Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Trump and Rick Scott: "Climate change is a hoax"

Los Angeles Times
Political commentary from David Horsey

Climate deniers play politics with looming natural disasters

Top of the Ticket cartoon (David Horsey / Los Angeles Times)
David Horsey

When the intensifying effect of climate change was brought into the news coverage of Hurricane Harvey, some conservatives objected. They said it was horrid that the “liberal media” was politicizing a disaster that had upended so many people’s lives. Now, the same complaints will probably be raised in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

Well, the climate change issue definitely has been politicized, but most of that exploitation for political purposes has been done by the fossil fuel industries, their mouthpieces in the right-wing media and their minions among Republican elected officials.

The dreadful force of Irma has slammed into Florida and one would think everyone could agree on some basic science. Warmer ocean temperatures have a multiplying effect on hurricanes that increases their energy and size. At the same time, the destructive potential of hurricane-propelled storm surges is made greater by the rise in sea level. This warmer, higher water is the direct result of a global climate that is getting hotter, year after year.

No, climate change is not the cause of hurricanes — nor wildfires, nor tornadoes — but, as scientists have predicted for some time now, swift alterations in our climate are magnifying the force of these natural events. In other words, there are worse disasters to come. That is not politics, that is science.

Yet, climate change deniers from President Trump to Rush Limbaugh to Florida Gov. Rick Scott choose to believe that climate science is some kind of evil plot concocted by the Chinese or by a cabal of nefarious researchers in lab coats who are trying to subvert capitalism, Christianity and Mom’s apple pie. They choose to see things this way because propagandists backed by big corporations that profit immensely from maintaining the status quo have given them reasons to deny what is so apparent to leaders in every other country on the planet.

One of the reasons someone such as Scott chooses to think this way is that the special interests who bankroll his political career are pleased if he does. In Florida, the four biggest utilities — Duke Energy, Gulf Power, Florida Power & Light and Tampa Electric — have effectively blocked development of solar power in that sunny state by dumping millions of dollars into the campaigns of compliant politicians, including well over $1 million given to Scott.

Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Alex Jones and other opinionated entertainers on the right push the narrative that acting to mitigate the human causes of climate change by switching to alternative energy sources would bring the American economy crashing down. They conveniently ignore the fact that, while jobs in the withering coal industry are disappearing, employment in solar and wind enterprises is booming. Already, the number of people working in clean energy in California, alone, is as many as 10 times the totalnumber of coal mining jobs nationwide.

The vast majority of the world’s scientists are convinced that industrial activity and the emission of greenhouse gases are key drivers of the global temperature rise. Deniers contest that conclusion, but only the most extreme among them argue that climate change is not happening at all. While discounting the link to man-made sources of carbon pollution, even leading Republicans will acknowledge that seas are rising, the polar ice caps are melting, hurricanes are getting stronger and weather patterns are becoming more extreme. So, bickering over causality aside, is it not the duty of political leaders to take actions that will anticipate and mitigate future disasters?

The answer is an unqualified yes.

Nevertheless, even in Florida, where, in the not-too-distant future, beach communities will be inundated by the ocean, developers are allowed to continue building along doomed shorelines while the governor has ordered state officials and researchers not to use the terms global warming and climate change. And, in the nation’s capital, the Trump administration is very busy killing an array of federal programs that either gather scientific data about the global warming phenomenon or make plans to deal with the looming problems that the climate shift will bring.

That is what it means to politicize an issue.

Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter

Conspiracies, Corruption and Climate

Paul Krugman SEPT. 11, 2017
New York Times

After the devastation wreaked by Harvey on Houston — devastation that was right in line with meteorologists’ predictions — you might have expected everyone to take heed when the same experts warned about the danger posed by Hurricane Irma. But you would have been wrong.

On Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh accused weather scientists of inventing Irma’s threat for political and financial reasons: “There is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it,” he declared, adding that “fear and panic” help sell batteries, bottled water, and TV advertising.

He evacuated his Palm Beach mansion soon afterward.

In a way, we should be grateful to Limbaugh for at least raising the subject of climate change and its relationship to hurricanes, if only because it’s a topic the Trump administration is trying desperately to avoid. For example, Scott Pruitt, the pollution- and polluter-friendly head of the Environmental Protection Agency, says that now is not the time to bring up the subject — that doing so is “insensitive” to the people of Florida. Needless to say, for people like Pruitt there will never be a good time to talk about climate.

So what should we learn from Limbaugh’s outburst? Well, he’s a terrible person — but we knew that already. The important point is that he’s not an outlier. True, there weren’t many other influential people specifically rejecting warnings about Irma, but denying science while attacking scientists as politically motivated and venal is standard operating procedure on the American right. When Donald Trump declared climate change a “hoax,” he was just being an ordinary Republican.

And thanks to Trump’s electoral victory, know-nothing, anti-science conservatives are now running the U.S. government. When you read news analyses claiming that Trump’s deal with Democrats to keep the government running for a few months has somehow made him a moderate independent, remember that it’s not just Pruitt: Almost every senior figurein the Trump administration dealing with the environment or energy is both an establishment Republican and a denier of climate change and of scientific evidence in general.

This is crazy talk. But it’s utterly mainstream on the modern right, among pundits — even anti-Trump pundits — and politicians alike.

Why are U.S. conservatives so willing to disbelieve science and buy into tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories about scientists? Part of the answer is that they’re engaged in projection: That’s the way things work in their world.

Some disillusioned Republicans like to talk about a golden age of conservative thought, somewhere in the past. That golden age never existed; still, there was a time when some conservative intellectuals had interesting, independent ideas. But those days are long past: Today’s right-wing intellectual universe, such as it is, is dominated by hired guns who are essentially propagandists rather than researchers.

And right-wing politicians harass and persecute actual researchers whose conclusions they don’t like — an effort that has been vastly empowered now that Trump is in power. The Trump administration is disorganized on many fronts, but it is systematically purging climate science and climate scientists wherever it can.

So as I said, when people like Limbaugh imagine that liberals are engaged in a conspiracy to promote false ideas about climate and suppress the truth, it makes sense to them partly because that’s what their friends do.

But it also makes sense to them because conservatives have grown increasingly hostile to science in general. Surveys show a steady decline in conservatives’ trust in science since the 1970s, which is clearly politically motivated — it’s not as if science has stopped working.

It’s true that scientists have returned the favor, losing trust in conservatives: more than 80 percent of them now lean Democratic. But how can you expect scientists to support a party whose presidential candidates won’t even concede that the theory of evolution is right?

The bottom line is that we are now ruled by people who are completely alienated not just from the scientific community, but from the scientific idea — the notion that objective assessment of evidence is the way to understand the world. And this willful ignorance is deeply frightening. Indeed, it may end up destroying civilization.

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