The Right’s Toxic Shame on Climate Change

December 1, 2018


Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine:

I’m relieved, I suppose, that Trump officials didn’t actually suppress, censor, or doctor volume two of the Fourth National Climate Assessment. All they did was release it on the Friday after Thanksgiving, suggesting that somewhere deep in what passes for someone’s conscience in this putrid presidency, some residual shame might linger. One of the more innovative arguments of the report was even pitched to the bottom line: high projections expect to knock ten percent off U.S. GDP this century — more than two Great Recessions put together. And so the last teetering argument of the carbon polluters and their enablers — that preventing climate catastrophe will cost jobs and reduce growth — was proven void once again. Au contraire, it turns out. There have been more jobs in solar energyin the U.S. since 2015 than in oil or natural gas extraction. Maybe a decade ago, the expense of wind and solar was a major obstacle and expense for a non-carbon future. Not any more.

The denialists, in other words, have nothing left. The most striking thing about Bret Stephens’s inaugural column in the New York Times was not its banal defense of the principle of scientific skepticism, but its general lameness. Rereading it this week, it is striking how modest its claims were. They essentially came to this: “Claiming total certainty about the science traduces the spirit of science and creates openings for doubt whenever a climate claim proves wrong. Demanding abrupt and expensive changes in public policy raises fair questions about ideological intentions. Censoriously asserting one’s moral superiority and treating skeptics as imbeciles and deplorables wins few converts.”

And that’s it. But no serious scientist claims “total certainty” about the future of climate, just a range of increasingly alarming probabilities; no one is demanding “abrupt and expensive” changes in public policy, just an intensification of efforts long underway with increasingly reliable and affordable new technologies; and, yes, treating your opponents as evil morons is rarely a good political strategy and Al Gore was terribly supercilious — but, seriously, that’s the only substantive argument Stephens had or has? There’s not enough hay there for a straw ant.

The same blather can be found in this week’s column by Jonah Goldberg, lamenting Max Boot’s sudden volte-face on the issue. Jonah has a point about Boot’s somewhat too instant makeover into a resistance icon (I’ve made it myself), but on the substance of climate change, what defense of the American right does Goldberg have? Zippo. He argues that “there are a lot of different views on climate change on the right.” I find that about as convincing as the argument that there are a lot of different views on race among Harvard’s faculty. Sure, maybe, in private, a few don’t subscribe to the idea that America is as ridden with white supremacy as it was in the 1920s. But you won’t get very far in the academy if you say that in public, will you?

More to the point, the hypothesis of carbon-created climate change doesn’t just have “some legitimate science” on its side, as Goldberg puts it, but a completely overwhelming majority of the science. You should, of course, retain some skepticism always. It’s possible, for example, that natural selection may be replaced as the core scientific consensus about how life on Earth evolved. Possible. But do we have to express skepticism every time new science based on that hypothesis emerges? Please. And I honestly can’t see how the science of this can be right or left. It’s either our best working hypothesis or not. And absolutely, we can have a debate about how to best counter it: massive investment in new green technology; a carbon tax; cap and trade; private-sector innovation of the kind that has helped restrain emissions in the U.S. already. And this debate could be had on right-left lines. But we cannot even have the debate because American conservatism has ruled it out of bounds.

New polling suggests Republicans continue to move in the direction of climate awareness, but slippery wording makes it unclear how far.  Believing the climate is changing is a long way from accepting the responsibility to do something about it.

The Hill:

Nearly two-thirds of Republicans and a majority of all Americans now acknowledge climate change, according to a Monmouth University Poll released Thursday.

The poll found that 64 percent of Republican respondents said they believe that Earth’s climate is changing, up from 49 percent in 2015.

According to the poll, 92 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of independents also said they acknowledge climate change. Eighty-five percent of Democrats and 74 percent of independents polled acknowledged climate change three years ago.

Just over half of Americans surveyed — 54 percent — said climate change is “very serious,” while 17 percent say the problem is “somewhat” serious,” according to the poll. In Monmouth’s 2015 poll, 41 percent said climate change was “very serious.”

One-quarter of Republicans surveyed said climate change is a “very serious problem,” compared to 82 percent of Democrats and about 51 percent of independents who said the same.

The poll also found that 16 percent of Americans said climate change is not happening, while 5 percent of those surveyed said they are unsure if it is occurring.

Geography, according to the poll, also plays a role in Americans’ views of the seriousness of climate change. Residents of coastal areas were 17 percent more likely to say that climate change was a “very serious” problem, compared to their inland neighbors.


19 Responses to “The Right’s Toxic Shame on Climate Change”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    I like that photo at the top. I hope this ultra right-wing corporation lobby club goes extinct ASAP. The only chance for the survival of the human species as such.

    These guys are murderers!

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      DJT’s latest babbling points are that he likes clean air and clean water. Independent of CO2, it’s expensive enough to remove the airborne toxins from the combustion of coal and the waterborne toxins from coal ash slurry pits to make “clean coal” power plants’ costs exceed other US plant power sources.

  2. Sir Charles Says:

    * Climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.

    * Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

    * The direct damage costs to health (i.e. excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation), is estimated to be between USD 2-4 billion/year by 2030.

    * Areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond.

    * Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases through better transport, food and energy-use choices can result in improved health, particularly through reduced air pollution.

    => Climate change and health

  3. John Says:

    Reblogged this on jpratt27 and commented:
    Climate Change is stealing our children’s future.

  4. redskylite Says:

    My feeling is that this report has had a considerable impact (as it should), much more so than previous reports (including IPCC reports), and just trying to dismiss the thrust by saying that it focuses on the worst case scenarios, is a pretty lame attack. The report is being quoted by many outlets and is generally taken seriously. I hope the sentiment is maintained and the next one is not suppressed by the U.S administration. Pretty strong commentary by the Denver Post.

    Denverpost – Climate change clobbers Colorado and the West, unfurling fire, drought, insects and heat

    Fires burn more frequently and uncontrollably, ravaging the West’s pines, firs and spruces, destroying lives and buildings.

    Multiplying insects feast: Colorado’s forester last week said the state over two decades has lost a fifth of its forests to bugs, and a recent survey estimated one in 14 standing trees is dead.

    Shrinking Rocky Mountain snowpack is forcing farmers out of business, jeopardizing skiing, and compelling utilities to consider super-costly new sources of water, including recycled waste.

    And rising heat waves hurt people — especially children, the elderly, low-income outdoor workers and anybody who can’t afford air conditioning.

    These impacts of global warming, intensifying across Colorado and the West with costs in the billions, have happened precisely as scientists have been predicting. The latest National Climate Assessment — released by the Trump administration on the day after Thanksgiving — now drives home this scientific consensus that Colorado and its western neighbors will face worsening, potentially ruinous environmental upheaval as average temperatures that increased 2 degrees over the past 30 years keep rising.

    And rising heat waves hurt people — especially children, the elderly, low-income outdoor workers and anybody who can’t afford air conditioning.

  5. redskylite Says:

    Unrelated to Climate Change, but highly topical to the shift to the right and rise of popularism. A story about a true working class hero and a need to communicate between generations. This story hit my heart.

    UK war veteran and activist, 94, on fears of US under Trump and his plans to document refugee crisis to spur empathy.

  6. […] via The Right’s Toxic Shame on Climate Change — Climate Denial Crock of the Week […]

  7. mboli Says:

    Good old Andrew Sullivan. He writes a sane commentary on his fellow “conservatives” going off the deep end. But in the middle he throws in a gratuitous insult which somehow has something to do with Harvard, academia, and race. This is Sullivan’s Virtue Signaling. He is signaling to his fellow right-wing nuts that he is one of them, that despite the criticism expressed in this column he still shares their hateful worldview.

    The other problem with Sullivan is his blindness as to why his fellow conservatives have gone off the deep end. The main issue is that there is nothing in the conservatives’ policy toolkit that is capable of dealing with climate change. His fellow commenters cannot afford to recognize climate change, because their “solutions” to most issues amount to: reduce taxes, deregulate, and give it to the states. And, of course, kick out the liberals who (in their minds) have occupied government for the past 75 years or so.

  8. chucksterweb Says:

    “Climate change has always been with us”
    “Therefore it’s completely natural”
    “It’s too complicated. We’ll never be able to unravel all of its mysteries”
    Maybe true. So?
    “So we shouldn’t even try.”
    HUH? So we should just give up? Is that a prescription for success?

    I’ve been an amateur meteorologist since the mid 1970’s. I knew of “Global Warming” since long before that. Anyone who argues against the basic science of greenhouse gasses is full of gas.
    I could see a gaping hole in climate science way back when almost nobody was incorporating ocean heat into their models. Some of their earlier reasons for not doing so were understandable. We didn’t have the computing power or the raw data back then. But now we do now and now we know. The oceans have absorbed some 90% of the excess heat.
    The waviness of the high arctic jet stream has been very notable since the late 1990’s if you were paying attention to such things. It just looked like an anomaly at the time. That was understandable because we’d never seen anything like it before. But it has not only persisted. It’s gotten worse. There is no reason I know of to believe that this will change. At least not according to the physics I understand.
    We don’t know everything. We never will. But we know enough. The time for talk is over. The time to act is now…. wait… the time to act was forty years ago.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “The time to act is now…. wait… the time to act was forty years ago”.

      Tell that to the Merchants of Doubt and the spreaders of Dark Money. They are still meeting with much success in their efforts to slow things down. The Repugnant whores in Congress and the Moron-in-Chief in the WH are taking their money and doing their bidding.

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