Global Warming and the Insanity of the GOP

ExxonA lot of times, I read something that I really want to write about. But it sits around in an open tab. It’s often because I think it is so important that I don’t get around to it, because I want to give it more time than I usually do. And I never find I have the amount of time that I need. And I don’t now. But you really should know about this series of articles from Inside Climate News, Exxon: The Road Not Taken. The first article is, Exxon’s Own Research Confirmed Fossil Fuels’ Role in Global Warming Decades Ago.

We are talking back as early as the 1970s. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me. When I was in graduate school, I had interactions with real climate scientists who worked for Exxon. Some very good work came out of Exxon, but it was clear over the years that it became more and more just a matter of looking for uncertainties for marketing rather than looking for the truth. But certainly by the mid-1970s, people like Veerabhadran Ramanathan had demonstrated how radiative forcing worked, using simple models of the atmosphere. It ain’t complicated. Of course Exxon’s own people were saying that its primary commodity was effectively poisoning the the atmosphere.

And Exxon and the other oil companies responded in exactly the same way that the tobacco companies had responded…

And Exxon and the other oil companies responded in exactly the same way that the tobacco companies had responded to the research that showed it caused cancer: denial. And it used many of the same people, including my old friend Fred Singer. The the truth is that the oil companies had a worse problem than the tobacco companies. The tobacco companies have been able to push all the harder into other areas of the world where they can murder people who don’t have strong government protections. But there was nothing that the oil companies could do. It had to be a fight to the death.

I really think at this point that the Republican Party’s total denial of science — not just when it comes to global warming, but when it comes to everything — is due to this problem. The only way to continue to do nothing about global warming is to deny reality. It’s like some stereotype of a hippy, “What is truth anything?” So it isn’t just the atmosphere that Exxon and friends have managed to poison: it’s also the brains of the Republican Party — not that it wasn’t primed for this anyway with its supply side dogma and so on.

Jonathan Chait brought my attention to some interesting new research and brought up an important question, Why Are Republicans the Only Climate-Science-Denying Party in the World? I was only vaguely aware of this, but conservative parties in the other advanced democratic countries accept that global warming is happening and are committed to doing something about it. It is only the Republican Party that has turned into a hotbed of conspiracy theories about hoaxes — and at very least, people who are going to avoid the problem until drought and crop failures cause worldwide famine.

Unfortunately, Chait doesn’t have an answer to his own question. But I think it is all about money. In the US, the rich have always had a huge amount of power and they have only gotten more powerful. We can’t have climate regulations, because that would hurt some rich people. We must have supply side economics because that helps rich people. We can’t have universal healthcare because that would cost the rich a little money. At the same time, in order to hold its coalition together, the Republican Party has had to get out on the loony fringe of social issues like guns and reproductive rights.

I’ve long felt that eventually — in 50 to 100 years, there will be another World War. It will be between the US (with a couple of our puppet allies) and the rest of the world. And we will be the bad guys. Because I really don’t see us reforming from the inside. Our democracy has rotted. A putrid smell has only begun to suffocate the rest of the world. But it will get worse — much worse. Maybe we can stop it. But as I think I’ve made very clear: if the economy goes bad next year, we will have the Republicans in control of Washington. And that means more pollution, war with Iran, a worse and more unequal economy. And the American people will mostly sleep through it until they wake up in 2020 like Punxsutawney Phil to see if the economy is improving and vote just based upon that — even if our cities are on fire and there are regional water wars.

8 thoughts on “Global Warming and the Insanity of the GOP

  1. I like to read history. And one thing I notice about our history is…we definitely go through some seriously long nasty spells of absolutely horrific people in charge. All about money, all about afflicting the afflicted and comforting the comforted. The recent post you did about the Gold Ring exemplifies this. Eventually the rich do so much bad that the regular people make the effort to fight back and fight back hard. I think (hope) the recent resurgence of the left with Bernie Sanders means that we will see this happen.

    Of course it requires that we have people run down ticket like they did after Howard Dean’s campaign collapsed. I was not the only former Deaniac who decided to run for office because of him. If Sanders does not win, plenty of people who went from not being active to being active will probably do what I did.

    Of course I make this argument when we hear about another mass shooting in the US and I just sigh and wonder if my optimism is just a left over of being American, if nothing else, we tend to be an irrationally optimistic bunch.

    • Yeah, at this point there is a certain learned helplessness — especially about the shootings. But clearly, the left in this country needs to do what the Christian conservatives did the 70s. The problem is that liberals tend to be poorer. It makes it harder.

  2. Do not despair, the neoliberals have, politically, eaten their children. The great bulwark against progressive politics has been white guys (and their wives) who have a mortgage. Stick a white guy in a bank owned home and you have the perfect carrot and stick of conservative politics. He can have a pretty good life on a day to day basis but the threat of it all being yanked away is ever present. The argument against every progressive economic change is that, ultimately, any measure that advances economic justice will cause our white guy to lose his home and car and pension and bourgeois lifestyle.

    Thanks to neoliberalism, white guys, even white guys with a good college education and relatively affluent parents are not getting new cars, mortgages or have the wherewithal to build up a good pension. Most importantly, there is not much hope that things will change absent major political changes. I remember back in 2009 and 2010, your typical white guy may have been unemployed but he saw it as a bump in the road, he still saw himself as a temporarily embarrassed millionaire. Now your typical white guy has a job, he has had a job for a while now and yet those bourgeois milestones still seem unattainable now and in the future.

    Educated people who have no homes, no savings, no retirement and no real hope are the sort of people who can and will support populist reforms.

    • Well put. But there is a problem in that things have largely been taken away gradually. A lot of people I talk to don’t think things could be any other way. But I try not to despair. That was a good line: “temporarily embarrassed millionaire.”

  3. There’s a study referred to near the end of “Injustices,” where people good at math were given a set of statistics about gun control. Liberals were given one set, where the data showed gun control increased gun crime; conservatives an opposite set of numbers. Both liberals and conservatives tended to favor their ideological positions over the numbers — but conservatives did this more frequently.

    Here’s the source (I haven’t read it yet, I’m swamped and just came across the passage in “Injustices” tonight):

    • Yeah, I remember that study. It is one of an overwhelming number that shows that people tend to make up their minds first and then justify it. Thus my constant battle with fellow atheists who claim that they are wholly rational and just guided by facts. The irony is great, because these atheists are clearly filtering out these particular kinds of facts.

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