Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 10, 2010

NO COMMONLY SHARED REALITY.... Ron Brownstein notes in a terrific new National Journal column just how striking it is to see a major American political party decide, all at once, to reject climate science in its entirety. (via Jay Rosen)

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, a prominent conservative leader in the U.K., was in the U.S. last week, and described climate change as perhaps the 21st century's biggest foreign-policy challenge," He added, "An effective response to climate change underpins our security and prosperity."

His strong words make it easier to recognize that Republicans in this country are coalescing around a uniquely dismissive position on climate change. The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones. [...]

Just for the record, when the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences last reviewed the data this spring, it concluded: "A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems." Not only William Hague but such other prominent European conservatives as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have embraced that widespread scientific conviction and supported vigorous action.

Indeed, it is difficult to identify another major political party in any democracy as thoroughly dismissive of climate science as is the GOP here. Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, says that although other parties may contain pockets of climate skepticism, there is "no party-wide view like this anywhere in the world that I am aware of."

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. It also speaks to a larger truth -- because there's no commonly shared reality among Democratic and Republican policymakers, the prospects for compromise are effectively non-existent.

Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine this morning noted, "I don't know who first described politics as the 'art of compromise,' but that maxim, to which I have always subscribed, seems woefully unfashionable today."

Yeah, I wonder why that is.

Steve Benen 11:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

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Should the Republicans gain back a majority in either chamber, we will witness investigation after investigation while the world burns, and then freezes, and then burns and freezes again!

Tell all who will listen, a vote for the Republican brand is a vote for the crazy! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on October 10, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

The title of "no common shared reality" sums up the current political situation pretty well. There's one big problem. The sky is still blue. No matter how hard someone tries, they can take all the acid they want, the sky is still blue. there are so many areas of life that are gray but there are also immutable things like gravity and global warming. Deny them if you like but don't be outraged when you find out what reality is.

Posted by: Gandalf on October 10, 2010 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Let me connect two apparently unrelated data points to show why we should not be surprised that Republicans are global warming denialists.

When Dinesh D'Souza called the president an African anti-colonialist on the cover of Forbes I thought: Well, that's just D'Souza being D'Souza. He sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver long ago, though I did wonder why a respected publication like Forbes would defile itself with this filth.

Then, the president of the conservative flagship American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks, published a book called The Battle which argues that Obama hates rich people (seriously!) and America is engaged in an economic culture war in which the choices are Soviet style statism or free market capitalism. Those are our choices -- our only choices.

Arthur Brooks is a respected intellectual, so why would he write something as nonsensical as that the key to understanding the Obama economic recovery plan is that the president has an irrational hatred of rich people. And why would Forbes go along with the idea that not only does Obama hate rich people but this hatred is reflected in his his economic policies which are rooted in his father's hatred of Western imperialism?

The reason, I think, is that both these ideas, however whacky, serve the New American Oligarchy in that they discredit the progressive reform agenda by associating them with strange and alien ideas that are way outside the mainstream -- the guilt by association that is a familiar techique of propaganda. Whatever intellectual integrity Forbes and now AEI once had has now been compromised to serve the interests of the rich benefactors who support the conservative movement.

This same dynamic holds true for climate change science. Republicans reject the findings of climate science en masse not because of the merits of the issue but because it threatens the financial interests of the GOP's benefactors, which is pretty much the sole reason the GOP exists. And that now extends to Supreme Court as well.

Some conservatives are open about this connection and say that doing anything about climate change would threaten our economy and put us at a disadvantage vis a vis China. Others try to impute malevolent motivations to environmentalists by saying that global warming is just an excuse for radical leftists to take over the economy and impose socialism, or something like that. That was Charles Krauthammer's argument, for example. But the easier path is simply to deny the science of global warming altogther.

Posted by: Ted Frier on October 10, 2010 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

If they acknowledged reality, GOP officials...

And there's the end of that. GOP officials get paid big bucks to acknowledge the alternate realities created at right-wing think-stanks.

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© on October 10, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

MASS psychosis is the only answer. 40,000,000 Republicans CAN be WRONG.

WHEN oil gets outrageously expensive, and it will as Chinese and Indian economies continue to expand, AND when it gets too hot for words in places like LA THEN our heirs will HATE our generation with a passion previously reserved for baby killers and wife beaters.

BUT doing something would interfere with the short term profits of Exxon, et al; it would interfere with the agenda of the plutocracy (Eat, drink and destroy the government for tomorrow we die.); AND to admit people caused climate change is to deny the perfection of GOD's creation so the kooky kristian also deny climate change.

SO that leaves the HEIRS to America poor, hot, and immobile. Just what the plutocracy wants.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on October 10, 2010 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Ted Frier and KurtRex: the Republicans are owned and operated by Big Oil (and Big Banks, Big Pharma, Big Ag, Big Media, etc.)

And why can't Dems scream this from the rooftops? Because most of our guys are bought, too.

Thanks, SCOTUS.

Posted by: dalloway on October 10, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Let me just say that Ted Frier is hitting it out of the park today with his analysis. Well done, Ted.

Posted by: trex on October 10, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

What is particularly dangerous here is that the GOP denial of climate science (and apparently a lessening credence on the part of the general public) is coming at the very time that scientists, including those in US Government agencies, are increasingly sounding the alarm that climate deterioration is already coming faster than the IPPC predicted in 2007.

Think of it. These are very reputable predictions: 400 ppm CO2 by 2016. Ice-free Arctic by 2016. Increased temperatures, intense storms, flooding and drought within that period. This is within the term of those running for Senate today. Every year that goes by and we don't get serious about reducing emission, the problem becomes more serious and more expensive to correct.

With business-as-usual, we hit 450 ppm CO2 by 2040, a 2 degree C temperature rise (the point of severe and irreversible adverse effects per NOAA) and probably clearly and seriously rising sea levels of 2+ feet. That is within the lifetime of most people here. At that point the 2100 scenario is pretty fearful to contemplate.

Instead of worrying about the debt or Social Security in 32037 we should be worrying about global warming in 2020.

Posted by: Mimikatz on October 10, 2010 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, that last line should be 2037.

Already some parts of the country have expereinced warming (particularly in the winter) of up to 7 degrees F from 1970 levels. Temperature-wise, the hardest hit areas are going to be the uppermidwest and upper plains states (plus Alaska), not the southern (coastal) areas, and the sea level impacts are greatest on the Atlantic seaboard, plus low-lying areas of the Gulf. In other words, the red states get generally much redder.

Posted by: Mimikatz on October 10, 2010 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

I was listening to a scientist the other day talk about the really interesting fact that Climate Change is really only a problem for HUMANS and certain vulnerable species. Lots and lots of nature will adapt just fine.

It seems to me that this a HUGE weapon to use against the right...hear me out...Fundamentalist Christians are always saying we're the species and that we matter most...we're given dominion over everything else...If I were democrats I would be maliciously "thanking them" for recognizing that's not true, that their failure to stop global warming is an acknowledgement of this fact, and an admission that nature is more important than human beings. Say that every republican who denies climate change is basically admitting that human beings aren't the top of the totem pole...and admitting that there are other forms of life the creator values more.

That might get some science rolling....

Posted by: Shrink in SF on October 10, 2010 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

And it's not just climate science denial — in the face of unquestionable evidence — that these people pushing unanimously on the rest of us. Look at gun control. Safety regulations. Healthcare reform. Education. Welfare. And on and on.

Virtually every stance the Republican party puts forth and fights tooth and nail for runs counter to all empirical evidence. The earth is 6,000 years old. A privatized military is more fiscally responsible. Tax cuts for the rich means smaller deficits. McCarthy was a great American. MLK was a socialist. Obama is a Muslim. And on and on.

Seemingly nothing these assholes do or say has any basis in reality. Why on earth would they suddenly buy into the reality of Global Climate Change?

Posted by: chrenson on October 10, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

GUN control... did you know that in Az you can carry a loaded gun into a bar? Yep, our far seeing state legislature allowed nay encouraged that. This is why you should never go into a bar in Az.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on October 10, 2010 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Pop quiz: Why do so few Republicans take ocean cruises?

-because they might fall off the edge. . .

Posted by: DAY on October 10, 2010 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

There's every indication that next year's Republican House of Representatives will interrogate the nation's most prominent climate scientists in the style of the old House Un-American Affairs Committee. Dr. Michael Mann of Penn State might reasonably consider asking the British government for political asylum.

I'm not sure that appropriators will be as nutty, but it seems reasonable to expect provisions restricting National Science Foundation funding of "bad science". The NSF itself might come under investigation.

We can expect the new House to promote coal while claiming that any measure that could reduce carbon emissions represents frivolous spending or outright socialism.

As for reality, outfits like the Wall Street Journal's opinion page have been discrediting science for years. Naomi Oreskes' "Merchants of Doubt" explains it. Republicans have bought into it.

I assume that sometime in the future, a Republican Congress and President will do something so firmly based in fake reality that major harm will come to the US, swiftly. Not over 20 to 50 years.

Posted by: David Martin on October 10, 2010 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

Add the National Academies (Science, Engineering and Institute of Medicine) to the organizations on the Republican science proscribed list. Since the private Academies are Congressionally chartered to advise the US government, perhaps we might see legislation to forbid government agencies from dealing with the Academies or basing policy on their reports.

I'm not kidding.

Posted by: David Martin on October 11, 2010 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

Ted Frier:
Arthur Brooks is a respected intellectual by whom? Brooks is a corporate whore. He says what ever his puppet-masters pay him to say.

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on October 11, 2010 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for good stuff

Posted by: livelybrowsers on October 19, 2010 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK



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