14 June 2011

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.


Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, I know this isnt supposed to be funny, but when you spoke of "denial", I thought, "there is a Hell of alot American's deny as well as other countries". As I posted in my "Global Warming" series recently "There is no species more deserving of being chosen by nature for extinction, than the human species" :) ... and boy oh boy ... are we in for a treat to come. Russia hasnt wasted any time either, over the last year, their icebreaker's followed by a caravan of oil rig set up tanker's, have been breaking up what little ice there is left in some artic region's, positioning to "drill baby drill" :)

Thanx for the posting Infodel

14 June, 2011 09:59  
Blogger Robert the Skeptic said...

The thing is the public's memory is so malleable. Should the Republicans ever reverse course and see the economic advantages to addressing Climate Change, they will present it as though they were ALWAYS behind it, and their constituents will nod in agreement like bobble-heads.

It's too bad that Obama got bin Laden when he did, he needed to have that come off about October 2012. By election time, that event will be ancient history.

14 June, 2011 10:25  
Anonymous Sherry Peyton said...

Their latest argument is that all evironmentalists want is a return to an agrarian society sans all industry other than raising sheep or some such crap. They are insane, because they don't want to pay for anything. As you say, in the end, they will not be able to ignore the obvious.

14 June, 2011 11:50  
Blogger Jerry Critter said...

"...people will remember who used to pretend that nothing was going wrong and tried to stymie all efforts to prepare for it."

I am afraid that people do not have very long memories. If they did, republicans could not get away with switching their positions so often.

14 June, 2011 11:51  
Blogger dotlizard said...

I'm not sure it'll be that big of a millstone. The fallback position on climate change is that "everything is cyclical" and that changing our behavior is costly and unnecessary.

Listening to the GOP "debate" last night, I didn't get a sense that they felt any responsibility for their party's role in the economic collapse, and only the most thoughtful and objective voting Republicans would have any conflict with this.

And imagine how they can spin the new trade routes and resources -- and how the military-industrial complex must be salivating at all the possibilities.

14 June, 2011 11:56  
Blogger Tommykey said...

Of course Republicans have to deny global warming. Can't allow for the possibility that liberals might be right about something.

14 June, 2011 15:00  
Blogger Beach Bum said...

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.

The republicans I know are so blatantly and willfully ignorant that they will never have their minds changed. We are talking people who believe the universe was created in six Earth days.

When the climate change shit finally hits the FUBAR fan it will be a repeat of some of the Dark Age antics that had people burned at stake for being in league with the devil.

14 June, 2011 16:35  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

RC: We do, unfortunately, have an unusually-severe problem with this. Creationism, for example, is a big-scale phenomenon in just two regions -- the Islamic world and the US. Global-warming denialism, too, seems to be more prevalent in the US than in other advanced countries.

RtS/JC: I don't think it will be that easy. The Nutty right, at least, has proclaimed its global-warming denialism from the rooftops; they've gone out of their way to associate themselves with it. It's going to be pretty hard for them to claim they didn't take that position.

SP: Unfortunately there are some environmentalists who want to address problems like global warming by reducing the standard of living rather than moving forward to better energy technology. But I don't think they represent most environmentalists, and no serious political leader thinks that's a viable proposition.

GL: They'll be able to fall back on "cyclical" or "natural fluctuation" for a while. It worked as long as the effects involved things like the Antarctic ice shelves or Indian monsoons which most Americans know nothing about. But it will soon be obvious to everyone that the hurricanes and tornadoes are reaching levels that have never been part of normal climate fluctuations here.

TK: It's going to stick in their craws, all right.

BB: The hard-core denialists will never admit they were wrong, obviously. I'm talking about the mushy middle, the people who genuinely don't know a great deal about the subject but find the denialists' arguments convincing (not surprising, since a great deal of money has been spent on making them sound convincing) but don't have the kind of investment in denialism that the propagandists themselves do. They'll be capable of being swayed by what they see going on around them.

The real nutters will eventually notice that there's more and more destructive weather, but they'll decide it's God punishing us for tolerating fags or something.

14 June, 2011 18:55  
Anonymous Mark @ Israel said...

Things could really become dangerous when nature turns against people and we are all caught unaware.Denying the things that are happening to the environment would make us complacent and not prepare for the worst. Wouldn't it be good if we acknowledge these facts and prepare? So whether the worst happens or not, we will not be caught unaware.

14 June, 2011 19:40  
Blogger Tommykey said...

Of course, if things do go into the shitter, they'll just claim it's God punishing us for permitting homosexuality and abortion.

15 June, 2011 06:32  
Blogger BB-Idaho said...

..and they wonder why only 6% of scientists vote Republican....

15 June, 2011 18:30  

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