There is little doubt that scientists studying global warming and the activists working to deal with climate change will be vindicated. They already have been, really. Cities are dealing today with climate change. The 6th mass extinction in the Earth's history is well underway and warming is a significant cause. The arctic is opening to shipping in a way that it never has in the history of shipping. Australia just experienced a "1000 year drought." Sea levels are higher. Greenland is melting. Species are spreading into changing climatic niches at a rapid rate, bringing new diseases and pests to new regions.
Whether climate denialism is motivated by political expediency, nutty religious conviction, or just the ornery contrarianism of the blogosphere, it's dangerous. It's dangerous because the delay and obstructionism caused by deniers is running out the clock on taking action on climate change.
I don't want deniers to escape the judgment of history. But it's common, especially in America, for cultural amnesia and historical revisionism to enable bad actors to obscure or rewrite their history. Look at the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Something like 90% of Americans supported the start of the Afghanistan war and a large majority supported the invasion of Iraq. Where are they now? Who among those supporters has re-colored their record, fudged their position, re-written their position? Most, it seems.
Climate deniers in the future will say they were merely asking questions. They'll say they were just being skeptical. Opening debate. And, like the science they obscure today, they'll likely be successful in obscuring their roles in a planetary calamity.
How to hold them clearly accountable in the distant future? My proposal: tattoos. A permanent record of the position of deniers, right there, for everyone to see. Deniers would have the unassailable right to say "told ya so" three or four decades from now if they are (somehow) right about climate change. And it would be difficult for deniers to wiggle out of their past position.
In order for everyone to know, a tattoo would have to be somewhere visible. The forehead is a good spot. But no one wants a big ol' tatt on their head stating their political position. How about UV tattoos? Ultraviolet ink tattoos, popular with nightclubbing rave-goers, don't show in ordinary light, but under UV (or "black") light, they're plainly visible. UV tattoos aren't perfect. They can scar or show a bit in normal light. But UV tattoos could be perfected with a little development effort.
I'm imagining a Mad Max world (or maybe a Waterworld) in which deniers are hunted down, inspected with a Wood's Lamp, and then dealt with using rough "Beyond the Thunderdome" justice if they a big "D" tattoo glows like a brand in the middle of their forehead...
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A list of prospective climate denier forehead tattoo candidates:
- Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma)
- Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California)
- Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin)
- (former) Governor Sarah Palin (R-Alaska)
- Rush Limbaugh
- Glenn Beck, Fox
- Steve Milloy, Fox News columnist
- Professor Pat Michaels, Cato Institute
Any takers? I'll pony up for the first dozen who sign up...