Climate Newspeak

A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to.” – Laurence J. Peter

A few weeks ago, Charlie Angus took to the floor of the Canadian Parliament to propose Bill C-372, otherwise known as the Fossil Fuels Advertising Act. Angus is a quintessential member of the Canadian political left and a backbencher in the New Democratic Party (NDP), the junior partner in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority government. As a private member’s bill—one that is not proposed by a minister nor formally backed by the full weight of the government’s machinery—Bill C-372 stands virtually no chance of becoming law. Angus’ gambit nonetheless served its primary purpose, creating a burst of global headlines due to its sheer audacity. Here’s how Canada’s National Post covered the story (emphasis added throughout):

“‘Today, I am proud to rise and introduce a bill that would make illegal false advertising by the oil and gas industry,’ Angus announced in the House of Commons. He added that the oil and gas sector was trafficking in ‘disinformation’ and ‘killing people.’ Angus also twice framed his bill as the dawn of the industry’s ‘big tobacco moment’ — an apparent reference to Canada’s blanket federal ban on tobacco advertising.

But C-372 goes well beyond merely banning advertising by oil and gas companies… as written, the act would technically apply to any Canadian who is found to be speaking well of the oil industry, or of oil generally.

‘It is prohibited for a person to promote a fossil fuel, a fossil fuel-related brand element or the production of a fossil fuel,’ reads the act. Violate this as a regular citizen, and the act prescribes summary conviction and a fine of up to $500,000. Violate it as an oil company, and the punishment could be as strict as two years in jail or a fine of $1,000,000

Do-gooder | Adrian Wyld /The Canadian Press

It would be easy to dismiss Angus as just another wingnut politician pushing forward a crazy concept that few support. Unfortunately, neither condition is true. Angus has a long and relatively distinguished career in Canadian politics—he finished runner-up to lead the national New Democratic Party in 2017, for example—and many in Western society have become far too flippant about bending the awesome powers of government and monopolistic social media platforms to suppress speech they don’t like. The subject of climate change, where true believers profess that averting the literal “end” justifies all manner of blatantly unconstitutional and extrajudicial means, is a warm target.

If saying good things about fossil fuels is on the agenda to be outlawed, can saying bad things about renewable energy be too far behind? One thing we pride ourselves on here in the coop is the ability to see around a few corners—indulge us as we revisit a somber prediction we made some 640 days ago in a popular piece titled “Wide Awake”:

How long until the things we have written are labeled misinformation, unsuitable for a platform as influential as Substack hopes to become? Never mind that our subscribers have proactively chosen to hear our views, routinely critique what we write (both in the comments section and directly via email), and are free-thinking people capable of reading things they might disagree with while simultaneously coming to their own conclusions…

Despite our best efforts to express authentically held views in a civil manner and to back those views with data, we suspect it won’t be long. The creeping incrementalism of the do-gooders who have empowered themselves to adjudicate what information is suitable for public consumption will mean ever more topics are considered off-limits. Soon, critiquing society’s response to climate change will be labeled another form of climate denialism, and efforts to de-platform those expressing such views will accelerate.

Color us not-so-surprised when we read this truly amazing article in Bloomberg earlier this year:

The nature of climate misinformation on Google-owned YouTube is evolving, according to a new report. Videos espousing climate denial are declining across nearly 100 YouTube channels, while videos attacking solutions such as wind and solar are proliferating.

The nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) identified 96 YouTube channels that frequently disseminate what it described as misleading climate talking points…

The researchers found examples of videos claiming that people’s standard of living will decrease with a transition away from fossil fuels; that renewable projects require more land than fossil fuels; and that energy-efficiency policies don’t actually reduce energy use. The researchers also identified sub-claims within each category and many videos included multiple types of denial claims.

Set aside the fact that the “examples” of the three alleged disinformation positions “found” by “the researchers” and breathlessly reported on in one of the world’s premier business periodicals are all plainly true and easily proven as such. Ignore the fact that the sole, erstwhile reporter who occupies the byline of this article labels wind and solar as accepted “solutions” to climate change without giving it a second thought, thereby transposing what was meant to parade as a piece of straight reporting into one that might find a better home in the Opinion section. The report itself rails against “New Denial,” an invented term referring to “rhetoric seeking to undermine confidence in solutions to climate change.” What matters here is the intentional attempt to normalize the labeling of views held by those critical of energy policy decisions as “digital hate,” a phrase that conjures all manner of genuinely deplorable activity.

The Official Newspeak of New Denial | CCDH

Among the 96 YouTube channels targeted by the CCDH report are many respected institutions, a variety of controversial personalities, and a small handful of podcasts that have hosted Doomberg on numerous occasions. Just what are we to make of this escalation in rhetoric? What exactly is the CCDH and why should anybody care what it reports? Is this all just noise that can safely be ignored or a legitimate cause of concern for free-thinking people who cherish their fundamental rights as citizens? Let’s bring some information to this misinformation debate.  

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