D. R. Tucker: No Hope for Conservative Change
January 30, 2012
D. R. Tucker is a conservative writer and blogger whose recent essay “Confessions of a Climate Change Convert” crystalized the angst of intelligent, scientifically literate conservatives who have seen their movement taken over by Rush Limbaugh sensibilities and Sara Palin science.
I don’t believe in being optimistic unless it’s justified.
Thus, despite the courageous efforts of such groups as Republicans for Environmental Protection, I can’t honestly say I’m holding out hope that the Republican Party and the larger conservative movement will ever return to its conservationist roots and join the fight to reduce carbon emissions. The conspiracy-theory wing of the GOP just seems to have too much power.
Sure, I’d love to be proven wrong. I’d love to wake up one morning and hear prominent Republicans say that James Hansen was right all along, that the Competitive Enterprise Institute was in fact a front for ExxonMobil’s interests, that it was immoral for right-wing political operatives to launch smear campaigns against Katharine Hayhoe and Kerry Emanuel. I’d love to see Republicans recognize that there’s no political downside to taking action against climate change.
What I wouldn’t give to see Republican candidates and conservative pundits suddenly have a massive attack of conscience and acknowledge that the Wall Street Journal editorial page spent years shamelessly shilling for fossil-fuel interests, that Fox News brazenly lied about how many jobs would be created by the Keystone XL pipeline, that libertarians have an obvious ideological interest in opposing any form of environmental regulation, and that nationally-syndicated conservative radio hosts are, generally speaking, not climate experts.
My heart would leap in the air if more right-wing writers expressed solidarity with former George W. Bush speechwriters Peter Wehner and Michael Gerson, both of whom recently wrote courageous pieces about the rising temperature of the political debate on this issue. In December, Wehner noted that the overwhelming majority of the world’s climate scientists “make a scientific, not a polemical, case for [anthropogenic global warming]. It’s possible they are wrong. But their case has been made in a persuasive and empirical manner. And while there are some serious scientists who dissent from this finding, and their concerns are certainly worth taking into account, it matters that all the world’s major science academies have said that AGW is occurring, and they have supplied the empirical case for their findings. The challenge for conservatives is to engage the most serious and honest arguments of those who believe in AGW, not simply lock in on the global alarmists. And the temptation conservatives need to resist is to portray the entire climate change movement as consisting of individuals who are more interested in ideology than science…[F]or some on the right…to insist that AGW is a hoax, the product (more or less) of a massive conspiracy, is, I believe, damaging to conservatism.”
In January, Gerson lamented Newt Gingrich’s betrayal of Hayhoe and the fact that scientific facts have become part of a “culture war.” “Even if all environmentalists were socialists and secularists and insufferable and partisan to the core,” Gerson observed, “it would not alter the reality of the Earth’s temperature. Since the 1950s, global temperatures have increased about nine-tenths of a degree Celsius — the recent conclusion of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project — which coincides with a large increase in greenhouse gasses produced by humans. This explanation is most consistent with the location of warming in the atmosphere. It best accounts for changing crop zones, declining species, thinning sea ice and rising sea levels. Scientists are not certain about the pace of future warming — estimates range from 2 degrees C to 5 degrees C over the next century. But warming is already proceeding faster than many plants and animals can adapt to.”
A year ago, I believed that climate conspiracy theories would lose their power within the Republican Party and the broader conservative movement. I dreamed that conservative commentators’ devotion to denial would soon be placed in the past.
I know now what happens to a dream deferred.
I no longer have any intellectual or emotional connection to the right. Now, if I hear a pundit or politician claim that the science isn’t settled, I say to myself, “If they’re willing to lie to me about scientific facts, what else will they lie to me about?”
David Roberts has argued that Democrats should exploit the GOP’s unwillingness to take action to combat climate change. It’s a sound strategy. After all, if Republicans insist upon playing exclusively to people who hate Al Gore more than they love their own grandchildren, why shouldn’t the Democrats try to grab everyone else?