Climate change and the intellectual decline of the right

18 Aug 2014

No arguments seem to sway right-wing politicians and commentators in the United States and Australia. Will we have to wait for demography to do its work?

The abolition of the carbon tax has raised, yet again, the question of how to convince those on the political right to accept mainstream climate science and the need for effective mitigation. There’s been a lot of discussion of this over recent years, in Australia and the United States, much of it premised on the idea that the problem is one of presentation. Recommendations include avoiding alarmism, finding non-threatening ways to explain the problem, and focusing on technological solutions as opposed to “hair shirt” environmentalism.

None of these ideas has worked. A cautious presentation of the evidence gives the right a chance to point out supposed contradictions between those estimates and the alarming projections that represent, according to mainstream science, the most likely outcome. Carefully demonstrating that the cost of fixing the problem will use a trivially small share of national income goes nowhere. Any technological innovation that is presented as a solution (wind, solar PV, electric cars) is instantly the subject of vilification and the kind of ludicrous claim about health effects that would be denounced by the right in any other context…

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