Peter Daou has an excellent post up about the climate change denialists, how they are predominantly rightwing, and how their denialism may very well kill this planet. I have no disagreement with him there.
He quotes Bill McKibben who points to the right’s distrust of government and scientific authority:
. . . But while oil and coal contributions track remarkably close to political alignment for many senators, they are not the only explanation. Money only exerts political influence if it can be connected to some ideological stance—even Inhofe won’t stand up and say, “I think global warming is a hoax because my campaign treasurer told me to.” In fact, some conservatives have begun to question endless fossil-fuel subsidies—since we’ve known how to burn coal for hundreds of years, it’s not clear why the industry needs government help.
No, something else is causing people to fly into a rage about climate. Read the comments on one of the representative websites: Global warming is a “fraud” or a “plot.” Scientists are liars out to line their pockets with government grants. Environmentalism is nothing but a money-spinning “scam.” These people aren’t reading the science and thinking, I have some questions about this. They’re convinced of a massive conspiracy.
I’ve got news for Bill, this isn’t a right-wing failing. We on the left have got our deniers too. I’ve just finished reading Michal Specter’s Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Harms the Planet and Threatens Our Lives in which he takes on the denialists of all stripes and concludes:
I neglected the first law of denialism. The truth is NOT going to get in the way of people who are moved by faith, greed, fear, or desire to deny what they see. I should have known that. I’ve been watching and writing about this kind of behavior for years. It would be nice to chalk it all up to right-wing nuts with parochial economic interests, but that wouldn’t be accurate.
And that brings me to the second truth of denialism: denialism transcends politics. Yes, opponents of evolution attack science, progress, and reality from the right. But the growing army of organic food fundamentalists, so eager to cast scientific data aside in their certainty that organic foods will save the world, hail from the other side of the political spectrum. The dietary supplement industry, propelled by the conviction that every American has the right to swallow any pill he or she can get his hands on, no matter how useless or damaging, represents the counter-cultural left and the libertarian right in equal measure. I wish I could argue that the most maddening denialists of all — those who see vaccines as threats to their children’s health rather than bulwarks agains terrible disease — were poorly educated. They are not. I’ve had more arguments with Ivy League graduates about whether measles shots can cause autism (no connection has ever been demonstrated) or whether multiple vaccines can overpower an infant’s immune system (they can’t) than I care to recall. Sadly, the vaccine activists so willing to deny reality are some of the best-educated, most caring, thoughtful, and misguided people I have ever known.
This is what my inbox tells me. It frustrates me to no end to see intelligent people on the left crowing about how stupid and science-denying the right is when it comes to things like evolution and climate change and then turn around and insist that the government, big pharma, the NIH, yada yada yada, are in cahoots to either “keep us all sick” or “kill us all.” That cell phones will give us all cancer. That apricots will cure cancer. (Does that mean I should be munching on an apricot while on my iPhone, just to balance things out?)
Sadly, I doubt that this blog post will do much, if anything, to change their minds. But I keep on trying.