Over at the blog Prometheus, Roger Pielke, Jr., has posted a discussion on "The New Abortion Politics" of climate change. In essence, there is an emerging philosophy among climate change activists (for arguments sake, lets say it is the political left) that the only method to get action on climate change is to present those who deny or obfuscate efforts to do so are immoral. It is conceived that this is in line with how the political right has handled abortion - those that are pro-choice are not just wrong but morally bankrupt, which leads to the use of a litmus test when making choices (i.e. supreme court, President, etc.).
Pielke, Jr. lays out some examples of whom would be considered immoral:
*Not questioning any consensus views of the IPCC (in any working group)
*Not supporting adaptation [measures or policies]
*Not emphasizing the importance of significant technological innovation
*Not pointing out that policies to create higher priced energy are a certain losing strategy
Is this a winning strategy? Is it a just one? Will this shorten or lengthen efforts to mitigate the sources of anthropogenic climate change? Will it just embolden the opposition?
I think it can be argued that there has been some good to come out of the give and take between the pro and anti climate change groups (for lack of better labels). The constant questioning of scientific findings has led to better science, almost like an extra layer of peer review. An indirect example has been the ever increasing certainty of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - the most recent report stating a 90% level of certainty regarding the realism of climate change and its human-induced drivers.
The fierceness of the climate change opposition has also played a part in molding the policy discussion. Many "deniers" have pointed towards the economic ruin that would be caused by emissions reducing policies, like a carbon tax. From such discussions, policies centered on green economies through technological innovation, conservation, and increased electrical generation through nuclear sources, have become top priorities.
While each of these is still heavily debated, they have led to a progression of policy. Presidential candidates have used climate change mitigation as a solution for economic hardship, expanding the pool of voters who truly care about climate change as an issue. Up until now, those who believe we need to act on climate change have used deniers to strengthen their arguments and solutions. Yet, will a hard right turn to paint deniers as immoral actually digress recent forward thinking movement? I fear it would...