As Science Case Gels in the American Mind, Right Wing Flails for Talking Points

May 21, 2014

Here, right wing commentator and blowhard Bill O’Reilly concedes the science on climate change – then goes on to explain why we can do nothing about it – because Al Gore.

New York Magazine:

The debate will also reinvigorate a semi-dormant political liability for the Republican Party: a reputation for hostility to science. The first leak to spring open in the Nixon-Reagan-Bush electoral coalition was in 2000, with the defection of college-­educated white voters who recoiled from the party’s deepening social populism. Democrats drew some blood starting in the 2004 election by assailing the Bush administration’s indifference to science. (This was also, perhaps, a polite way of expressing the widespread belief that the incumbent president was not a bright man.)

The run-up to Obama’s climate offensive has revived right-wing anti-scientism, which has grown more virulent in the ­intervening years. The legitimacy of climate science had taken root enough within the Republican Party that John McCain could advocate a cap-and-trade plan during his 2008 campaign. But polls have found that, even as scientists have become more certain of anthropogenic climate change, Republican skepticism has swelled. Even the most respectable conservative intellectuals talk about climate science the way John Birch enthusiasts railed against fluoridated water in the ’50s. Climate scientists further the hoax, George Will solemnly explained on a recent Fox News All-Star panel, because they “want money from the biggest source of direct research in this country, the federal government.” Fellow panelist Charles Krauthammer went further, painting the theory connecting the emission of heat-trapping molecules into the atmosphere with higher levels of heat as baseless faith. “It’s the oldest superstition around,” he observed. “It was in the Old Testament. It’s in the rain dance of the Native Americans.”

The likes of Will and Krauthammer have a way of rendering these sorts of fantastical pronouncements with an air of erudition. (That is why they are not mere Fox News panelists but Fox News All-Star panelists.) But ideas like these tend to come off as comical when echoed by younger or less practiced figures like Marco Rubio. (“What they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend.”)

Still, Republicans are likely to have the better of the debate politically. Support for regulating carbon emissions may be broad, but it’s tissue-thin—Americans rank climate change near or at the bottom of their priorities. A 2011 survey found the amount an average American would pay in higher electricity costs for the sake of clean energy to be a pitiably low $162 a year. The absence of an extended, Obamacare-style legislative slog will help Obama’s case, but years of lengthy court battles won’t. Opponents may manage to sustain state-level challenges and overwhelming red-state resistance.

The grimmest contrast between power-plant regulation and health care is that regulating carbon emissions creates almost no winners. There will be no equivalent of the millions of people newly granted access to medical care, no heartwarming stories of long-suffering patients seeing a doctor for the first time in years. Climate regulation doesn’t create a benefit. It doesn’t even prevent a loss. Its only goal is to mitigate the extent of the damage.

And this is why, unlike carefully selected election-year issues like the minimum wage or equal pay, Obama is not picking this issue to help his party save Senate seats. He is doing this because, given the enormity of the stakes for centuries to come, there is no morally defensible alternative.

 

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18 Responses to “As Science Case Gels in the American Mind, Right Wing Flails for Talking Points”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Blowhard is not a strong enough word to describe his “Royal Smugness and Ignorance” O’Reilly, and Faux News is not a good enough name for his channel. This clip is perhaps the best 3 minute distillation of all the idiotic right wing talking points that we have seen in a while, and will be sucked up with a smile by the low-IQ Faux News demographic. I wonder if any of them will notice the several factual errors, like the “1.5 billion Chinese”?—–a number that is inflated by over 10% of the real figure of 1.35 billion.

    I also like the reasoning behind “China won’t listen, so why should we?”. The same thing as saying—-“China is busily cutting off figurative fingers and toes, and they won’t stop, so we should continue cutting off ours too (but just in smaller chunks)”.

    And Gore’s purpose is to scare people so he can get rich? Lord love a duck but that is mindless.

  2. skeptictmac57 Says:

    Well, it’s a good thing that the U.S. does not have the same population numbers as China,because our 2012 per capita CO2 emissions were 16.4 tonnes,while China’s was 7.1
    Papa bear conveniently forgot to put his talking points into perspective.
    I am shocked!

    (hope this isn’t double posted,I encountered a glitch the first time)


  3. How many truly venal people are remembered in history? Do you remember the radio personalities championing the Vietnam war? Does anyone remember Spiro Agnew? But Ghandi will be rember end long after George Will.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      I, for one, remember Spiro Agnew (as well as FDR). Aside from the major influence Ghandi had on others and on world history, he is now part of that history and gone.

      Will (who actually seems to be getting senile), and Krauthammer (who seems to be getting more bitter, vicious, and devious), are here RIGHT NOW and damaging the country. Both appear all too frequently on the editorial pages of my daily paper, the WashPost, as well as making “talking head” appearances on TV.

      If and when the SHTF, the damage those two (and Hannity, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Beck, et al) have done will eclipse Ghandi’s example.

  4. Jim Housman Says:

    Try as I might I cannot understand how a person as obviously intelligent as O’Reilly can spout such nonsense. You can only imagine that he has such strong core beliefs regarding “free markets” and “government opression” that he is capable of setting aside his rationality in service of irrational belief.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      IMO, the answer is $$$$—-he’s simply an intellectual whore who has set aside his rationality for $$$$. I can remember listening to Gasbag Rush back in the day before he too sold out so that he could make $50+ million a year. He often made some sense as he presented conservative viewpoints then—-now he just panders. Same thing with Coulter—her early books often said something—her latest are simply attention-seeking garbage. Same thing with Hannity—I attended his Support Our Troops rally on the mall years ago, and was impressed with his speech—-today?—-he’s just another conservative whore.

  5. ubrew12 Says:

    So, to recap Papa Bear: “We should support green energy and Tesla, even though its useless because of China and Al Gore. Pollution is bad, but global warming is a liberal hoax being used to tax our corporations.” Did I get all that? It’s difficult keeping track.

  6. Gingerbaker Says:

    ” Support for regulating carbon emissions may be broad, but it’s tissue-thin—Americans rank climate change near or at the bottom of their priorities.”

    What the heck does regulating carbon emissions have to do with renewable energy? Who the heck is asking to impose “strict environmental standards on U.S. corporations”?

    We don’t need to regulate emissions, or impose standards on any business. All we have to do is build and deploy renewable energy infrastructure and price the electricity so low everyone will stop buying fossil fuels. Exxon Mobil can go fly a kite.


    • All we have to do is build and deploy renewable energy infrastructure [1] and price the electricity so low everyone will stop buying fossil fuels.[2]

      There is a contradiction between those two points.  Current technology is roughly an order of magnitude away from being able to do [1] affordably, so deployment will just lead to bankruptcy.  Take the Andasol CSP plant in Spain as an example.  At €15.9 per average watt, it cannot compete with fossil fuels.  It costs more than 2.5 times as much as the EPRs being built at Olkiluoto and Flamanville.  Andasol has close to ideal conditions, so the economics would be worse in most of the world.

      There is a type of carbon-free energy infrastructure that can be built and deployed quickly (examples here), but the commentariat here largely rejects it out of hand.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        I’m part of the “commentariat” here, and I don’t reject your “carbon-free infrastructure that can be quickly built and deployed”, but I DO wonder about the information conveyed in your nice graph. Lots of apples and oranges in there. Stats from 20-30+ years ago are hardly relevant to conditions today, and some of those countries refuse to even look at nuclear power as an option and are pursuing only renewables. The graph looks to be something assembled to make a point that really isn’t a point that can be made—-just “propaganda statistics”.


        • I’m part of the “commentariat” here, and I don’t reject your “carbon-free infrastructure that can be quickly built and deployed”

          Did you miss the word “largely”?  It was not a reference to obesity.

          I DO wonder about the information conveyed in your nice graph. Lots of apples and oranges in there.

          Feel free to discuss it at the source article.  As it is, it refutes claims of “can’t be done” by proving that it has been done, and more than once.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            An excellent NON answer to the points I raised.

            Your comment about “largely” is inane and irrelevant. Perhaps you should try to really understand what was said before you lash out in return.

            The “source article” has many nice graphics (many of which reinforce the grim news that coal is our enemy), but sending us there does NOT address the points I raised, and this graphic does NOT prove that it can be done today as easily as it was 20-30+ years ago.

            As I said, apples and oranges and propaganda, and you seem to be too lazy to try to counter my points. Why must you respond when you have nothing to say?


  7. […] Here, right wing commentator and blowhard Bill O'Reilly concedes the science on climate change – then goes on to explain why we can do nothing about it – because Al Gore. New York Magazine: The deb…  […]


  8. You could price renewables at zero and FF interests would still find a way to push their dirty business by lobbying if they cannot compete.

    • rayduray Says:

      We are certainly witness to this out here in the Pacific NW. There’s proposals on the table for terminals the export of coal, oil and LNG. Finding not enough customers for fossil fuel domestically, the troglodytes are insisting on globalizing their “skies are an open sewer” policy worldwide.


      • It would be cheaper and faster to substitute LNG for diesel fuel than to build export terminals (the trucks are available), but the oil majors own much of the gas industry and do not want to cannibalize their petroleum business.


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