Monday, July 02, 2012

The climate trap

About a year ago, I wrote this post speculating that the Republican party's commitment to global-warming denialism constituted a danger to its own future political prospects -- as the effects of anthropogenic global warming become more severe over the next decade, and the denialist position becomes untenable even to non-scientists, the party will suffer due to its identification with a stance which will have become obviously false, and its refusal to recognize an increasingly clear danger.

The point occurred to me again yesterday in the wake of a week in which Obama has clearly risen significantly in national polls, while Romney has clearly fallen. There's been a lot of speculation as to the reasons for this. Democratic attacks on Romney's parasite-capitalist record at Bain have taken their toll, but that's been going on since long before last week. The biggest recent event, the Supreme Court's Affordable Care Act (ACA) ruling, doesn't account for it since Americans are exactly evenly divided on the decision, 46% to 46%. Obama's plan to grant de facto amnesty to young illegal aliens was clearly popular, but it's hard to imagine that it shifted many voters from Romney's camp to Obama's -- the more likely effect will be to boost Hispanic turnout.

The most dramatic event affecting the country over the last week was actually the record-breaking heat wave, accompanied by storms which knocked out power (and thus air conditioning) to millions.  While political junkies on both sides were transfixed by the ACA ruling, my guess is that for ordinary Americans (at least in the affected areas), it was the heat wave that had their attention.

Is the climate trap beginning to be sprung? It seems plausible that a few percent of the population who had previously dismissed global warming might be reconsidering -- and feeling less sympathetic to the party that insists nothing is going fundamentally wrong with the climate. Another factor is that people suffering from a natural disaster (regardless of what they believe about the cause of that disaster) are more conscious of the need for government to help out its citizens in time of need -- and the Democrats put more emphasis on that function.

I posted a comment suggesting this idea at this Republican site (see comment 29). It's actually a moderate site by Republican standards (during the primaries most posters supported Romney over his wackier rivals), yet the response, to put it mildly, shows well how futile it is to try to discuss this topic rationally with right-wingers. Their commitment to global-warming delialism is absolute, and impervious to evidence or logic. I didn't try to argue with them, since (as explained in the prior post), it's in our interest that Republicans remain committed to that stance for as long as possible. Whether or not the climate trap has anything to do with current polling, the rightists are continuing to march truculently into its jaws.

The thread also exemplifies another looming trap -- the bizarre hysteria of the right wing's reaction to the ACA ruling, which we've seen all over the net in the last few days. Obamacare will bring totalitarianism, mass poverty, death panels, economic collapse, insurrection, the break-up of the country, you name it. The trap here is the inverse of the global-warming one -- over the next couple of years, as the law takes effect and no such horrors materialize, the Republicans' histrionics will make them look silly, and like the boy who cried wolf and shouldn't be trusted again.

On global warming, evolution, Keynesian economics, and so on, the U.S. right wing has committed itself to reality-denial and a self-contained fantasy world. But reality has been defined as "that which doesn't go away when you stop believing in it." Global warming isn't going away, and people who insist on denying reality usually end up getting run over by it.

(Cross-posted at Infidel753.)

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