Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How Did an Entire Political Party Decide to Reject Climate Change Science?

From the Washington Monthly via

And in case this isn’t clear, unanimous Republican opposition to any meaningful efforts to combat global warming makes any kind of coordinated international effort impossible.

What’s more, as the climate crisis intensifies, and the need for swift action becomes even more painfully obvious, the GOP line is getting worse, not better. How many Republican U.S. Senate candidates on the ballot this year support efforts to address global warming? None.

I realize that part of the problem here is that Republicans reject the science because they oppose the solutions. If they acknowledged reality, GOP officials would no doubt have a harder time explaining why they don’t want to deal with a climate crisis that has the potential to wreak havoc on the planet in dramatically dangerous ways.

But the result is the same. The combination of deliberate Republican ignorance and the Republican scheme to break the United States Senate makes the crisis even more serious, with little hope on the horizon.


Actually, I'd assert that the entire problem is that Republicans reject the science because they oppose the solutions. There is no persuasive argument they can make opposing anti-global warming legislation, if the science is right, because there aren't any. And the science is right. That's why Republicans have to keep their hands over their eyes and ears: accepting the reality of global warming means throwing out all their "market" bullshit, or, at least, profoundly reevaluating it.

I remember back in the mid 90s a brief conversation I had with an old friend's new girlfriend. She, like me at the time, was a mainstream Democrat, and smart, too, working at the LBJ Presidential Library back in Austin. I had asserted something to the effect of how I really loved talking politics, tearing down ideas I thought were wrong, building up the ideas I liked. Nice girl, but she gave me this kind of condescending response: "You mean you like talking about opinions." To her, politics was all opinion.

"Global warming is not an opinion," I shot back.

For some reason that I don't recall, the conversation ended there, and we never got back to it. But even then, fifteen years ago, it was becoming increasingly clear that we could no longer view political discourse as consisting of reasonable disagreements based on a shared understanding of reality. Now reality itself is up for debate. And we're all much worse off for that.

In the end, reality-denial as a debating tactic, I think, has more to do with this era of mass communications and public relations in which we live than it has to do with any one particular issue. Global warming was the first instance of reality-denial simply because the right wing saw, and continues to see, the stakes, potentially abandoning their cherished neoliberal economic model, as being so extraordinarily high. But even if global warming weren't happening, it would have been something else. We did, after all, invade and devastate Iraq, an utterly defenseless nation that was absolutely no threat to the United States, because of weapons of mass destruction that were intellectual constructs.

I wrote yesterday about how the American Empire is obviously in a state of heavy decline, mentioned a few examples, and blamed it all on neoliberalism, which is, in itself, a kind of reality-denial. But that just kind of scratches the surface: we live in a media-created "reality" of illusion, informed by action-blockbuster movies, cop dramas, badass gangsta rappers, irrationally pro-American corporate "news," and the rags-to-riches morality tales of Oprah and her ilk. It's not that the banks went to Vegas with our retirement savings; it's that the government taxes and spends too much. It's not that poverty is a complicated and chronic social problem; it's that the poor are lazy and refuse to work. It's not that drug addiction is a disease which is criminally exploited by forces on both sides of the law; it's that we don't lock up enough illegal aliens.

It is no wonder at all that this is the end of the American Empire: its people are no longer connected to physical reality, and now it's coming back to bite us on the ass, as reality always does when it is ignored.