on the wrong side of religion have always been promised a blistering reward in the afterlife for their defense of falsehood and heresy. At least on this point, maybe the Christians have something.

There indeed should be some kind of negative payoff for vehemently arguing against the betterment -- and now survival -- of humanity. Some kind of recompense for assaulting moral progress and engaging in deception, manipulation and overt falsehoods.

Mala fide. Geez. Where's religion when you need it?

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