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Let's turn the tables on wet, woolly, chimney-hugging, climate change-denying snowflakes

An adult female polar bear with her two yearling cubs, standing on ice flow in Spitsbergen, Norway.
An adult female polar bear with her two yearling cubs, standing on ice flow in Spitsbergen, Norway.

We've heard a lot of talk in recent months about the dangers of Donald Trump having his finger on the nuclear button.

You know when your dad come round, rubbing his hands and starts messing about with your radiators? It's like that, only on a global apocalyptic scale
Paul Kirkley

We’ve heard a lot of talk in recent months about the dangers of Donald Trump having his finger on the nuclear button.

But, assuming there are guys with guns ready to wrestle him to the ground should he decide to start World War Three during a Twitter meltdown, perhaps what we should really be worried about is the fact he’s got those tiny hands on the global thermostat.

Last week, Trump signed an executive order designed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to combat climate change, ushering in a new era of dirty, planet-warming carbon dioxide for all. You know when your dad comes round to your house and starts rubbing his hands and messing about with your radiators? It’s like that, only on a global, apocalyptic scale.

Not that this should come as a surprise. Jacking up America’s carbon emissions was one of Trump’s key campaign pledges, and the writing was on the wall the moment he appointed Scott Pruitt to head up the US Environmental Protection Agency. A sworn enemy of “oppressive” clean energy legislation who has sued the agency he now runs 14 times, giving Pruitt the keys to the EPA isn’t so much letting the fox loose in the henhouse as giving the fox some matches and a can of petrol and telling him to burn the henhouse down.

Polar bear on pack ice
Polar bear on pack ice

Pruitt – who, according to Greenpeace USA, has received $318,496 in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry since 2002 – says the science of climate change is “far from settled”. You’ll be hearing that a lot in the coming years, as Pruitt and his fossil fuel cronies (like Rex Tillerson, the ExxonMobil chief exec turned Secretary of State) aggressively propagate the myth that everything is still up for grabs: that man-made global warming is only a “theory”. Well sure, but then so is gravity – and not believing in that won’t stop you falling down a hole.

The truth – a dirty word these days, I know, but bear with me – is that 97 per cent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are “very likely” due to human activities. For the non-mathematicians among you, that means only 3 per cent don’t.

But wait, say the deniers. How can we trust the scientists? How do we know they’re not all colluding in a vast conspiracy – a “hoax”, according to the President – that promotes a climate change agenda in order to acquire more funding for clean energy research or, I don’t know, get laid or something?

Well, maybe a few of them are – there are always a few bad apples in every barrel, after all. But 97 per cent of them? I mean, call me naive, but I’m pretty sure there must still be some scientists left who are motivated by the principled search for evidence, and truth. If they all went into it for the money, they’ve received some pretty shocking career advice somewhere down the line.

I’m no financial expert, but I’d be willing to bet you can still get rich quicker by defaulting on your bad debts, like Donald J Trump, than spending years painstakingly studying changes to ice floes in the Arctic Ocean. Unless the world’s climate scientists are also living in 58-storey gold towers in Manhattan and we just haven’t heard about it.

So let’s call out this idea that scientists aren’t telling the truth for what it is: a conspiracy theory of Elvis-shot-Kennedy-during-a-faked-moon-landing proportions that belongs in the world of the tinfoil hat brigade and wackos stockpiling weapons in Arizona. It certainly has no place in the White House.

The flat-earthers of the climate change denial industry are also very keen to present a view of climate science as the exclusive preserve of the left, wilfully ignoring the fact much of the most compelling evidence has been collated and disseminated by organisations like NASA – you know, those beatnik longhairs founded by that famous old hippie, Dwight Eisenhower.

Donald Trump’s response to this inconvenient truth? He’s threatening to withdraw funding from NASA’s climate division in a crackdown on “politicised science”. That’s a President willing to suppress actual empirical, peer-reviewed data (facts, in old money) because they conflict with his own gut prejudice and/or business interests – and then having the cheek to call them politicised.

But that’s the point here – the flat-earthers can chuck about terms like “politicised research” and climate “alarmists” (a Pruitt favourite) with impunity because we’ve somehow allowed them to grab the wheel of the debate and set the terms of the dialogue. We may have all the facts, but they’ve got all the slogans.

I know that’s true generally of the post-truth world we’re living in, but it’s particularly pertinent when it comes to the environment because it’s not just the politicians and the vested interests who control and shape the language of climate change – millions of people do it, every day. They do it in every boorish off-the-peg insult about “tree-huggers” or “lentil-munchers” or people knitting their own shoes out of yoghurt. If green politics has a face in the minds of the British public, it’s probably still more likely to be Swampy – the soap-dodger who burrowed underground to try to stop the Newbury Bypass – than a NASA scientist.

Worst of all, how have we allowed the adjective “woolly” to become automatically attached to “liberal” – as if their fates are as inextricably entwined as fish and chips or Ant and Dec? Because, when it comes to the environment, surely the exact opposite is true? Those of us concerned about climate change (let’s call us greens, for the sake of argument, though what I really mean is anyone who values evidence over gut instinct or something a bloke down the pub read in the Daily Express) are the ones who are prepared to man up and say: yes, tough choices need to be made. Tough, unpopular choices that may mean curtailing some of the freedoms we’ve come to take for granted. On the opposite side of the argument, meanwhile, are those people who insist we can’t ask people to use their car less or take fewer foreign holidays or remember to bring a carrier bag to Sainsbury’s because… well, they might not like it. They might get cross. They might write letters. Which of these, do you think, is the real example of “woolly” thinking?

So maybe it’s time we turned the tables and started talking about tough, hard-headed, hard-nosed greens versus wet, woolly, namby-pamby chimney-huggers on the loony right.

Or, as this is Britain, how about a nice Second World War analogy? By acknowledging the climate change crisis and demanding tough action, us greens are basically Winston Churchill. And the climate change deniers sticking their heads in the sand and hoping it will all just go away... they’re Neville Chamberlain. They have in their hand a piece of paper, and it’s an assurance from ExxonMobil that global warming is a hoax, so we can all just carry on about our business.

During the war, the British people were asked to recycle everything from metal to rubber to bones in a bid to help the Allied cause. Now, apparently, we’re so indolent, spoon-fed and mollycoddled by the nanny state that we can’t even sort our rubbish into two piles without crying like little babies and complaining about “wheelie bin Nazis”.

Imagine what would have happened to Britain if we’d had that attitude in 1939? “Well, I could dig for victory, but why should I, just because the Allotment Police tell me to? I’m not convinced about these so-called ‘Nazis’ anyway...”

Basically, what I’m saying is that the woolly, namby-pamby, climate change-denying, anti-recycling, green-bashing, chimney-hugging, science-hating snowflakes of the flat-earth lobby need to stop being such sopping wet drips and Man Up. Because the truth is that real men recycle and hard men hug trees. And, for what it’s worth, I’ve never been a huge fan of lentils.

:: Read Paul Kirkley’s exclusive column in the Cambridge Independent every Wednesday.

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