I’ll love Mitt Romney forever for asking whoever it was if he wanted to make a ten thousand dollar bet. What a wonderful crystallization of the goings-on behind that bland, handsome face. I grant that not all Republicans are so cocooned in their wealth as to be as fabulously out of touch as Romney. And yes, there are plenty of rich Democrats. But it’s no secret that the Republican Party has long been the enclave of the rich—and the scourge of the poor, the dispossessed, the foreign, the “other.” Its perennial platform—fewer taxes, smaller government, less regulation, and a safety net from which the netting has been cut out—makes that clear enough. If I had a little money and my whole purpose in life was to hold onto it, or turn it into more money, I’d by damn be a Republican too. So I get why some people vote for the grand old party.
I also get why some people—often these same Republicans—scream themselves blue in the face denying the evidence of climate change. It doesn’t take a great genius to see why corporations that make billions of dollars extracting, selling, and burning fossil fuels might be interested in debunking the idea of global warming. Except for the earth and life itself, these tycoons, and countless others in allied industries, have nothing to gain and much to lose from efforts to reduce carbon emissions. They run the game, and, sensibly, they don’t want to see the rules change.
What I don’t see quite so clearly is what’s in it for the climate change “alarmists.” What’s in it for James Hansen, E. O. Wilson, Bill McKibben? I suppose some self-interest could be in play. Hansen got tapped to give a TED talk (which was scary as hell, by the way); McKibben’s probably sold a bunch of books; Wilson may cherish his reputation as the father of modern ecology. But do these constitute motive enough to be so damned “alarming,” to be such “fantasists,” to be so “immoral” as to have conjured up the climate change “monster” when there are so many real problems to be dealt with.
I’m afraid I got sucked into reading a New York Post opinion column, “Leo vs. science; vanishing evidence for climate change” (nypost.com, Sept. 14, 2014) that a friend posted on Facebook. After yukking it up over the idea of some pretty-boy movie star trying to talk science, authors Tom Harris and Bob Carter proceed to enumerate the salient climate facts that so many of us have somehow missed. Relying on the work of “Oregon-based physicist” Gordon Fulks, they declare that
· global warming ceased in the late 1990s;
· rates of sea level rise “remain small and are even slowing”;
· the ice caps aren’t melting; and
· there’s been no increase in either the frequency or intensity of extreme weather events in the modern era.
You can find lots of stuff about Dr. Fulks on line, but for now it’s enough to say that he’s a member of a right-leaning think tank called the Cascade Policy Institute, which describes itself as, among other things, “the voice of free market environmentalism in Oregon.”
The New York Post, of course, is the voice of free market social change in America.