Publishing opinion pieces denouncing climate change can be damaging
May 3, 2017
The Student Voice and the New York Times, two papers never before mentioned in the same sentence, now have something in common. Recently, both papers have published opinion pieces denying the validity of climate change.
The New York Times op-ed piece, although written more coherently, echoed the same sentiments that were published last week by a Student Voice columnist. The New York Times climate denier, Bret Stephens, did not outright state that he thinks that climate change is not real. However, he instead did something more devious by pointing an accusatory finger at scientists for their firm stance on the topic.
Casting such an all-enveloping shadow of doubt and uncertainty is as dangerous as outright denial; it is as if those seeds of doubt, if left unchecked, will grow into a deeply rooted tree of downright disbelief.
A Student Voice columnist, Jack Romanik, used a similar argument of misdirection and false equivalents to further his own ill-informed opinions. He claimed that to brand someone with the climate change denier label is a leftist tool used to mark and demonize those deniers as irrational and that by “calling someone a climate change denier is to connect them to a Holocaust denier.”
He further calls out science and technology as not being able to fully comprehend, analyze or predict climate change, to which he is partially correct. The reality of what is actually happening is often much worse than what scientists are measuring. He concludes his column by citing that the issue of climate change is a complicated issue and that, “[s]keptics and believers alike must be willing to set aside differences to recognize the facts.” This remains the most puzzling ascertain of his whole column, as it seems to me that it contradicts his entire argument.
To the columns written by Stephens, and certainly by Romanik, I can only say that while they have the right to be in denial of whatever facts they choose, do they not understand how dangerous it is to spread their inaccurate rationale? Perpetuating this way of thinking has already spread like wildfire and has infected even the mind of the President of the United States.
President Trump, who is also a denier, has even gone as far as to remove all remnants of facts, evidence and information relating to climate change from the epa.gov – the government website of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. His move to remove the facts has forced the website epa.gov to archive old information from January 19, 2017, which was the last time the website was updated with facts concerning climate change.
The removal and conscious denial of scientific fact from such a formerly trustworthy source just allows for more people to perpetuate false opinions, and for people looking to educate themselves further on the state of their planet to not have a reliable source from which to learn.
The problem associated with the silencing of the EPA, to name one instance, is that on the other side, Americans have the right to freedom of speech that allows us to say just about anything we want. It should be noted that while Americans have the right to freedom of expression, we are prohibited from expressing speech that elicits unnecessary panic and terror, like shouting fire in a crowded theater.
So my question is this: When does freedom of speech cross the line into dangerous speech? Is the line crossed when global warming deniers are given free reign and equal air and press time to broadcast their views that they believe that global warming is not a real and imminent threat to all life on our planet?
The ability to speak freely about the denial of such a catastrophic problem of global warming is extremely hazardous to the health and wellbeing of our planet and for the present and future people, plants and animals that now and will inhabit it.
Global warming, climate change and the deterioration of our planet is a real problem; it is also scientifically-backed. Climate change is happening now and getting worse while we have to tolerate people who simply do not want to accept the truth and are misdirecting others to their cause.
Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.