The easiest way to distinguish between a critical thinker and an ideological one is this.
When a critical thinker disagrees with you, he or she thinks you’re wrong.
When an ideologue disagrees with you, he or she thinks you’re evil.
When it comes to discussions about climate change, we have far too many ideologues and far too few critical thinkers.
Far too many self-proclaimed “environmentalists” who want to shut down all debate on the subject because their narrow and rigid ideological minds believe there is only one “correct” position — theirs — which saves them from having to think.
These are the folks who condemn anyone who disagrees with them as “climate change deniers”, a dogwhistle meant to smear anyone who deviates from climate change orthodoxy as the equivalent of a denier of the Holocaust.
I was reminded of this tactic Thursday in the lead-up to a discussion about political responses to climate change in which I was a panelist before a group of Ryerson University MBA students.
My fellow panelist was Andreas Souvaliotis, Executive Chairman of Social Change Rewards Inc. and we both appeared at the invitation of prominent Toronto lawyer Ralph Lean, who organizes a speaker series for Ryerson students.
The problem wasn’t with the students, who asked thoughtful and intelligent questions, nor with my fellow panelist, nor with Lean nor with the students’ professor, Dr. Asher Alkoby, a gracious and open-minded host.
Of course, open-mindedness should be expected in a university setting, but sadly, today that is decreasingly the case as more and more so-called institutions of higher learning replace critical thought with ideological thinking, intellectual laziness and academic decline.
Amusingly, the very mention of the idea on twitter by Ryerson’s MBA program that two non-scientists were about to discuss issues related to climate change was enough to freak out various and sundry self-proclaimed environmentalists, who have appointed themselves the arbiters of who can and who cannot discuss the issue.
Their attitudes, in and of themselves, are insignificant and unimportant.
But they speak to a wider concern that goes to the very heart of our fundamental notions of free speech, critical inquiry and indeed to the essence of the scientific method itself, which is built upon rational skepticism, not the unthinking acceptance of orthodoxy and received wisdom.
Far too often in the climate change debate, the people who will be most affected by government policies to deal with it — meaning all of us — are excluded on the basis that we are not “experts” on climate science.
I have seen this tactic used repeatedly over the years — most disgracefully by some politicians — to intimidate people into silence about expressing their views on climate change and its so-called “solutions” such as carbon taxes, cap-and-trade and wind and solar power.
This claim that climate change is the sole purview of “experts” is not only an attack on free speech and critical inquiry, it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding about what this debate is really all about.
Because it is not, at its essence, an environmental debate at all, but an economic one.
Governments in our own country and all over the world today are either implementing or contemplating a new tax they have never charged us for before — the emission of industrial greenhouse gases linked to climate change into the atmosphere.
It matters not whether they do it through a carbon tax or cap-and-trade, which is simply a carbon tax by another name, albeit less efficient and more open to political corruption.
What matters is that since we — all of us — are the ultimate polluters because we buy the goods and services that fossil fuel energy creates and transports, we will be the ultimate payers of what prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau vaguely refers to as “carbon pricing.”
In other words, what is actually being determined in the climate change debate is what will be our cost of living and our standard and quality of life.
Every citizen has the right to participate in that debate, without fear of being mocked or shouted down because they are not an “expert” on the science of global warming.
Which is why the dogwhistlers, with their specious comparisons of anyone who disagrees with them to Holocaust deniers and their disrespect for critical thinking, must be fought at every turn.