The business of denial

The business of denial

by digby

This is just creepy:

Over the past year, GOP politicians have increasingly questioned or flatly denied the established science of climate change. As the presidential primaries heat up, the leading candidates have either denied the verdict of climate scientists or recanted their former views supporting climate policy. As the tea party grows in influence, and the fossil-fuel industry injects unprecedented levels of spending into the electoral system, challenging climate science has become, in some circles, as much of a conservative litmus test as opposing taxes. Conservatives such as Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who notoriously called climate change a hoax, once were marginalized. Now Inhofe tells National Journal he feels that he’s “come in from the cold.”

In his first week of campaigning for president, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that climate change was a theory that “still has not been proven” and was driven in part by a “substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data” to secure research grants. In his book Fed Up! he dismissed climate science as a “contrived phony mess that is falling apart.”

Mitt Romney, who as governor tasked the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Division with creating a policy to fight climate change, has now walked back his pronouncements that human activity causes global warming.

Newt Gingrich, who in 2009 recorded an ad with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling on Congress to take action on climate change, recently called that ad “the dumbest single thing I’ve done in recent years.” Jon Huntsman, the one Republican presidential candidate who stands by views that climate change is real and caused by humans, is reaping support from about 1 percent of GOP primary voters.

Despite the rhetoric on the campaign trail, a quiet but significant number of prominent Republican politicians and strategists accept the science of climate change and fear that rejecting it could not only tar the party as “antiscience” but also drive away the independent voters who are key to winning general elections. “There’s a pretty good-sized chunk of the Republican caucus that believes that global warming is happening, and it’s caused at least in part by mankind,” said Mike McKenna, a strategist with close ties to the GOP’s leadership. “You can tell these guys are uncomfortable when you start to talk about science.”

Read the whole article. It's quite distressing. We have a political Party that is simply rejecting science, and in particular climate science, which is the most important scientific issue government's need to deal with at the moment. The article shows that this wasn't always the case, up until as recently as the last election. Something very fundamental has changed and it's changed in a way that's going to make it hard to go back to the former consensus:

Here’s what has changed for Republican politicians: The rise of the tea party, its influence in the Republican Party, its crusade against government regulations, and the influx into electoral politics of vast sums of money from energy companies and sympathetic interest groups.

It mentions one pair in particular, the Kochs. And this is not because they are a fun target or that they don't have sincere beliefs in their own special brand of aristocratic libertarianism. They've always been right wing cranks. But the fact is that they've been expanding their wealth exponentially in the last few years and have a whole lot of money to spend on their pet projects. It's likely that they would be funding some wingnut project under any circumstances. But they have a vested interest in climate change denial, which explains the odd confluence of interest between the Tea Party and Big Oil. It's not immediately obvious why the Tea Partiers should be so hostile to the idea of climate change, but the cultivation of the Religious Right and rebranding them as Tea Partiers was probably key to making that work. And that's been a big part of the Kochs' involvement with their Super PAC Americans for Prosperity:

Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, says there’s no question that the influence of his group and others like it has been instrumental in the rise of Republican candidates who question or deny climate science. “If you look at where the situation was three years ago and where it is today, there’s been a dramatic turnaround. Most of these candidates have figured out that the science has become political,” he said. “We’ve made great headway. What it means for candidates on the Republican side is, if you … buy into green energy or you play footsie on this issue, you do so at your political peril. The vast majority of people who are involved in the Republican nominating process—the conventions and the primaries—are suspect of the science. And that’s our influence. Groups like Americans for Prosperity have done it.”

I'm not sure why this has not resulted in all out war between the parties --- it's not like Big oil and gas are funding the Dems in anywhere near these numbers they fund the GOP and the Kochs are as partisan as it comes. It seems to me that this is one area where we cannot explain away the Democrats' tepid response by a need to appease an industry that funds them. So what is it? It's not like the people aren't with them.

In a Pew survey last spring, 75 percent of staunch conservatives, 63 percent of libertarians, and 55 percent of so-called Main Street Republicans said there was no solid evidence of global warming. Those views are far out of step, however, with those of the general public: Overall, Pew found, 59 percent of adults say there is solid evidence that the Earth’s average temperature has been getting warmer over the past few decades. GOP candidates’ climate-science skepticism could win primaries but lose general elections.

I urge you to read the whole National Journal article. It's chilling (no pun intended.)