Climate deniers in a world of fantasy


in Canada, Economics, Politics, Psychology, The environment

In an ideal world, politicians would rely on high quality sources of information to determine what they should consider to be true factually about the world. They could then apply their political philosophies and ideologies to the question of what public policy ought to exist.

It’s not only conservatives who invert or pervert this process, beginning with their desired political conclusions and working back to facts from there, but the conservative tendency to do so is a noteworthy feature of contemporary politics. It’s not all post-Trump either. Conservatives have disliked the implications of everything from the study of human anatomy in the context of sexual differentiation to climate change, and have often assuaged their discomfort by just refusing to accept features of the universe they dislike.

Hence ‘People’s Party of Canada’ founder Maxime Bernier’s tweet about how “CO2 is NOT pollution. It’s what comes out of your mouth when you breathe and what nourishes plants.”

While the claim has the appearance of a scientific assertion, I think it’s a clear case of working back from policy preference to fact. Even for experts like Canadian conservatives it’s hard to deny chemically that when you burn coal, oil, and gas you generate CO2. If the policy priority is to keep expanding those industries as much as possible, it becomes necessary to recast that consequence as benign or even desirable. It doesn’t seem to matter much if that’s done in a way that contradicts other claims (like there being no need to curtail supply because we should focus on limiting demand, or saying that Canadian action to curb CO2 emissions would be pointless because China produces so much more).

To an extent we all suffer from motivated reasoning along the lines of ‘when the facts don’t seem to support my beliefs, find some new facts’. The importance of understanding the climate problem, however, means we need to demand more from ourselves and our leaders in this area. Not only are people who make these sorts of climate denier comments showing they cannot be trusted to be put in charge of climate and energy policy, they are proving that they aren’t competent to lead at all.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

. October 28, 2018 at 1:47 pm
. October 28, 2018 at 1:48 pm

Climate action won’t involve move from oil: Premier

In the midst of a major, and some say final, downturn in the global oil industry, less than five years away from the province’s next major greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, and just seven months away from a critical global climate summit in Paris, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis says the government is willing to undertake some measures to contribute to the global effort to minimize the impacts of global warming, but that it has no intention of slowing fossil fuel development anytime soon.

“Based on the work that has been done and what we know about potential oil reserves off our shores, we know that there is a long-term future for oil and gas business in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Davis said by phone, waiting to board a flight at the Jean Lesage International Airport in the Québec capital.

“Of course it would depend on markets, and I don’t think the oil and gas markets are going to end in the next decade or two,” he added. “We’ll have markets for many years to come; the reserves are significant.”

In response to questions about the ethics of continued fossil fuel development, Davis emphasized the importance of oil to the provincial economy and said the province has a “responsibility to be in oil” and to pursue any further oil production “in a way that is as environmentally-friendly as possible.”

. October 28, 2018 at 1:57 pm
anon October 30, 2018 at 3:47 pm

It’s not entirely unhealthy to evaluate new facts using the broad theories about the world which you already believe. Otherwise every new piece of information could lead to wild swings in what people think.

. January 28, 2020 at 5:20 pm

Commentators have suggested that Mr Trump tends to conflate climate change with environmentalism more generally.

“He doesn’t really understand what climate change is about,” says Professor Michael Gerrard, an environmental law professor at the University of Columbia.

Meanwhile, Joseph Goffman, executive director of Harvard’s Environmental Law Programme, argues that Mr Trump “believes nothing on climate change – he’s a climate nihilist”.

Mr Trump’s position is based on his need to appeal to “the part of the Republican establishment that rejects climate policy,” Mr Goffman, who previously worked as Democratic staff director on the Senate environmental committee, adds.

Joseph Pinion, a Republican strategist who has called for more action on climate change, also argues that Mr Trump looks at the issue from a political, rather than a moral perspective.

“He’s not going to win running on the environment,” Mr Pinion says. “In America, climate is not an issue, so the reason it is not an issue for President Trump is because he cares about winning. And the reason Democrats are OK with it not being a priority for them, is because they want to beat him.”

“Ultimately it doesn’t matter what President Trump believes, what matters is what he’s doing – we need to recognise climate change is not a priority of his administration.”

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