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Saturday, October 11, 2014
Has the Worm Turned? Are Conservatives Beginning to Fold on Climate Change?
Grist.org scribe David Roberts observes the GOP is beginning to wobble on climate change. He says this may be the time to ramp up the pressure on the Right.
In the following passages, I've replaced Roberts' references to GOP or Republicans with "Conservative" or "Tory." It still seems to make sense.
I have said before, the Conservative position on climate is unstable, both intellectually and politically. You can’t credibly deny the science at this point, but if you accept it, “do nothing about it” is an incoherent response. They’ve only gotten away with it for this long because the media and the public don’t care enough to press them on it.
Climate hawks are always predicting that now, finally, is the time when that position will start to crumble. I’ve predicted it myself, and been wrong, or at least premature.
Nonetheless, it really does feel like something is starting to happen. The Tory's incoherent climate shuck-and-jive is under pressure and the cracks are starting to show.
The conservative base is convinced that climate change is a U.N. plot for world government. Meanwhile, mainstream elites in [Canada] and virtually every other country in the world, along with every major scientific institution on the planet, say climate change is a real problem. This puts some Conservatives in a bit of a pickle.
There are many Conservatives in the House of [Commons] ...who have no reason to care about anything but what the base wants. They are elected with sufficiently large and safe majorities that their only real worry is attack from their right. And of course there are lots of conservative commentators, pundits, and gasbags who make a living appealing to the base and have no incentive whatsoever to challenge it.
There are some in the conservative fold, however, who need either the votes or the support of people outside the right-wing bubble. And to people outside the bubble, “climate change is a hoax” has started to look like a crazy conspiracy theory.
However, no conservative is allowed to endorse taxes or pollution regulations of any kind, ever. Opposition to “big government” is far more fundamental to the coalition than anything to do with climate change, one way or the other.
So Conservatives reaching outside the bubble need a way of appearing not to deny the science, but not quite accepting it either, while absolutely denying anything should be done about it. It’s not pretty to watch.
...the minute the Tory's position(s) on climate change are put under the slightest pressure, babbling incoherence follows. They jump from “no climate change” to “climate change but it’s not caused by humans” to “caused by humans but too expensive to solve” to “quit talking about science I want to talk about job-killing regulations LA LA LA!” And so on, back and forth among them, with no thought of how they contradict one another. It’s an intellectual train wreck.
The more the media and the public start caring about this, the more they push, the more trouble the Conservatives will face. Once you leave behind truculent denialism and acknowledge that climate change is a real problem, you are on a slippery slope. Oddly, the best summary of this dynamic comes from, of all places, a Republican consultant and energy lobbyist, Mike McKenna:
“If you really believe the apocalyptic rhetoric coming out of the White House, then you’ve got to do something,” he said, echoing a point often made by climate advocates. “You’re morally required to do something. It is untenable, politically, philosophically, ideologically and from a common-sense basis to say, ‘We agree that everything is going to hell, but we don’t think anything should be done about it. Or we want to sit around and wait for another six months to figure out what to do.'”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
What's going on in the States could also be underway in Canada. When the Montreal Gazette breaks ranks to lambaste Harper for ignoring the peril to Canada and Canadians posed by climate change something just might be afoot.
Harper conservatism is plainly vulnerable on climate change and it should be made a prominent issue in the 2015 elections. It's a damned shame that neither the Liberals nor the NDP have a coherent, meaningful policy of their own to use against Harper.