Cli­mate

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - PER­SPEC­TIVE EX­TRA -

they tried to keep the pub­lic from un­der­stand­ing this fact so they could keep earn­ing prof­its. That qual­i­fies as de­prav­ity, doesn’t it?

In many ways, cli­mate de­nial­ism re­sem­bles cancer de­nial­ism. Busi­nesses with a fi­nan­cial in­ter­est in con­fus­ing the pub­lic — in this case, fos­sil-fuel com­pa­nies — are prime movers. As far as I can tell, ev­ery one of the hand­ful of well­known sci­en­tists who have ex­pressed cli­mate skep­ti­cism has re­ceived large sums of money from th­ese com­pa­nies or from dark money con­duits like Donorstrust — the same con­duit, as it hap­pens, that sup­ported Matthew Whi­taker, the new act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral, be­fore he joined the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

But cli­mate de­nial has sunk deeper po­lit­i­cal roots than cancer de­nial ever did. In prac­tice, you can’t be a mod­ern Repub­li­can in good stand­ing un­less you deny the re­al­ity of global warm­ing, assert that it has nat­u­ral causes or in­sist that noth­ing can be done about it without de­stroy­ing the econ­omy. You also have to ei­ther ac­cept or ac­qui­esce in wild claims that the over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence for cli­mate change is a hoax, that it has been fab­ri­cated by a vast global con­spir­acy of sci­en­tists.

Why would any­one go along with such things? Money is still the main answer: Al­most all prom­i­nent cli­mate de­niers are on the fos­sil-fuel take. How­ever, ide­ol­ogy is also a fac­tor: If you take en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues se­ri­ously, you are led to the need for govern­ment reg­u­la­tion of some kind, so rigid free-mar­ket ide­o­logues don’t want to be­lieve that en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns are real (although ap­par­ently forc­ing con­sumers to sub­si­dize coal is fine).

Fi­nally, I have the im­pres­sion that there’s an el­e­ment of tough-guy pos­tur­ing in­volved — real men don’t use re­new­able en­ergy, or some­thing.

And th­ese mo­tives mat­ter. If im­por­tant play­ers op­posed cli­mate ac­tion out of good-faith dis­agree­ment with the science, that would be a shame but not a sin, call­ing for better ef­forts at per­sua­sion. As it is, how­ever, cli­mate de­nial is rooted in greed, op­por­tunism, and ego. And op­pos­ing ac­tion for those reasons em>is/em> a sin.

In­deed, it’s de­prav­ity, on a scale that makes cancer de­nial seem triv­ial. Smok­ing kills people, and to­bacco com­pa­nies that tried to confuse the pub­lic about that re­al­ity were be­ing evil. But cli­mate change isn’t just killing people; it may well kill civ­i­liza­tion. Try­ing to confuse the pub­lic about that is evil on a whole dif­fer­ent level. Don’t some of th­ese people have chil­dren?

And let’s be clear: While Don­ald Trump is a prime ex­am­ple of the de­prav­ity of cli­mate de­nial, this is an is­sue on which his whole party went over to the dark side years ago. Repub­li­cans don’t just have bad ideas; at this point, they are, nec­es­sar­ily, bad people.

Luke Shar­rett / New York Times

Emis­sions rise from the Big Rivers Elec­tric Cor­po­ra­tion power plant in Ro­bards, Ky.,May 29. Crit­ics of a ma­jor United States cli­mate re­port, in­clud­ing the pres­i­dent and con­ser­va­tive pun­dits, have dis­missed its find­ings with sev­eral in­ac­cu­rate claims.

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