Climate denial and white supremacy
The insidious thought that the facts we have been taught are false and that there is some controlling group or entity behind our ordinary beliefs designed to deceive or mislead us for some purpose.
There is no doubt that much of climate denial can be attributed to human paranoia about not wanting to be deceived. Promoters will take pleasure in the idea that they know best, that they are not fooled by scams.
The established science behind climate change also offers deniers the opportunity to be seen as outsiders and independent thinkers who are not taken in by the herd, or “group think”.
Some politicians have embraced the cause of climate denial because it fits their worldview. The most prominent Brexit supporters see it as the next logical campaign for their political identities.
Just as the European Union is “run by faceless bureaucrats”, climate collapse “is being handed down to us by the ‘globalist’ United Nations and a group of ‘woke’ environmentalists”.
In the UK, this new campaign is aware that outright climate change denial would lose its audience, so the tactics are more focused on weakening climate solutions or advocating to delay climate action.
This can be keenly felt by a group of Conservative backbenchers who recently formed the ‘Net Zero Scrutiny Group’. The group has national newspapers willing to repeat untruths about clean energy or the costs of the transition.
He also has close ties to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which itself has spent years seeking to discredit the work of climate scientists. The foundation has now been renamed “Net Zero Watch” to give the impression that its work is about accountability.
Many of these groups are inspired by existing currents within the culture. These currents have grown stronger as denial reaches presidents and prime ministers.
Donald Trump once claimed that science doesn’t know the truth about climate change and that “it’s going to start getting colder”.
Boris Johnson, before becoming prime minister, often quoted climate denier Piers Corbyn in his newspaper columns.
These articles would openly sow doubt, claiming that warm winters had “nothing to do with conventional doctrine of climate change”. Labeling climate science as “doctrine” is a clear signal of opposition.
It is a sign of unhealthy public discourse that these views have become accepted and repeated throughout our culture.
Its detrimental impact can be seen in recent research which shows that people across Europe constantly doubt the scientific consensus around climate change.
A report by the Policy Institute at King’s College London surveyed 12,000 people across the continent and found a significant difference between perception and reality.
On average, respondents thought 68% of scientists agreed that climate change is caused by human activity. The British were at the bottom of the table with an average estimate of 65%. The actual figure is over 99%.
More concerning is how the trend of climate rejection could be picked up by far-right political identities. Writer Mary Annaïse Heglar made the connection between climate backwardness and white supremacy.
If the impacts of climate change create chaos and instability, those most affected will be communities of color.
“Taken from a white supremacist perspective, climate change can actually be seen as a boon because it gets rid of all those ‘undesirable’ non-whites,” she writes.
The view is that as the crisis escalates, we will need to close borders to protect national resources. It’s an all-too-familiar argument that could be weaponized by delaying climate action.
Climate denial will continue to play a part in our political culture as a symptom of decline.
And it will become a more precise political tool as the need for action becomes more pressing. Only by addressing the underlying cause of distrust can we overcome it.
Adam Wentworth is a London-based freelance writer and communications professional. He has worked in renewable energy and climate change for eight years, including as an editor at Climate Action.