Climate Change and Conservatism Have Irrational Disconnect

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Climate Change
An overwhelming number of deniers or skeptics of man made climate change theories or global warming principles are subscribers to social and economic conservatism. Or, so they might think. It is in fact an irrational disconnect of ideas that these individuals have advanced.

The latest numbers show that two thirds of Americans believe that the earth is experiencing global warming. Of those, 44 percent say that the planet’s climate (that being its long term patterns as opposed to weather which is changing daily) is being changed by human activity. Not exactly consensus, but that is less of the issue here.

According to PolitiFacts, only eight elected Republicans have publicly declared that they believe that climate change is being caused by the actions of humans. This means that only three percent of the country’s nationally elected members of the GOP have identified themselves as supporters of currently understood climate science.

This is not all that surprising. After all, technically a minority of Americans believe in man made climate change. This is to say that many Americans, most of them leaning to the right, feel as though there is not compelling enough evidence to sway their opinions. However, is environmentalism essentially the same thing as conservatism?

The most basic tenants of environmentalism and climate change are that humans are destroying their natural environment through over exploitation and pollution, and this deteriorates the future outlook for our planet. Essentially, humanity is being irresponsible by giving its children a world that is in worse shape than the one it inherited. Not only that, but short term gains are causing long term problems; the system is not sustainable.

And here is where the disconnect lies: the simplistic definition outlined demonstrates the irrational disconnect between conservatism and climate change. If that synopsis looks familiar, it is similar to what many right-wingers believe the government should be doing to solve our various debt problems. Just replace a few words and it becomes irrefutably clear.

The most basic tenants of conservative debt management are that the government is destroying our economic environment through exploiting the nation’s income and spending, and this deteriorates the future outlook for our country. Essentially, the government is acting irresponsibly by giving American children a world that is in worse shape than the one it inherited. Not only that, but short term gains are causing long term problems; the system is not sustainable.

The distinction is in fact even more profound. Many have pointed out that the Bible calls for humans to be good stewards of the planet – essentially a call to environmentalism as some would argue. Morally, climate change should be right in the Republican Party’s corner.

This is not a call to arms to become tree-hugging flower-waving “the sky is falling!” hippies. It is to point out that conservative values should include environmentalism, and it makes no sense to not have it as a core tenant. Cohesive conservatism demands a robust and scientifically empowered view on climate change.

And it should be noted that critiquing climate science is important. The environmental prophet (or should it be spelled profit?) Al Gore and his goons engage in a lot a fear mongering and make a lot of radical statements that, if left unchecked, undermine the legitimate arguments of environmentalism. The radical left is just as bad as the radical right by trying to make environmentalism a social concern rather than an economic one.

But this is to say that to subscribe to conservatism, one should have the understanding the it is logical to be an environmentalist and climate change believer as well. Otherwise, there is a big and irrational disconnect of ideology. A collected and informed view of environmental science should be a core part of conservative economic policy making, and it should stand in stark contrast to the liberal view of environmentalism as a social issue. Otherwise, the real issue of a deteriorating environment will not be addressed in a tangible way, and fear mongering will be able to run amok pretending to be real science.

Opinion by Brett Byers-Lane

The Week

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