The Climate Change Debate and the Alarmists’ Addiction to Tobacco Analogies

I’ve pulled up to gas stations hundreds of times to fill up. Not once did I make a decision about which gasoline to buy based on oil company ads about climate change. In fact, I don’t recall seeing even a single climate-change ad that was aimed at affecting my gas-buying decisions.

On the other hand, decades ago, when I used to smoke regularly, I often bought cigarettes based on their low tar and nicotine content. Light cigarettes were touted as being less risky—a claim that subsequently turned out to be false. In fact, the tobacco industry apparently fostered that impression despite knowing that it was false.

That, in a nutshell, is the difference between the tobacco debate of years past, and today’s controversy over the fossil energy industry and climate change. And it’s a very essential difference. The tobacco industry was found to have engaged in fraud regarding the risks of smoking; it misrepresented those risks in order to boost sales of its cigarettes. That is fraud in the classical sense.

Climate alarmists repeatedly claim that the climate change debate is no different. But it is; it’s a debate over policy, not marketing. And when it comes to policy, government officials are not entitled to administer some truth test. “[I]t cannot be the duty, because it is not the right, of the state to protect the public against false doctrine. The very purpose of the First Amendment is to foreclose public authority from assuming a guardianship of the public mind through regulating the press, speech and religion. …. [T]he forefathers did not trust any government to separate the truth from the false for us.” Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.S. 516, 545 (1945) (Jackson, J. concurring).

When you look at just who’s attempting to administer this truth test, and how they’re going about doing it, you should be thankful that our forefathers were wise enough to not entrust government with such a role. At the state level, we have attorneys general who issue incredibly overbroad fishing-expedition subpoenas that violate the rights of free speech and donor confidentiality. In Congress, some members seek to put the validity of climate-change skepticism to floor votes. And the Democratic National Committee is considering embedding this approach in its platform.

We call this an inquisition. If you think that’s hyperbole, consider this statement: “Global warming really has become a new religion. Because you cannot discuss it. It's not proper. It is like the Catholic Church.”

These words come not from a policy wonk, but from a Nobel prize-winning physicist who until recently supported President Obama.

Since 2014, nearly 800 peer-reviewed papers have been published that question the alleged consensus on global warming. I suspect most readers have never heard of any of them.

Does this sound like an open-and-shut case of settled science, or is it politics pure and simple? And is the analogy to tobacco valid, or is it smoke mirrors, and dreams of Big Tobacco Deal-sized payoffs?