Earlier this year, Marco Rubio said, “What I disagree with is the notion if we pass cap and trade, for example, this will stop this from happening, when in fact half of the new emissions on the planet are coming from developing countries and half of that is coming from one country, China, that isn’t going to follow whatever laws we pass.” Around the same time, Charles Krauthammer said pretty much the same thing, “In the absence of [an emissions pact], all that we’re doing is committing economic suicide in the name of do-goodism that will not do an iota of good.” So these guys must be thrilled to read The New York Times last night, US and China Reach Climate Accord After Months of Talks.
But of course, they’re not. Jonathan Chait presented the early responses this morning, China Tries to Save Earth; Republicans Furious. James Inhofe claims it is not credible — even though he would be against it even if he thought it was credible. I mean, as James Inhofe will tell you for $25.95, global warming is a hoax. Mitch McConnell thinks the deal is meaningless, “As I read the agreement, it requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years.” That’s would be an excellent point if it weren’t totally untrue.
According to The Times, the deal requires that China “stop its emissions from growing by 2030.” It also requires that green energy “would account for 20 percent of China’s total energy production” by that year. That obviously does not mean that China doesn’t have to do anything for the next 16 years. McConnell is just being calculatedly stupid. But again, McConnell would be against this deal regardless, because his oil company backers are against it.
This all brings me back to my days in graduate school. We talked a lot about China and other developing countries and how it was wrong to expect them to simply stop their greenhouse emissions. There were a number of aspects of this. One was that we had used excessive emissions to build our country and power our industrial revolution. We are richer now and thus more able to switch to green technologies. The obvious solution to this is for the developed economies to pay for the developing countries to get green technologies. This, of course, is totally opposed by conservatives. But more important, China then and now doesn’t emit nearly as much carbon as we do per capita. The US emits about as much carbon as China does, but China has 4.3 times as many people. The fact that one fat America eats as much as ten starving Chinese does not mean that the Chinese need to go on a diet.
None of this matters to conservatives, of course. Any idea that implies that the United States is a country like almost 200 others makes them see red. And the idea that we would do anything that would help everyone — even when it includes ourselves — is anathema to them. The whole “What about China!” argument is part of the Global Warming Denial Stages. The point is conservatives refuse to do anything about global warming — not because they don’t believe it but because it involves collective action that doesn’t involve killing people. So literally everything they say on the issue is just a justification for doing nothing.
The first step of global warming denial is, “There is no global warming!” The final step is, “Humans are causing global warming, but there is nothing we can do about it!” What’s remarkable is just how many sub-steps there are in that last one. And you will notice conservatives commonly switch between steps. One will make a “Can’t do anything” argument, but then retreat into a “scientists disagree and I’m no scientist” as soon as actual policies that could fight global warming are proposed.
I was taking a political science course during the Iran-Contra hearings. I remember a student asking, “After Watergate and this, why don’t people stop trusting the Republicans.” My teacher — an old school Democrat — said, “People just see these things are being representative of individuals and not the party.” And that’s what will continue to happen here. Regardless of how badly this all goes, conservatives in the future will just say, “Of course the party was wrong about global warming!” And they’ll say that as they continue to fight every new threat we face. And the people will vote for them, because hell, it isn’t the ideology — it’s just those old conservatives! Anyway, by then, they will probably have managed to change the voting requirements to being over 65 years old and at least seven-eighths Caucasian.