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June 09, 2014 9:49 AM The Anti-Climate Change Coalition

By Ed Kilgore

If you’re prone to economic determinism in understanding political phenomena, you might be given pause by Paul Krugman today, who has concluded there’s something else going on other than greed in the growth of climate science denialism:

[T]hink about global warming from the point of view of someone who grew up taking Ayn Rand seriously, believing that the untrammeled pursuit of self-interest is always good and that government is always the problem, never the solution. Along come some scientists declaring that unrestricted pursuit of self-interest will destroy the world, and that government intervention is the only answer. It doesn’t matter how market-friendly you make the proposed intervention; this is a direct challenge to the libertarian worldview.
And the natural reaction is denial — angry denial. Read or watch any extended debate over climate policy and you’ll be struck by the venom, the sheer rage, of the denialists.

There’s really not any solution to climate change that is compatible with systematic libertarianism, and as Krugman says, the whole issue has to be emotionally disturbing to people who assume the identity of self-interest and virtue.

So you have an interesting coalition opposing action on climate change, which represents the main factions of contemporary U.S. conservatism: the greedheads who benefit from the very phenomena threatening the rest of us; libertarians whose world view would shatter if climate science is telling us the truth; and of course religious conservatives suspicious of science and prone to thinking of any environmental cause as thinly disguised pantheism.

As Krugman suggests, toxic ideology is as big a factor as economic self-interest in propelling the anti-climate change coalition. And compromise with that is not an easy proposition.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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