Prepare the stake, stoke the fire: someone has blasphemed against climate-change orthodoxy. The speech criminal in question is Nicolas Sarkozy. Yes, the former president of France, a man who really ought to know better, has wondered out loud if mankind is solely responsible for climate change. Cue media fury. Cue eco-outrage. Cue accusations that Sarkozy has gone ‘beyond the limits of decency’. Cue an atmosphere that’s almost medieval, which basically tells Sarkozy, and by extension everyone, that you cannot say things like that. You probably shouldn’t even think them.
The swiftness and ugliness of the response to Sarkozy’s comments confirm that questioning climate change is to the 21st century what querying the divinity of Christ was to the 14th. On Wednesday, Sarkozy gave a speech to businessmen, as part of the presidential primaries for the Republicans (yes, he wants to be top dog again). In the speech he said, ‘People [talk] a lot about climate change… but the climate has been changing for the past 4.5 billion years. Man is not the sole cause of this change.’ He then said something that struck me as reasonable but which is apparently mental and unutterable: ‘Sahara has become a desert — [that] isn’t because of industry.’
For saying these things, for pointing out the climate has been in a state of flux for yonks, for saying the Sahara wasn’t created by steam engines and cars and nuclear, Sarkozy has been hauled over the coals (metaphorical ones, of course). The former leader of the French Green Party, Emmanuelle Cosse, said his remarks were ‘hallucinatory’ — anyone who questions the climate-change creed must be on drugs, right? They went ‘beyond the limits of decency’, she said.
Barbara Pompili, France’s junior minister for biodiversity, said Sarkozy’s speech was ‘backward’ and threatened to unravel ‘decades of progress’. The media have strung up this denier of eco-revelation. He has ‘sparked a storm’; he’s a ‘climate truther’, says New Republic, as it seeks to tie those who raise questions about climate change with those who say Obama wasn’t born in the US. France 24 said Sarkozy’s climate comments show how ‘far right’ he has become. Because if you raise so much as a peep of concern about climate change, you’re basically a fascist. Oh the irony of making such an accusation even as you’re shrilly accusing someone of destroying decency with his words and hinting he should never say such things again.
The most revealing comment came from Valerie Masson-Delmotte, who is on the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, a kind of eco-version of the Holy See, only less open to criticism and debate. She said our ‘developed societies’ have been ‘built on a pact between scientists and politicians’ and Sarkozy risks breaking this pact. In short, politicians must now heed, and certainly not openly knock, the claims of climatologists. These people have a cavalier disregard not only for freedom of speech, but also for democracy. A politician’s responsibility is to push his ideas, and try to win public support for them, not to read obediently from turgid scientific documents and instruct the throng on how to think about the climate and improve their eco-behaviour.
The fury over Sarkozy’s sensible comments — even if you think, as I do, that mankind has had some impact on the climate, you surely recognise that climate has always been changing? — shows how intolerant the eco-outlook has become. Whether they’re branding people ‘deniers’ or suggesting climate-change denial should be made into a crime, greens have a strange and terrifying urge to silence dissent; to circumscribe debate; to elevate The Science (they always use the definite article before the word science, speaking to their transformation of it into religion) above public debate.
Why so touchy? If they’re so sure they possess the truth, why do they seek to crush anyone who questions them? Because behind all the scientific posturing, what we have here is a deeply ideological outlook, one which views mankind as destructive, progress as a stain on the planet, and putting the brakes on industry as the only solution to pollution. And this ideology cannot be undermined. Sarkozy’s crime was to suggest that mankind isn’t the destroyer of worlds. The misanthropes will not stand for it.