Apparently, climate change is such an enormous problem that the only rational solution is to “treat” scientific dissidents as if they suffer from some bizarre and serious mental illness. At least that’s what Professor Kari Norgaard of the University of Oregon argued at the Planet Under Pressure Conference this week. Norgaard argues that people are too comfortable with their own beliefs about climate change, and that “this habituation must be recognized and simultaneously addressed at the individual, cultural and societal level.” No doubt it is the state that must lead the charge against individuals who disagree with Norgaard, and in fact, her paper, co-authored by Robert Brulle and Randolph Haluza-Delay, complains about the lack of Congressional focus on climate change.
Norgaard’s reasoning is dangerous as well as flawed in the practical sense. From a civil liberties standpoint, the state obviously should not be in the business of forcing people to believe in climate change or to spend their money, in the form of taxes, on anything else they oppose. Whether climate change is real or not has nothing to do with the fact that people have the right to their own beliefs. The government does not have the authority to punish people for being atheists or Christians, though obviously both positions cannot be equally true. As far as I know, neither of those groups has demanded a state-sponsored conversion effort to rid the nation of dangerous misconceptions.
Furthermore, if Norgaard really wants to see something done about global climate change, she should not look to the federal government, whose Department of Defense is the world’s largest polluter. The federal government is known for its tendency to consider itself above its own rules, and carbon emissions standards are no exception. If she wants to see any real movement in the direction she wants, Norgaard should convince (not coerce!) those in the private sector of the merits of her ideas. She might make better headway if she stopped equating those who disagree with her radical ideas with racists.