The politics of climate change denial

Why do some people deny the overwhelming science of climate change in a time when the evidence and analysis is so thorough and so conclusive that no reputable scientific organization in the world doubts any longer that humans are changing the climate of the whole planet for the worse: because it threatens their political and economic beliefs. Naomi Klein: Why Climate Change Is So Threatening to Right-Wing Ideologues:
And the reason is that climate change is now seen as an identity issue on the right. People are defining themselves, like they’re against abortion, they don’t believe in climate change. It’s part of who they are.
It’s like denying the earth goes around the sun. Why would they identify with such a silly thing? Because of what actually dealing with climate change would mean:
It would mean upending the whole free trade agenda, because it would mean that we would have to localize our economies, because we have the most energy-inefficient trade system that you could imagine. And this is the legacy of the free trade era. So, this has been a signature policy of the right, pushing globalization and free trade. That would have to be reversed.

You would have to deal with inequality. You would have to redistribute wealth, because this is a crisis that was created in the North, and the effects are being felt in the South. So, on the most basic, basic, “you broke it, you bought it,” polluter pays, you would have to redistribute wealth, which is also against their ideology.

You would have to regulate corporations. You simply would have to. I mean, any serious climate action has to intervene in the economy. You would have to subsidize renewable energy, which also breaks their worldview.

And stop subsidizing oil.

I don’t agree with her on this one:

You would have to have a really strong United Nations, because individual countries can’t do this alone. You absolutely have to have a strong international architecture.
Yes, you need a strong international architecture, in terms of widespread information sharing, especially about what works and what doesn’t. But turning that into a single point of failure at the UN (or the U.S.) would not help; it would just make everything more fragile. In forty years the UN never got rid of Gadaffi: instead it elected Libya to run its Human Rights Commission. What we need is more like Wikipedia and Wikileaks than like the UN.

But back to her main point:

So when you go through this, you see, it challenges everything that they believe in. So they’re choosing to disbelieve it, because it’s easier to deny the science than to say, “OK, I accept that my whole worldview is going to fall apart,” that we have to have massive investments in public infrastructure, that we have to reverse free trade deals, that we have to have huge transfers of wealth from the North to the South. Imagine actually contending with that. It’s a lot easier to deny it.
Which explains why newly-elected Republican governors are turning down rail funds while China has operational high speed rail lines faster than 300 miles per hour and a dozen slower ones at only 200-250 miles per hour.

She goes on to say many environmental groups are also in denial, because they’re still trying to say climate change has nothing to do with politics or economy: “it won’t really disrupt.” Yes it will:

This is about an economic model that needs constant and infinite growth on a finite planet. So we really are talking about some deep transformations of our economy if we’re going to deal with climate change. And we need to talk about it.
They may believe that there’s not enough to go around, but they want to get theirs. Actually, there are ways to share a finite planet so nobody lacks.

Now I say that you can have continued economic growth without continually increasing exploitation of natural resources. Look at the iPhone; look at the Internet. Sure, both of those require some natural resources, but their main value is not in their physical objects; their main value is in their computing complexity, their software, and in who and what they connect. Their degree of physical resource exploitation is nothing compared to, oh, a coal mine or a biomass plant. Especially if they are powered by solar, wind, tide, or waves. Nonetheless, changing to such an economy will be massively disruptive. Which also means some people are going to get rich, while those who cling to dinosaur industries like oil are going to go down. Personally, I’d rather we in the U.S. and in south Georgia profit by the new economy instead of leaving all of it to the Chinese.

Speaking of oil:

…we often hear, “Well, we’re not doing anything about climate change. It’s just business as usual.” But it’s not true that it’s just business as usual, because we are now in the era of extreme energy. The easy-to-get fossil fuels have pretty much been gotten, and now it’s the harder-to-get stuff, the more-expensive-to-get stuff and the riskier stuff. And that means deepwater drilling, which puts whole ecologies at risk, as we’ve seen on the Gulf Coast. And it means the tar sands in Canada. There’s a proposal to have a tar sands project in Utah. It means fracking for natural gas, …. I mean, these are methods that are a lot riskier, and it’s affecting many, many more people. And so, I think we need to get away from this idea that we’re just going on as we’ve always gone on. No, we aren’t. If we don’t get off fossil fuels, we are accepting a much, much higher-risk energy trajectory.
Especially higher-risk for us if other countries go to the new economy while we hang on to dinosaur fossil industries that directly destroy our environment.

The point here is that climate change deniers cannot separate their doctrinaire disbelief in the science of climate change from their politics because it is their politics that causes their climate change denial. For that matter, it’s their politics that are in a large part causing climate change.

The same people care about their children. But this is not a problem waiting for their children’s or grandchildren’s time. Tornado Alley has expanded to Dixie Alley as close as a few counties away.

As Ben Copeland pointed out rivers in Georgia already are not running the way they used to, as the aquifer continues to sink:

Water is going to be very important as we expand our industrial base. Because we’re going to have folks who like to start up jobs here because of the water we have. How much of that water can be used to sustain jobs. Those are the questions….

People need to be informed; need to be aware; that we have to use resources very very carefully; at the same time in a way that provides jobs to our citizens for prosperity.

And he didn’t say “they” as in our children or grandchildren will solve these problems. He said:
As we go forward we’re going to have to answer these questions.
We, here and now. Climate change is real and it is here in south Georgia.

How many of us care about the public good and the general welfare? How many of us care more about our families, our communities, our region, our country, and our world than we care about insisting the sun circles the earth?