The European Union should refuse to admit climate denier Americans

climate-change-deniers-floodClimate change is fact. The scientific consensus. The settled understanding of reality that should be assumed during the search for solutions, not the main battle itself.

Yet in America, climate change deniers still hold significant sway in right-wing media and with certain politicians in elected office—some of whom are deniers themselves. Given the need for Congress to enact national legislation to deal with climate change and the U.S. Senate’s authority over international treaties, other nations should be just as worried that these climate deniers hold serious positions of power in America.

So let’s put this crazy but not totally crazy idea on the table: the European Union should impose travel bans on prominent climate denier Americans, disallowing them from entering member countries for the purpose of spreading climate change denial.

How off-the-wall is the proposal? It does raise all sorts of issues and questions in the context of international law, rights of the freedom of movement and freedom of expression, diplomatic relations, and the myriad of existing bilateral and multilateral agreements as well as relationships among non-governmental actors. Why stop at climate change denialism, when the slippery slope beckons? The particular legal authorities that the European Union might invoke are also not immediately obvious.

That said, the European Union does have the authority within its security framework to impose sanctions and restrictive measures, such as visa/travel bans, on non-state (non-governmental) entities and individuals. Moreover, the EU has long acknowledged the national security risks of climate change. (As such, slippery slope concerns may be overblown because other issues don’t fit the same constellation of factors as well.) Thus travel bans on top climate deniers coming to Europe to spread their destructive message aren’t out of the realm of justifiable possibility.

European countries are already part of the vanguard taking dramatic action independent of the United States to curb global warming. The ultimate effectiveness of that action, of course, would still depend on what the United States does because global warming is a global problem. That is to say, European nations have a vested interest in figuring out a way to exert stronger pressure on the climate deniers who are sabotaging progress in the most powerful country on the planet.

So refusing to admit America’s worst climate change deniers who want to travel into their countries—say, for the famed Davos meeting every year—might be an interesting approach to try.  At the least, debating it would highlight the dilemma and catalyze the search for more solutions beyond the conventional wisdom.

(Note: Inspiration for the idea is drawn from this letter to the editor sent by a former prosecutor in Ohio to The Economist. He argues that the European Union should try to accelerate the demise of the death penalty in the United States by refusing to admit Americans who promote its legal existence here.)