Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Year Dishonours

For a naturally conservative person like me, it is alarming to note the rise of the Radical Right in Australia and, more worryingly, in the USA.

In spite of the growing weight of evidence that business cannot carry on as usual, the world is being held hostage to the political and commercial ambitions of a vocal minority, exemplified by the Tea Party in America and supported by an apparent tendency for white male conservatives to deny climate change (see McCright and Dunlap (2011)[pdf])1. This far-right lobby has no time for science which does not secure and increase profit margins for the uber-rich individuals and corporations that depend upon fossil fuels. Googling 'koch brothers' brings up significant information about two of the wealthiest men in the USA. Googling 'koch brothers climate change' leads to pages exposing an apparent tendency of these men to fund political agendas opposed to any regulation of fossil fuel industries. That, in itself, is perfectly alright: everybody should be able to support politicians and commentators who support their views.

The down side is when the political funding is large enough to allow scientific nonsense to be marketed to a naive population through the main stream media, notably the News organisations headed by Rupert Murdoch (see Wikipedia and 'How Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. cashes in on both sides of the climate fight'), and through the public opinions of political figures. It is significant that the Tea Party is apparently funded through Kock largesse (see Romney Campaign Memo: The Koch Brothers Are The ‘Financial Engine Of The Tea Party’). In the Republican party, it seems to be anathema to publicly advocate a position supporting the theory of human-caused (anthropogenic) global warming, or AGW. Several leading figures have actively changed their positions in the last few years - REMEMBER WHEN JOHN MCCAIN BELIEVED IN GLOBAL WARMING?.

There are signs that the moderates in the Republican party are becoming disenchanted with the anti-science stance of the radical right, but campaigns depend upon funds and funds depend upon backers, notably backers of the Tea Party. Major fossil fuel organisations spend huge sums lobbying for political influence. To quote The National Journal, "In a recent Pew Research Center poll, only 43 percent of Republicans – and only 31 percent of conservatives – said they believe there is solid evidence of global warming. That compares to 77 percent of Democrats. So the topic is tricky for GOP presidential candidates."

All this is happening in a context of an increasing rate of change in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, CO2 being the long-term threat to the atmosphere in the hole we are digging ourselves, and while the oceans are at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history, according to marine scientists [report][pdf][more].

So the question remains: "Can the Republican right wing suspend the laws of physics long enough to get their eventual candidate elected to the Presidency and, if so, what will be the result for the rest of the world?"

Looking into my crystal ball, I dimly perceive a diminishing of the role of the EPA, a total block on any attempt at starting a carbon cap-and-trade economy and an increase in the rhetoric denying there is any need for, or point in, action on climate until the rest of the world follows suit - in other words, never. This non-leadership means we will be doomed to more of the same global politics, under which we resemble a bus full of passengers heading for a cliff, with the driver looking back at us, instead of putting on the brakes, and saying "Don't worry - we can evolve in time to avoid any effects of a crash."

Looks like we will all be growing wings in the near term. Harp, anyone?
1 McCright, A.M., Dunlap, R.E., Cool dudes: The denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States. Global Environ. Change (2011), doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.06.003

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