Further evidence that climate-change denialism is about cultural politics and not about science


A few months ago, I advanced THIS ARGUMENT:

It occurs to me that both sides in the debate over global warming have one thing in common: Hardly anybody really wants it to be true that climate-change trends pose a significant threat to our way of life.

But global-warming deniers want it to be untrue for reasons that are fundamentally different from mine, at least in one respect: They don’t just want to avoid the havoc of environmental catastrophe.  They find us exponents of mainstream scientific theories on climate change repugnant, and they want us to be disgraced. They have a visceral dislike for the pointy-headed academic types and political liberals who warn of the consequences of not curbing our spewing of greenhouses into the atmosphere. They simply refuse to believe that people like me might be right about this stuff.

Today, I give you THIS:

Why do conservatives, who should have a natural inclination toward conservation, have a beef with energy efficiency? It could be tied to the political polarization of the climate change debate.

A study out Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined attitudes about energy efficiency in liberals and conservatives, and found that promoting energy-efficient products and services on the basis of their environmental benefits actually turned conservatives off from picking them. The researchers first quizzed participants on how much they value various benefits of energy efficiency, including reducing carbon emissions, reducing foreign oil dependence, and reducing how much consumers pay for energy; cutting emissions appealed to conservatives the least.

The study then presented participants with a real-world choice: With a fixed amount of money in their wallet, respondents had to “buy” either an old-school lightbulb or an efficient compact florescent bulb (CFL)… Both bulbs were labeled with basic hard data on their energy use, but without a translation of that into climate pros and cons. When the bulbs cost the same, and even when the CFL cost more, conservatives and liberals were equally likely to buy the efficient bulb. But slap a message on the CFL’s packaging that says “Protect the Environment,” and “we saw a significant drop-off in more politically moderates and conservatives choosing that option,” said study author Dena Gromet, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

Andrew Sullivan reacts to the foregoing THUSLY:

This is really a form of tribal nihilism. One party has become entirely about a posture, not a set of feasible policies. I can see no reason whatever that conservatism must mean destroying the environment – or refusing to do even small ameliorative things that can help. There should be a robust conservative critique of liberal approaches to climate change, but the point is to get a better grip on slowing that change and more effectively protecting the environment by conservative ideas and principles. Snark is not a policy, although it may be a successful talk radio gimmick.

Kevin Drum says THIS:

On the right, both climate change and questions about global limits on oil production have exited the realm of empirical debate and become full-blown fronts in the culture wars. You’re required to mock them regardless of whether it makes any sense. And it’s weird as hell. I mean, why would you disparage development of renewable energy? If humans are the ultimate creators, why not create innovative new sources of renewable energy instead of digging up every last fluid ounce of oil on the planet?



  1. Robert

    No matter who is denying climate change for whatever reason they claim, its a fact that corporate America is going about as though its real. And so is the military.

    When new or updated commercial facilities are built now, the include charging stations for electric cars. Energy saving products are everywhere and being mandated in some venue’s like light bulbs. Car mfrs are now placing more emphasis on higher mpg engines. SHould I also mention the densification of urban areas in major cities in preparation for a time when people living closer to each will cut the ever higher cost of transporting goods to regions. The more dense a population center is the less cost there will be in getting it distributed to the masses. This is also why modern cities (not Rockford) are going to back to mass transit train type systems, so as to move as many people with as little energy as possible. If you’ve traveled along I-80 in the past 10 years you’ll see just how many wind farms there are, especially in WY and Western NB.

    All the quibbling is just politics to keep us divided and unfocused on the big changes in lifestyles that are coming. The reason its used by the right to batter the left and vice versa, is so we as consumers don’t intentionally limit our buying too much and affect the profits of big business, while all the accommodations for global climate change are put in place (as best they can).

    OT – but not really – Was listening to Coast to Coast radio last evening. They had a guest on who was talking about the resource wars that the USA is now involved in with the Middle East. He noted why Syria is such an important region and the role China and Russia are playing in our quest to control the energy from that region and why Africa is also an area that is going to become more of an area for intervention like the Middle East is now, to offset China’s aggressive move into Africa as they are trying to secure energy regions just like the USA is. He noted why Africom was created during the GW administration and what its mission is. If you’re interested in his observations, go to the archives for last night’s show. I disagree with some of his views but some are very well articulated.

  2. Brian Opsahl

    I believe if we don’t make changes soon Nature will make them for us..as is happening now like all these super storms we keep having…you don’t get 2…100 year storms in 3 years unless something is haywire…?

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