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Monday, November 30, 2009

Right Out of Touch on Climate

Between illness and Thanksgiving, I managed to take nearly a week off. Back on track now.

Quite a lot happened during the Holiday week, very little of it good. Among the bad news that hasn't gotten a lot of press is news that the American public's belief in global warming is at its lowest point since ABC News/Washington Post polling began tracking the issue. Things aren't as bad as they sound, though:

ABC News:

The number of Americans who believe global warming is occurring has declined to its lowest since 1997, though at 72 percent, it's still a broad majority. The drop has steepened in the last year-and-a-half -- almost exclusively among conservatives and Republicans.

This ABC News/Washington Post poll also finds that support for government action to address the issue, while still a majority, likewise is down from its levels in summer 2008.

So, the vast majority of Americans still believe in global warming, it's just that Republican voters are continuing their trend of diving outside the mainstream. Imagine my surprise.

Looking at other numbers, we see that the public on a whole is pretty sane about the issue; 82% call it a serious problem, 76% favor government actions, 55% say the US should act even if China and India don't, and 53% support cap and trade. This belief that the government needs to act is shared by the intelligence community.


[The National Intelligence Council], which gathered input from all 16 intelligence agencies, issued a classified report saying the crop failures and rising sea levels could produce political instability and multiple relief crises.

“Climate change alone is unlikely to trigger state failure in any state out to 2030, but the impacts will worsen existing problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions,” Thomas Fingar, the council chairman, said in testimony before the House select committees on global warming and intelligence.

In 2007, a panel of 11 retired admirals and generals together with the nonprofit CNA Corp. found that climate change would multiply threats in the most unstable regions of the world.

“Projected climate change will seriously exacerbate already marginal living standards in many Asian, African and Middle Eastern nations, causing widespread political instability and the likelihood of failed states,” they wrote.

The CIA is using the council's report as the basis for a new Center on Climate Change and National Security. "Decision makers need information and analysis on the effects climate change can have on security," agency director Leon Panetta said in a press release. "The CIA is well-positioned to deliver that intelligence."

Yet, the reaction from the right has been to jam their heads in the sand. Reality doesn't influence the right as much as ideology does. And lately, right wing ideology can be summed up in four words; "Democrats are always wrong." As I always say, reality has a liberal bias.

If you want an example of just what insane lengths Republicans can go to deny reality, you can head over to Think Progress and a post by Faiz Shakir:

In testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn articulated a national security argument for passing clean energy legislation. “Continued over reliance on fossil fuels, or small, incremental steps, simply will not create the kind of future security and prosperity that the American people and our great Nation deserve,” McGinn warned.

In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking member of the Senate environment committee, argued that McGinn and other generals who are advocating for clean energy reform (like Wesley Clark, Stephen Cheney, Brent Scowcroft, etc) are simply doing so because they crave “the limelight”...

That's right, military experts are just media whores. "That's the most ludicrous thing," Inhofe rold the magazine. "They looked around and they found, I think, five generals to testify before the committee. Well, that's 5 generals out of 4,000 retired generals that say that. There are a lot of generals who don't like to be out of the limelight. They'd like to get back in."

Notes Shakir; "Apparently, everyone needs to take lessons from Inhofe about how to unassumingly fly below the radar."

What gets me about Inhofe's response is how typical it is. There's no rebuttal of the science -- in fact, there aren't any facts whatsoever. Inhofe had decided to ignore the testimony before he ever heard it and now he's rationalizing that prejudice. This isn't logic, this is a three-year-old child with his fingers in his ears shouting, "La-la-la! I can't hear you! La-la-la..."

Republicans keep saying we ought to have more of a debate on climate, but this isn't debate at all. You can't just cross your arms and say, "I don't believe it," when someone brings you evidence. In fact, that's an effort to avoid debate.

I've pointed on this blog before that many on the right are extremely protective of their ignorance. Sen. Inhofe demonstrates how this ignorance is protected. The polling numbers show that plenty on the right are willing to follow his lead.

Ignorance is, after all, bliss.


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vet said...

In case you were too out of it to notice... it's been a very bad week for global warming as a whole.

Just at the moment when most politicians, worldwide, were getting desperate for plausible excuses to commit absolutely nothing at Copenhagen, some enterprising person hacked a mail server at the University of East Anglia, and promptly released thousands of e-mails that, the right claims, prove global warming is an organised hoax.

The e-mails prove nothing of the sort, but it was exactly what the right was waiting for. (I can't wait to see what happens if they ever find the hacker who did it. I'd be willing to bet that, whatever happens, he or she will never stand trial.)

And all the more right-wing meeja elements have hailed it as the smoking gun that proves they were right all along. It's small wonder the Republican true disbelievers have rallied.

JH said...

If life were fair, the climate change deniers would be the only ones to suffer the consequences of their idiocy and inaction. As it is, while we outnumber the idiots, they're taking us down with them. Sad, that.

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