Gaslighting on climate change: letter to the editor

Dear Editor

Thank you for your great article on gaslighting.

It made me wonder if there’s a ‘how to spot a climate change denier’ type exercise or set of questions anywhere?

There seem to be various myths which are trotted out in meetings or conversations as excuses for inaction – not just fear of change or losing individual choices or freedoms, like eating meat or driving petrol or diesel vehicles.

I found this article from last year, which is helpful on how to talk to a climate denier.

A few examples I’ve heard over the past few days:

 – carbon capture and storage (CCS) will save us: no need to stop using fossil fuels. [CCS doing a massive amount of heavy-lifting here and absolutely does NOT justify carrying on as normal in the hope that it will be our saviour. Ed]

 – We need to reduce our dependence on hostile states and build our own energy security (as an argument for new oil and gas licences etc). [The oil and gas goes on sale on the open market and is sold to the highest bidder. Ed]

 – The real ‘elephant in the room’ is global population growth. [‘A small minority of wealthy people produce the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions – their consumption habits have a much greater impact than overall population numbers.’ Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post]

 – UK greenhouse gas emissions are insignificant – why should we cut our emissions when China/India produce much more? [We offshore so much of our production to China and India that our real contribution to emissions is effectively disguised. Ed]

 – Motor vehicles only account for eight per cent emissions globally. [The global figure is academic – vehicle use in the developed, wealthy nations tells the true story. The reader points out: ‘Road transport accounts for over 20 per cent of emissions in Dorset.’]

Dorset’s emissions

A garage owner was telling me about all the electric car battery fires and how they’re all being covered up; presumably because the government and manufacturers have invested so heavily in EV cars as part of the response. That all sounds plausible, if alarming, but many of the myths above are so widely believed and trotted out that it’s hard to know where to start.

Many businesses understand the need to decarbonise, as it’s not only saving them money, but they know they won’t recruit or retain staff unless they change. However, local politics in Dorset is dominated by the retired and self-employed who do not necessarily understand climate science or green economics and don’t appreciate how fundamental it is for most people under, say, 30 years old, who have understood the dangers of climate change and ecosystem collapse since school.

Brexit caused a huge generational rift and climate denial has the potential to make the rift much worse. After years campaigning on both Brexit and climate, I’m convinced we need to engage younger people in local government and encourage everyone who cares to stand for their local council or at least to support those of us who are trying to bring about change.

Emissions breakdown – Dorset vs national figure

Come to meetings, write in with your support, tell your friends and family, volunteer with community groups and, most of all, when you get the chance: VOTE!

Belinda Bawden