Wherein we puzzle through the truthiness
I was recently made aware of the fact that the conservative National Review has a newish blog called Planet Gore. That’s right: the only conservative blog I know of on global warming is primarily focused on mocking Al Gore — who is, you’ll recall, a big Fatty Fatterstein.
This pungent discovery got me pondering a post on how conservative opposition to global warming advocacy seems openly and bizarrely centered on hatred of liberals and environmentalists and Al Gore rather than, say, any substantive take on the issue itself. It is perhaps the clearest example of how modern conservatism has descended into pure ressentiment.
But — and let this be a lesson to all you procrastinating pundits out there — Jonathan Chait beat me to it:
The psychology at work here is pretty clear: Your average conservative may not know anything about climate science, but conservatives do know they hate Al Gore. So, hold up Gore as a hate figure and conservatives will let that dictate their thinking on the issue.
Chait’s piece has prompted quite a bit of discussion. Matt Yglesias said:
I can’t even say how often I think I’ve read the following sort of "logic" deployed in response to an environmentalist making some point about curbing carbon emissions.
- Environmentalists say global warming is a serious problem.
- Increased use of nuclear power plants could help curb global warming.
- Geoengineering could help curb global warming.
- Environmentalists dislike both global warming and nuclear power.
- Therefore, environmentalists hate capitalism and modern society and I’ll ignore this issue!
Chris Mooney argues on HuffPo that we also shouldn’t forget conservative’s recent rejection of objective science:
However, the picture is more complicated, and I’d like to suggest that we consider some other factors:
1. The broad and longstanding conservative distrust of academia and "leftwing" campus intellectuals, including scientists. This allows many Republicans to dismiss large bodies of scientific research as essentially politicized and therefore safe to ignore.
2. The growth of ideological think tanks which provide alternative "facts" and alternative "knowledge" tailor-made for conservatives. It’s not just that many Republicans reject mainline "science"; they actually have their own.
3. The growth of a rightwing media that quotes the think-tank "experts" and puts them on the air regularly–so that the sealed off alternative knowledge environment becomes complete and very hard for mainstream science to penetrate (especially when scientists themselves do not speak in a language designed to appeal to political conservatives).
Incidentally, “sealed off alternative knowledge environment” would be a great name for a rock band. Fans would call it SOAKE.
Matt Nisbet adds an important note: part of why conservatives seem more and more resistant to climate science is that fewer and fewer people are self-identifying as Republicans. As the moderates jump ship, what’s left is a small core of rigid ideologues — the kind of people who will never, ever believe anything Al Gore says, no matter the evidence.
I would have been skeptical about this even a year ago, but it looks like global warming may well turn out to be a “wedge issue” that fractures the Republican party. Them’s the breaks, though. Reality, as they say, has the last laugh.