Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The state of climate denialism

Some backstory: several years ago, the shape of the climate change debate had changed. No longer was it fashionable for all Republicans to completely deny climate change. Instead, many recognized it publicly as a problem. Some even said some pretty good things about what needed to be done (i.e. John McCain). The scope of the debate had been moved: it was finally no longer about whether there is climate change or not, but about "but how much will it cost to do something about this?" That became a pretty messed-up debate itself, but at least it was progress.

Now, in the last year or so, the debate has moved back. In fact, every single Republican senate candidate is now on record saying the science on global warming is either up for debate or wrong. (UPDATE: Correction: One GOP Senate candidate recognizes climate change). For a number of the candidates, that's a change from their previous positions.

As David Roberts argues in Grist, in other rich countries, there aren't any major parties that have this position. On the US exceptionalism:
You'd think widespread anti-scientific sentiment would be an embarrassment to the right, or at least something they'd have to answer for, but the Beltway press doesn't treat it as radicalism, like it would if Republicans denied, say, the cosmic significance of the long-term budget deficit. In the political tabloids, climate change is treated as a kind of game, a contest between conservatives and environmentalists to move the needle on public opinion polls. (Environmentalists are down this month!)
Roberts argues that it's good politics in the long term for Democrats to talk climate change (rather than run away from it) because in the end, they'll be right, and that gets them a certain amount of respect from the public. Hard to know. Of course, the Democrats aren't always so hot at doing what's best even for their own political future.


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