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Climate Deniers Are the Hysterical Alarmists

They, not climate scientists or activists, are stoking fear with exaggerated rhetoric and outright lies.

Senator James Inhofe listens to Trump during a White House meeting in 2018. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The climate deniers in the Trump administration are at it again. On Monday, The New York Times reported that the president is silencing critical government research on climate change and creating a panel to question the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions cause warming. The ultimate goal, one former Trump adviser said, is to stop “silly alarmist predictions about the future.”

So, naturally, the president’s pick to lead the panel is a guy who has likened climate activists to Nazis.

“The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” William Happer, a 79-year-old physicist and member of Trump’s National Security Council, said in 2014. The quote has not gone unnoticed since then, as many media outlets have cited it over the years. But it has gotten renewed, and perhaps wider, attention since appearing in the Times’ story, as incredulous journalists and others on Twitter couldn’t believe anyone—let alone a political adviser in a presidential administration—would say something so egregious.

In reality, though, Happer’s quote isn’t that much more extreme than a lot of climate-denier rhetoric. They, not climate scientists or activists, are the real alarmists: hyperbolic, fear-mongering, and completely divorced from scientific reality.

Let’s not forget that Trump himself once tweeted:

He may well have been taking his cues from Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the most influential climate denier in the history of Congress, who said on the Senate floor in 2003, “Wake up, America. With all the hysteria, all the fear, all the phony science, could it be that manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? I believe it is.”

The climate-denier conspiracy theories continue to this day. Just last week, congressional Republicans invited a man named Marc Morano to testify at a House hearing on the recent United Nations report showing that humans are causing a mass species extinction. Morano called the report a “science con,” accusing the U.N. of putting out “authoritative propaganda” in order to gain “more regulatory control of the economy and people’s lives.” He also accused U.N. officials at the hearing of being in on this alleged scheme, for which he offered no concrete evidence.

Morano is not some random crackpot. Formerly Inhofe’s communications director, he now leads communications for the Committee For a Constructive Tomorrow, a conservative think tank partially funded by oil interests, and is executive director of Climate Depot, a sort of Drudge Report for climate deniers. In other words, he’s an influential crackpot.

Climate deniers like Morano and his former boss are nothing if not consistent in their rhetoric: Anyone who calls for urgent action on climate change is a hysterical alarmist, and any action on climate change will kill jobs, tank the economy, and rob Americans of their freedom. “Alarmists are distracting Americans from the pain the Obama administration’s regulations will inflict on our economy while failing to make a significant impact on climate change,” Inhofe wrote in 2015.

Or just look at the recent headlines on CFACT’s website: “Climate hysteria,” “Freedom under assault,” “‘Extinction crisis’ speciously targets free markets,” “Environmental indoctrination in our schools”...

It’s clear who the real alarmists are. Yes, rational people who accept the scientific consensus about climate change are generally “alarmed” by it, just as they’re alarmed that one of the two major parties in America refuses to accept that consensus. But an “alarmist,” by definition, is “someone who is considered to be exaggerating a danger and so causing needless worry or panic.” The facts show that humans have every reason to panic about humanity’s future on this planet. It’s the deniers who are guilty of exaggeration and needless worry. As The Washington Post’s Daniel Drezner wryly tweeted:

It takes a warped mind to believe that the real threat to civilization isn’t climate change, but government action to reduce climate change. And it takes yet another warped mind to consider that person worthy of a powerful position in the federal government.

Be alarmed. Be very alarmed.