Nothing New: Climate Scientists Live with Threats and Harassment from Climate Deniers

November 2, 2018

Under a racist, climate denying President, Haters are empowered.

Rebecca Leber in Mother Jones:

Before Tom Steyer was a high-profile figure calling for the president’s impeachment, before the attacks directed at him escalated from name-calling to threats and violence, and before the president demeaned him as a “crazed & stumbling lunatic,” the Democratic donor was familiar with being a target for the extreme right because of his prominent work in climate change advocacy.

Last week, Steyer learned he was the intended recipient of one of the 13 bombs mailed to prominent critics of President Donald Trump. It was a violent escalation of attacks on the billionaire hedge fund manager and philanthropist from those that I had observed early in 2015. At that time, he surpassed Al Gore as the most hated environmentalist in conservative America after spending millions advancing pro-climate candidates in the midterms.

Before Tom Steyer was a high-profile figure calling for the president’s impeachment, before the attacks directed at him escalated from name-calling to threats and violence, and before the president demeaned him as a “crazed & stumbling lunatic,” the Democratic donor was familiar with being a target for the extreme right because of his prominent work in climate change advocacy.

Last week, Steyer learned he was the intended recipient of one of the 13 bombs mailed to prominent critics of President Donald Trump. It was a violent escalation of attacks on the billionaire hedge fund manager and philanthropist from those that I had observed early in 2015. At that time, he surpassed Al Gore as the most hated environmentalist in conservative America after spending millions advancing pro-climate candidates in the midterms.

“Climate change was really one of the seminal points for the Republicans because they decided they could straight-up lie,” he said in a phone interview. “When you look at the kind of violent and dehumanizing rhetoric that the president has indulged in, it’s entirely consistent with the idea that there is no cost to lying, there is no cost to really attacking the basic interest of the American people. So I think climate was the template.”

These questions about tensions concerning the climate change debate are not as well understood or explicitly drawn as the immigration debate, where George Soros is charged in coded language with pulling all the strings in a vast global conspiracy, as the New York Times reported, to “undermine the established order and a proponent of diluting the white, Christian nature of their societies through immigration.”

But the right’s denial of climate change science nonetheless repeats many of the same patterns that have appeared in other extremist targets, from guns to immigration to abortion. These patterns include the appropriation of Nazi or anti-Semitic imagery, the demonization of funders and prominent advocates, and the distortion of the terms of the debate. Climate change has become another flashpoint for irrational, hateful, sometimes violent rhetoric, and even personal attacks on people who have risen to some prominence as scientists, funders, and advocates.

“Climate change was really one of the seminal points for the Republicans because they decided they could straight-up lie,” he said in a phone interview. “When you look at the kind of violent and dehumanizing rhetoric that the president has indulged in, it’s entirely consistent with the idea that there is no cost to lying, there is no cost to really attacking the basic interest of the American people. So I think climate was the template.”

These questions about tensions concerning the climate change debate are not as well understood or explicitly drawn as the immigration debate, where George Soros is charged in coded language with pulling all the strings in a vast global conspiracy, as the New York Times reported, to “undermine the established order and a proponent of diluting the white, Christian nature of their societies through immigration.”

But the right’s denial of climate change science nonetheless repeats many of the same patterns that have appeared in other extremist targets, from guns to immigration to abortion. These patterns include the appropriation of Nazi or anti-Semitic imagery, the demonization of funders and prominent advocates, and the distortion of the terms of the debate. Climate change has become another flashpoint for irrational, hateful, sometimes violent rhetoric, and even personal attacks on people who have risen to some prominence as scientists, funders, and advocates.

In another incident, while talking to a gathering of oil and gas representatives in March, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) casually and repeatedly referenced the “Three Percenters,” a movement linked to violent white supremacy that sprung up after Obama’s election, taking its name from the myth that 3 percent of colonists were behind the American Revolution. “You, ladies and gentlemen, are the Three Percenters of the modern era,” he said in remarks first reported by DeSmog Blog, “where wars are fought with monies and strategies and energy.”

Climate change denial extends across a spectrum,  ranging from arguments against solutions, to assertions that scientific findings have been exaggerated, but they all tend to return to a central point: Blaming a small number of alarmists for perpetuating large-scale fraud that has convinced thousands of scientists and countries to devote billions of dollars to combating a myth that the planet is warming. The climate-denial world has an even more tightly knit web of industry-connected groups, shown for decades to undermine the science out of self- preservation and profit. Organizations like the Heritage Foundation and the more far-flung Heartland Institute work to provide a patina of intellectual legitimacy for the same talking points that wind up on Fox News—and on social media.

Though the science itself is nonpartisan, the belief or disbelief in climate change is not, embodying many of the establishment norms that large swaths of the GOP have come to reject, from accepting science to embracing global cooperation as a solution to complex problems. In the same way that the right has transformed Steyer and Soros into all-powerful villains of the left, some climate scientists have long been targets of similar abuse.

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7 Responses to “Nothing New: Climate Scientists Live with Threats and Harassment from Climate Deniers”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    [Aside to PeterS: First two paragraphs in Mother Jones clip are duplicated.]

    I keep going back to this:

  2. rsmurf Says:

    Sorry deniers the world will change for you also. Just one thing I hope, that the people that did stuff to help get to punish the ones that didn’t.

    • grindupbaker Says:

      “Just one thing I hope, that the people that did stuff to help get to punish the ones that didn’t”. Totally unrealistic and has almost never happened. There was that one thing with guillotines but mostly what goes up must come down und I don’t care where, that’s not my department says Verner Von Braun. Nice little thought though.


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