The reaction to 10:10’s “No pressure” film can teach us a lot about the political dynamics of the climate change debate.
In the hours between the original release and withdrawal of 10:10’s short but controversial film entitled ‘No Pressure’ on Friday, there was – rather predictably – uproar from many quarters.
I’ll come onto my own opinions about the film in a second, but first let’s look at the reaction of the supposed arch nemeses of the environmental movement: people who like to refer to global warming as a ‘myth’ and make as much noise as possible attacking the emergence of a scientific or political consensus around the issue.
Chief amongst such commentators is James Delingpole, a blogger for the Telegraph who describes himself as a “Libertarian Conservative”. Shortly after the film was released he published a post on the Telegraph’s website celebrating the spectacular own-goal that had been scored by 10:10 et al, referring to Curtis’s work as “eco-propaganda”. Later he published a second blog about the decision to pull the video, this time using the term “eco-fascism”.
Clearly the fact that recalcitrants in the film were (sarcastically or not) blown up with the pressing of a big red button gave massive fuel to the fire of the “leave me alone or I’ll shoot you” brand of Conservatism, of which Delingpole represents the more tweed-tinged English counterpart of the Tea Party movement in the States.
The widespread use of the term of ‘Ecofascism’ is very interesting in this context, because it exposes the root cause of the vast majority of anti-climate change sentiment: a fear of individual liberties being curtailed in pursuit of the collective goal of stabilising carbon emissions.
This is an important issue. Even as a fully paid-up climate change activist who is incredibly concerned about our lack of action to reduce emissions, I have to admit that I’ve not witnessed much real engagement with this prickly political problem from environmentalists.
The Curtis film was in my opinion ill-advised because the satirical elements could appeal only to those who are already familiar with the tension between persuasion and coercion, yet it did not seek to address the issue explicitly, leaving the 10:10 campaign and its supporters exposed to charges such as those raised by Delingpole and his self-congratulatory cohort of followers.
I think the Ecofascism debate is an incredibly important one to have, and I only wish it was possible to do so without those on the neo-conservative side of the political spectrum muddying the water by trying to claim that evidence for human-induced climate change doesn’t exist, when it clearly does.
When healthcare is debated in the US, the right is not claiming that “poor people aren’t really getting ill” because that would be completely ridiculous; instead the argument is purely economic and political (numerous people have somehow been persuaded by Fox News to protest against state healthcare when they actually are increasingly relying on it, but that’s a different debate). We need the equivalent playing field for a debate about climate change (preferably minus the corporate-controlled media).
It may be the case that the restrictions on individual freedoms necessitated by carbon reduction are too great to impose, and that we should instead let climate change take its course. That’s what the libertarian argument should be.
Instead, commentators like Delingpole put forward an incoherent mix of the freedom argument, and a denial of robust scientific evidence, meaning that most sensible people then disregard the potentially valid arguments being made in the political sphere.
Believing in the science of global warming doesn’t make me a Fascist, and believing that we shouldn’t restrict individual freedoms to limit carbon doesn’t mean that you have to question the consensus of thousands of qualified scientific professionals.
If the No Pressure film furore has taught us anything, it’s that the debate needs more sophistication from both sides.