Home > Commentary, Politics/Policy > A Modest Proposal for Climate Deniers

A Modest Proposal for Climate Deniers

As the great blizzard of 2011 descends upon the United States, the only rhetorical device being deployed more frequently and more annoyingly than snow-based portmanteaus (or neoSNOWgisms, if you prefer, because God damn it I can’t help it either) is right-wing idiocy about how the existence of cold weather disproves all climate science. Never mind that this claim has been dismissed time and fucking again, or that the elevated intensity of snowstorms is actually evidence OF climate change. We all know that science and logic just bounce off deniers like ninja stars made of Nerf.

Instead of trying to rehash these tedious arguments over again, I suggest we instead propose a deal to any climate denier willing to put his money where his noxious mouth is:

The people facing the greatest and most immediate danger from climate change are inhabitants of island nations, such as Tuvalu, Micronesia, and the Maldives. Small and low-lying, with no escape from sea levels that are already rising at an alarming rate, these nations could cease to exist if current trends are not arrested.

To a climate denier, this existential threat is no more than a fantastic scheme concocted by diabolical scientists and tyrannical left-wing non-profit groups. If they’re right, than these islanders are at no risk whatsoever. If they’re wrong, the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands will be drowned in the blink of an eye.

So I suggest that every denier sign a legally binding pledge to surrender their entire net worth to island nation residents who find themselves displaced if their homeland is swallowed by the ocean. If Tuvalu becomes the next Atlantis, the Tuvaluans will immediately receive every cent – every gas-guzzling car, every mutual fund, every Cayman Islands bank account, everything – that belongs to the people whose ignorant intransigence directly contributed to that devastation. Hypothetical climate refugees will need places to live, after all, and I’m betting a Tuvaluan family would be quite comfortable settling into Bill O’Reilly’s former summer home.

Right now, the people with the greatest power to impact the continued warming of the planet – rich world inhabitants blocking legislation that even acknowledges the problem, let alone attempts to redress it – are assuming zero risk for their blind certainty. But they have very little skin in the game; in the short run, many of them are wealthy and well-protected enough to sustain even dramatic climate events with little more than mild inconvenience. The brunt of the risk is being borne by the globe’s poor and powerless citizens, many denizens of states so small the names can’t fit inside their borders on a map.

This agreement would simply shift the risk back where it belongs. This should be a fairly uncontroversial idea. It is a wrought-iron principle of orthodox conservative ideology that the risk of a given action should belong solely to the individual responsible for that action. If the deniers are right, their pledge will be meaningless; climate change won’t occur, islanders won’t be displaced, deniers won’t lose a dime. If they’re wrong, they’ll accept the consequences of their beliefs with noble fealty to the personal accountability that they proclaim is the most honorable of virtues.

Who wouldn’t take this deal in a heartbeat? The chance to declare the courage of your convictions so boldly? To prove to the world how smart you are AND how big your balls are with one simple signature? Let’s go, deniers. The line forms behind Dave and Charlie Koch.

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