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Climate Change and the Free Marketplace of Ideas?

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Climate change poses a significant danger that requires intervention today; climate denial poses a key challenge to meaningful timely intervention. In this paper, we argue that current free speech jurisprudence in the US inadequately addresses the risk of climate change because it is overly permissive of 'professional' climate denial and underappreciates the need to address the future harm of climate change today. We begin by clarifying the risk posed by the Supreme Court's current approach to speech with respect to climate change and, relatedly, reviewing the philosophical foundations of the marketplace of ideas found in the work of John Stuart Mill. Following this, we examine three potential ways in which Supreme Court jurisprudence could be used to limit what we term 'professional climate change denial' while permitting a degree of 'private' scepticism. Largely setting aside the return to earlier free speech jurisprudence and the extension of libel law, we offer a novel solution to the problem that suggests that 'professional' climate denial could be treated as a categorical exception under free speech jurisprudence and thus afforded a lower level of constitutional protection than other expression.
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Keywords: John Stuart Mill; climate change denial; free speech; political theory

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2020

This article was made available online on September 4, 2019 as a Fast Track article with title: "Climate Change and the Free Marketplace of Ideas?".

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2019) of 2.158. 5 Year Impact Factor: 2.047.
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