Are climate-change deniers guilty of treason?
It seems as though the so-called skeptics have really gotten under Paul Krugman's skin this time. Writing in his New York Times column Sunday, the Nobel Prize-winning liberal economist expressed outrage at the representatives who voted against the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill because they doubted the scientific basis of global warming. He writes:Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.
Mr. Krugman then gives a rundown of the latest climate research, whose predictions are far worse than previously thought. He describes climate change as a "clear and present danger" – borrowing a phrase first deployed in 1919 by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. to imprison a man for opposing the draft – and concludes:
Still, is it fair to call climate denial a form of treason? Isn’t it politics as usual?
Yes, it is — and that’s why it’s unforgivable.
Do you remember the days when Bush administration officials claimed that terrorism posed an “existential threat” to America, a threat in whose face normal rules no longer applied? That was hyperbole — but the existential threat from climate change is all too real.
Yet the deniers are choosing, willfully, to ignore that threat, placing future generations of Americans in grave danger, simply because it’s in their political interest to pretend that there’s nothing to worry about. If that’s not betrayal, I don’t know what is.
As Krugman suggests, recent years have seen the bar set pretty low for what can get a person branded as a traitor. In a February 2003 editorial, the now-defunct New York Sun called for police to monitor protesters opposing the invasion of Iraq "with an eye toward preserving at least the possibility of an eventual treason prosecution," for giving "aid and comfort to the enemy," a crime that in the United States carries the death penalty.
A few months later saw the release of a bestselling book by conservative commentator Ann Coulter (who, incidentally, holds a law degree), that insisted that all American liberals – that is, about one fifth of the US population – are guilty of treason. Those who peacefully opposed the war were similarly maligned throughout the burgeoning right-wing wilds of the blogosphere, and were, it should be noted, extensively spied on by the US government.