Climate Silence – Blame the Troglodyte Right

October 23, 2012

Dave Roberts in Grist:

Watch this absolutely extraordinary video (above) from the 1988 vice presidential debate, dug up by Brad Johnson of Forecast the Facts:

This is from 1988 — 24 years ago. The questioner doesn’t mamby-pamby around with he-said she-said, he states flatly that “most scientists” agree and that future generations are at risk.

And neither candidate bothers with dissembling or dodging. Both acknowledge the problem and promise to address it.

In 1988! In the ensuing 24 years, U.S. politics has moved backward on this issue.

There’s lots being written these days about “climate silence.” There’s agrassroots protest underway. Coral Davenport has a piece on it atNational Journal. Mike Grunwald touches on it at Time. Eugene Robinson has editorialized on it at The Washington Post. Tom Zeller Jr. has covered it, and so have ClimateWire and the L.A. Times.

…the retreat of climate from U.S. politics is not something that happened slowly and gradually. It was a fairly sharp break.

Throughout the decade from 1998 to 2008, Democrats swung around more solidly behind climate concern, but Republican sentiment stayedroughly steady. Right around 2008, however, there was a sharp uptickin skepticism about climate change, almost exclusively among far-right conservatives.

Now, what happened in 2008 that might have turned conservatives against climate? Hm … thinking … wait, wasn’t there an election that year? Why yes, I believe there was. Black Democrat took office, as I recall.

I’ve said all this dozens of times. But I still see analyses of climate silence that draw on grand theories about “the public.” It’s not “the public” that’s behind the shift on climate. It’s the right-wing. It’s asymmetrical polarization. Until we discuss it in those terms, we won’t understand it or be able to address it.

16 Responses to “Climate Silence – Blame the Troglodyte Right”


  1. Well, what is possible to see from a distant viewers point here in north of Sweden is that in 1988 the big oil and coal companies had not yet spent enormous amounts of money on campaigning against the science around Climate Change. That as I can see it is the big difference.
    But still that not take away the responsibility from the politicians, does it?

  2. mrsircharles Says:

    “…and under a George Bush administration you can bet we will”

    Lost bet.

  3. omnologos Says:

    How long before Brad Johnson and friends will understand that they have not been part of the solution, actually they have nothing to show as delivered or even potentially to be delivered, and therefore if climate change has disappeared from everybody’s radar it’s their fault as much as anybody else’s?

    Instead just as with Clinton here we are reading conspiracy theories like Urpo’s, when instead there is no evidence at all that any campaign by Big Anything has been put in place that wasn’t matched or dwarfed by Greenpeace, WWF, etc including FtF, perhaps the silliest-named organization in the history of the Universe.

    OTOH people are callled ‘troglodytes’ and considered enemies (to eliminate, obviously).

    It’s an absolute disaster. If I were worried about climate change I would feel very depressed, plus of course mightily angry against the Useless Campaigners of 24 years of nothing.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      must … eliminate…all…troglodyte….enemies…

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  4. A particularly good link is the David Roberts article about assymetrical polarization:
    http://grist.org/politics/asymmetrical-polarization-the-lefts-gone-left-but-the-rights-gone-nuts/

    Some very good points there, although I disagree with his ‘centrist’ contention that the left has gone more left. It’s just the the middle has shifted right in the past 30 years, so the left appears ‘more’ left (when in fact true liberals like McGovern wouldn’t have the first chance in today’s right-of-center political arena).

    Roberts’ article states that Obama is presiding like a moderate Republican – and that’s an accurate view, imo. If that’s what one wants, and that’s what one thinks will deliver meaningful action to problems like climate change, then he deserves a second term.

    One can, and should, blame the far right. They’ve been highly effective at changing the political atmosphere by using an any-means-necessary type of strategy. The typical Democratic strategy at being the first to find compromise has only meant that the supposed ‘left’ in our country has been shifted right-of-center.

    The ‘sharp break’ in agreement about AGW has largely come about because of a highly organized and well-funded campaign infecting both our government and our media, though. Because of pre-existing mythologies in many on the right, denial about AGW and its potential outcomes is more readily accepted, but it’s been pushed along quite effectively.

    The only way out of it is to show exactly how this corruption has happened (as people like Oreskes do) and get it into the media as much or more than a denial machine with an unlimited budget, reform government to prevent or at least lessen the corruptive influence of money, somehow find a way to work with those on the right (and I generally agree, those on the right have to be engaged, and calling them ‘troglodytes’ won’t help), and then sit down and come to an agreement that is not right-of-center (and therefore virtually meaningless).

    A super long shot. Yeah, I’m depressed about it, I’ll admit.

    • omnologos Says:

      Funny you mention Oreskes. She’s been repeating the same evidence-free argument for a few years. Somehow the Well Oiled Denial Machine has managed to change millions’ opinions on AGW whilst eluding me the whole time. If only.

      But that’s my opinion. The fact is that Oreskes has nothing to show for her efforts. A few speeches and traveling to nice locations to address the converted don’t count.

      • Martin Lack Says:

        I think that was an evidence-free attempt to trash Naomi Oreskes’ research.

        You must know that Benny Peiser (GWPF) tried that once and got into a reputational tailspin from which he has never recovered.

        This conspiracy (to which Urpo also referred) is not a theory, it is an extremely well-documented fact; and its latest target (for denial/abdication of responsibility) is fracking.

        May I/we look forward to you publishing your own book refuting the historical evidence for this conspiracy (as documented in Merchants of Doubt)?

        • omnologos Says:

          You’re funny Martin. Even Nature not long ago established that there is no Big Oil Spending vs Little Enviros. MoD is an antiscientific obsession popular among those dreaming they are fighting for the Little Guy. I might as well debunk Gulliver’s Travels.

  5. Wes Says:

    The “good” news is that the evidence of climate change is rapidly becoming so obvious that it’s hard to miss. Although I would not have believed that something like the horrific drought that has ruined half the country could be ignored as a sign of climate collapse, but the media and the politicians have done so.
    A ban on Arctic drilling and a major move to renewables is possible if Obama decides to lead on the issue. Let’s hope he does. He’ll need an unblocked Congress to do it, though.


  6. Omnologos – I’m not claiming skeptics/deniers are a homogenous crowd. There are many varieties. It’s just that in the U.S. at least (the only region I’m going to claim familiarity with), the ‘argument’ has been clearly and heavily influenced by vested interests. It’s highly documented and completely obvious when one takes the time to independently verify the info.

    I agree that Oreskes has met with little success. My opinion is that this is not due to her reasoning or evidence (if you’ve read ‘Merchants of Doubt’ there is in fact an abundance of evidence), but that our citizenry is remarkably ill-informed and incurious in general.

    • omnologos Says:

      I have been writing climate change for seven years now and never ever found any of those mysterious well-financed organizations. It’s always been shoestring undertakings, one or two people, biggest one Heartland with its risible budget.

      Whoever the Bad Guys are, they have been incredibly successful at hiding themselves. Congratulations.

  7. andrewfez Says:

    Those guys are probably thinking, “Dealing with the climate is something so far off into the future, I can say anything I like here, and no one will hold me accountable.”

    Or they’re thinking, “Wind and solar aren’t yet competitive with fossil energy, so I can say whatever I want here, as there is no immediate threat to my oil and gas pals.”


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