The climate trap
One of the most disturbing features of the US right's descent into derangement is its rejection of science. Evolution, global warming, Keynesian economics, stem-cell research -- one imagines that any minute now the Republicans will jump onto the anti-vaccination bandwagon, or start reaching out to flat-Earthers.
All these anti-science stances would, if brought into the corridors of power, harm the United States in various ways. But with global- warming denialism specifically, the Republican party has also set a dangerous political trap for itself.
Military planners, who have to operate in the real world, are already considering the implications of the coming ice-free Arctic. Foreign countries are preparing to exploit the new trade routes and resources which an open sea between Canada and Siberia will make available (an Arctic sea-route from Europe to East Asia will be much shorter than the current routes through the Panama or Suez canals.)
Thing is, it's starting to look like the Arctic may become ice-free sooner than the older models had predicted. And shifts in trade routes, and squabbles over Arctic sea-bed resources, will begin long before the ice is completely gone.
Indeed, several effects of global warming seem to be running ahead of the predictions -- and some of them are starting to affect the territory of the US itself, which had previously suffered little concrete damage. We've just had an unusually severe wave of tornadoes, and destructive hurricanes have been getting more frequent in recent years.
As these trends intensify over the coming years, denialism will become unsustainable. We all know what the denialists will say -- it's just "natural fluctuation", or it's not really happening, or yes, it's happening but the net effects will be positive -- but they will steadily lose credibility with the public. As the weather disasters get worse and worse, and new Arctic shipping routes and conflicts over sea-bed resources become staples of the news, denialism will cease to be a tenable stance.
And the radical right has firmly identified itself with that stance. The Nutty faction of Republicans continues to this day to deny even the most basic facts. This is not true of the Sane faction, but these days it's the Nutties who dominate the party's image.
In the years to come, even as Republicans try to backpedal on this, people will remember who used to pretend that nothing was going wrong and tried to stymie all efforts to prepare for it. Like their Congressional votes for the Ryan plan, Republicans' denialist record will become a political millstone around their necks. And in the case of global warming, it's going to be a lot harder to change the subject.