Saturday, April 11, 2015

199.1 - Good News: right-wing denial of climate change is crumbling

Good News: right-wing denial of climate change is crumbling

We have a sort of Good News to start the week, and it comes from something of an odd source: Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who some time back I dubbed Our Lord of Perpetual Smirk.

He reports, quoting,
There is no denying it: Climate-change deniers are in retreat.

What began as a subtle shift away from the claim that man-made global warming is not a threat to the planet has lately turned into a stampede.
In fact, this has reached the point, he says, where the deniers are denying they ever denied. This is nothing new for right-wingers and their corporate backers; I recall writing to a friend sometime in the 1980s about how, when facts become so overwhelming even they can't deny them, conservatives will try to change the subject by "airily acknowledging what they previously vociferously denied. 'Oh sure, that. Of course, that. But not this other.'"

In the case of climate change, it's trying to move from questioning the existence of human-driven global warming to grousing about how much it will cost to do anything about it and whining about "regulations."

In fact, it has gotten to the point where even American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which pushes right wing state-level laws that are often written by industry lobbyists, is feeling the heat. As recently as 2013, ALEC was offering "model legislation," still available at its website, to state lawmakers saying that the science on climate change was uncertain about the role of human activity ad that "such activity may lead to deleterious, neutral or possibly beneficial climatic changes."

At recently as December, a speaker at an ALEC meeting got applause for declaring "carbon dioxide is not a pollutant" but rather "the very elixir of life."

But now, ALEC, which has been losing corporate members and sponsors over the issue of climate change, has threatened to sue two major activist groups, Common Cause and the League of Conservation Voters, for even suggesting that ALEC has a problem on the issue. ALEC's lawyers demanding that the two groups immediately "cease making false statements" and "remove all false or misleading material" suggesting that ALEC does not believe in global warming. That's how bad it's gotten for the right.

Both groups, by the way, say they will do no such thing and point to ALEC's own record and its model legislation as evidence of their contention.

ALEC isn't the only example. The Heartland Institute is probably best known for backing the anti-science trash and latter-day incarnation of creationism called "intelligent design" used to attack the scientific theory of evolution. But the Institute also has previously embraced a description of it as "the world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change."

But in December, a representative of the group, writing in the conservative journal Human Events, went the "airily admitting" route, saying the science on a human contribution to climate change is "settled ... in favor of the alarmists" and that the real issue is "technologies that can reduce CO2 emissions without destroying whole economies," which of course in their minds anything like a carbon tax or regulations on industry would.

Another example of the same tactic comes from one Scott Segal, a lobbyist for the energy industry, who now says "the science issue just isn’t as salient as it once was" and that while debate over the science was once "all the rage," now "the key issue" is whether regulations to do anything about it "cost too much, weaken reliability or are illegal." In other words "of course, that, but not this."

As Milbank notes, this is a tactical retreat, a retreat to what the corporations and their right-wing allies think is surer ground from which to resist things such as new and necessary restrictions on power-plant emissions

But here's the thing: Yes, it's a tactical retreat. But it is a retreat. A retreat that marks a shift in the debate from "is there human-driven climate change" to "what do we do about it." I expect the continuing corporate answer to that latter question to be "whatever you're proposing, we should do something else" which is why I remain a skeptic on whether or not we will actually do anything about global warming before it is well past too late, which it may already be.

But today I'm going to let myself enjoy the experience of knowing there is a level of fact on climate change that even the right can't deny along with whatever feeble hope that knowledge brings.

Sources cited in links:

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