“Do you remember the days when Bush administration officials claimed that terrorism posed an ‘existential threat’ to America, a threat in whose face normal rules no longer applied? That was hyperbole — but the existential threat from climate change is all too real…. And as I watched the deniers make their arguments [against Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade], I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.” (Paul Krugman, New York Times, 2009)
“Republican climate denial is even scarier than Trumpism.” (Paul Krugman, New York Times, 2019)
A full decade apart, Paul Krugman is all-in with climate hyperbole and angst. Joe Romm might have thrown in the towel at Climate Progress, but Krugman is flaming in the New York Times.
Talk about riding the wrong horse. With the basic physics dooming climate policy on a national and international level, and mostly greenwashing otherwise, it has been, is, and will be a mineral (fossil-fuel) world.
In The Party that Ruined the Planet (New York Times: December 12, 2019), faux climate expert Krugman gets emotional and angry at the failure of U.S. politics to fall into line with the hyped-up climate emergency. “Republican climate denial is even scarier than Trumpism,” he declares.
“The most terrifying aspect of the U.S. political drama isn’t the revelation that the president has abused his power for personal gain,” Krugman begins.
No, the real revelation has been the utter depravity of the Republican Party. Essentially every elected or appointed official in that party has chosen to defend Trump by buying into crazy, debunked conspiracy theories. That is, one of America’s two major parties is beyond redemption; given that, it’s hard to see how democracy can long endure, even if Trump is defeated.
Then comes climate alarmism:
However, the scariest reporting I’ve seen recently has been about science, not politics. A new federal report finds that climate change in the Arctic is accelerating, matching what used to be considered worst-case scenarios. And there are indications that Arctic warming may be turning into a self-reinforcing spiral, as the thawing tundra itself releases vast quantities of greenhouse gases.
But Arctic melting has natural causes and is hardly related to sea level rise (think ice in a water glass). Anarctica and Greenland’s ice is what can shift sea level. Weather/climate deaths are falling. The globe is greening. And the world is adapting to believed weather/climate changes.
And by the way, those scary reports are being written by the wrong scientists. The sober scientists have, for the most part, dropped out, and a new generation of talent with different economic and political views will likely avoid the field entirely. Atlas Shrugged.
Back to Krugman:
But the terrifying political news and the terrifying climate news are closely related. Why, after all, has the world failed to take action on climate, and why is it still failing to act even as the danger gets ever more obvious? There are, of course, many culprits; action was never going to be easy.
But one factor stands out above all others: the fanatical opposition of America’s Republicans, who are the world’s only major climate-denialist party. Because of this opposition, the United States hasn’t just failed to provide the kind of leadership that would have been essential to global action, it has become a force against action.
Frankly, Mr. Krugman, you should at least present the reasons why the large majority of Americans are not buying climate alarmism as presented by campaigners from Al Gore to Greta Thunberg.
We are wary and weary of the string of false doom scenarios that began, at least, with Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb. We know that the climate changes naturally. We know that carbon dioxide (CO2) is not a pollutant but a greening agent for Planet Earth. We know that climate-related deaths have fallen precipitously in the last century due to human betterment, itself the result of plentiful, affordable, reliable, dense mineral energies.
Back to Krugman:
And Republican climate denial is rooted in the same kind of depravity that we’re seeing with regard to Trump.
As I’ve written in the past, climate denial was in many ways the crucible for Trumpism. Long before the cries of “fake news,” Republicans were refusing to accept science that contradicted their prejudices. Long before Republicans began attributing every negative development to the machinations of the “deep state,” they were insisting that global warming was a gigantic hoax perpetrated by a vast global cabal of corrupt scientists.
And long before Trump began weaponizing the power of the presidency for political gain, Republicans were using their political power to harass climate scientists and, where possible, criminalize the practice of science itself.
The mainstream science community, long plagued by an anti-industrial, anti-energy bias, is simply not trusted. Climategate confirmed our worst suspicions, and bad behavior of political-qua-climate scientists continue.
Perhaps not surprisingly, some of those responsible for these abuses are now ensconced in the Trump administration. Notably, Ken Cuccinelli, who as attorney general of Virginia engaged in a long witch-hunt against the climate scientist Michael Mann, is now at the Department of Homeland Security, where he pushes anti-immigrant policies with, as The Times reports, “little concern for legal restraints.”
Mann’s misdeeds, largely in the public domain, has been ably dissected. (And the final pieces of the fraudulent puzzle, Mann’s data sets, might yet see the light of day via court order.) As a public employee at a state university, Mann should show all of his communications that relate to what a fellow scientist called “Mike’s Nature trick … to hide the decline.”
Back to Krugman:
But why have Republicans become the party of climate doom? Money is an important part of the answer: In the current cycle Republicans have received 97 percent of political contributions from the coal industry, 88 percent from oil and gas. And this doesn’t even count the wing nut welfare offered by institutions supported by the Koch brothers and other fossil-fuel moguls.
No, The Republicans are not “the party of climate doom.” Republicans and libertarians are the party of climate optimism in the face of doom. And that is a reason why the politics have been going their way.
However, I don’t believe that it’s just about the money. My sense is that right-wingers believe, probably correctly, that there’s a sort of halo effect surrounding any form of public action. Once you accept that we need policies to protect the environment, you’re more likely to accept the idea that we should have policies to ensure access to health care, child care, and more. So the government must be prevented from doing anything good, lest it legitimize a broader progressive agenda.
This is bad historical explanation. Republicans want to protect the real environment–that is air and water. And they do not want industrial wind turbines chewing up nature and harming the people living near the monstrous structures.
Still, whatever the short-term political incentives, it takes a special kind of depravity to respond to those incentives by denying facts, embracing insane conspiracy theories and putting the very future of civilization at risk.
Unfortunately, that kind of depravity isn’t just present in the modern Republican Party, it has effectively taken over the whole institution. There used to be at least some Republicans with principles; as recently as 2008 Senator John McCain co-sponsored serious climate-change legislation. But those people have either experienced total moral collapse (hello, Senator Graham) or left the party.
Making energy artificially scarce and unreliable is good politics. Hurting people for no detectable impact on global climate is a loser coming and going.
The truth is that even now I don’t fully understand how things got this bad. But the reality is clear: Modern Republicans are irredeemable, devoid of principle or shame. And there is, as I said, no reason to believe that this will change even if Trump is defeated next year.
The only way that either American democracy or a livable planet can survive is if the Republican Party as it now exists is effectively dismantled and replaced with something better — maybe with a party that has the same name, but completely different values. This may sound like an impossible dream. But it’s the only hope we have.