Why the right wing fears climate action (and it’s not because they’re crazy)
Conservatives have drummed up unprecedented devotion to climate change denialism by invoking the specter of anti-capitalism, writes Naomi Klein in The Nation, and they're not really wrong. Combating climate change will mean overhauling the free market economy and contracting the corporate sector, and people whose livelihoods depend on big business have a reason to be afraid.
Klein starts off with a deep dive into the climate denier psyche, and concludes that their intense opposition comes not from logical or scientific objections (how could it?) but from corporate-funded movements telling people that climate change mitigation threatens their personal comfort and freedom.
Climate change used to be something most everyone said they cared about—just not all that much. When Americans were asked to rank their political concerns in order of priority, climate change would reliably come in last.
But now there is a significant cohort of Republicans who care passionately, even obsessively, about climate change—though what they care about is exposing it as a “hoax” being perpetrated by liberals to force them to change their light bulbs, live in Soviet-style tenements and surrender their SUVs. For these right-wingers, opposition to climate change has become as central to their worldview as low taxes, gun ownership and opposition to abortion.
They're wrong about the Soviet socialism, says Klein. But they're right that effectively fighting climate change will mean serious changes to our economic system — including regulation for industry and taxes on the rich. Doing it right will mean working right out of the progressive playbook, and doing so not for partisan reasons but for objective scientific ones. All of this is existentially terrifying to people on the right, and why wouldn't it be? Republicans, rich people, and industry aren't opposed to climate action because they're crazy. They're opposed because they're not crazy at all.
With so much at stake, it should come as little surprise that climate deniers are, on the whole, those most invested in our highly unequal and dysfunctional economic status quo. One of the most interesting findings of the studies on climate perceptions is the clear connection between a refusal to accept the science of climate change and social and economic privilege. Overwhelmingly, climate deniers are not only conservative but also white and male, a group with higher than average incomes. And they are more likely than other adults to be highly confident in their views, no matter how demonstrably false. A much-discussed paper on this topic by Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap (memorably titled “Cool Dudes”) found that confident conservative white men, as a group, were almost six times as likely to believe climate change “will never happen” than the rest of the adults surveyed. McCright and Dunlap offer a simple explanation for this discrepancy: “Conservative white males have disproportionately occupied positions of power within our economic system. Given the expansive challenge that climate change poses to the industrial capitalist economic system, it should not be surprising that conservative white males’ strong system-justifying attitudes would be triggered to deny climate change.”
The whole article is really in-depth and thoughtful. Read it here.
- Capitalism vs. the Climate, The Nation