MSNBC’s Chris Hayes On Why So Many Conservatives Deny The Climate Problem: They Hate The Solution


On Friday (8 pm ET), MSNBC is airing Chris Hayes’s climate documentary, “The Politics of Power.”

On Thursday (1 pm ET), Chris Hayes is hosting a Google+ Hangout on the politics of climate change — with me, Andy Revkin, Kate Sheppard and a couple of others. You can watch it here.

I’ve had a chance to preview the special, and it is a solid piece of work that covers everything from the science to the solutions to the deniers to the politics. In a sane world, it would be a yawner, the umpteenth climate special aired on TV. But in the world we live in, a one-hour TV special devoted solely to global warming is as hard to find as a climate scientist at a Tea Party Convention.

Here is a trailer of the special:

Kudos to MSNBC for running this. Hayes is still the only major TV journalist who routinely devotes a significant amount of air time to telling the truth about global warming.

Speaking of which, on Monday’s All In show, Hayes had a good segment on “The Republican allure of climate change denialism.”

He makes the point that I have argued for the past decade, “the real reason conservatives don’t believe in climate science” is they can’t stand the solution.

Hayes plays an excerpt from remarks by hard-core denier Rep. Dana “dinosaur flatulence” Rohrabacher (R-CA):

ROHRABACHER: Just so you’ll know, global warming is a total fraud. The federal government, they want to create global government to control all of our lives. That’s what their game plan is. It’s step by step by step more and bigger control over our lives by higher levels of government. And global warming is simply that strategy in spades.

HAYES: Now, the whole “global warming is a liberal conspiracy” line is understandably a big hit among the conservative base, but in delivering that line, Congressman Rohrabacher tips his hand to the reasoning behind his global warming denialism, which basically goes like this: If global warming is real, then the government would need to intervene to fix it, but we don’t like government intervention. Therefore, global warming cannot be real.

That’s it. That is the logic behind the pervasive view on climate change on the right: We don’t like the solutions to this problem, so we officially declare this not to be a problem.

This is how the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.

Hayes then talks with Samuel Thernstrom, who served on George W. Bush’s Council on Environmental Quality. It is pretty painful to watch Thernstrom push the old Frank Luntz playbook — “Technology, technology, blah, blah, blah” — which Bush himself turned into a mantra.

For you Millennials out there, Luntz’s infamous (and still must-read) 2002 “Straight Talk” memo on climate change messaging was designed for conservatives who want to sound like they care about global warming even as they twist the knife in deeper:

Technology and innovation are the key in arguments on both sides. Global warming alarmists use American superiority in technology and innovation quite effectively in responding to accusations that international agreements such as the Kyoto accord could cost the United States billions. Rather than condemning corporate America the way most environmentalists have done in the past, they attack us for lacking faith in our collective ability to meet any economic challenges presented by environmental changes we make. This should be our argument. We need to emphasize how voluntary innovation and experimentation are preferable to bureaucratic or international intervention and regulation.

More than a decade later, the playbook is exactly the same! Basically, as Hayes shows, we progressives can talk about global warming as much as we want as long as we don’t propose anything that might actually solve the problem in a timely fashion. In this view, any climate proposal other than long-long-long-term research and development is automatically just a big government power grab. Of course, conservatives oppose increasing the budget for clean energy R&D, too, but who are we to get hung up on a foolish consistency? It’s not like the health and well-being of billions of people are at stake.

This is just the old breakthrough-technology canard, which has been debunked umpteen times (see “The breakthrough technology illusion“). See also “Study Confirms Optimal Climate Strategy: Deploy, Deploy, Deploy, R&D, Deploy, Deploy, Deploy” (but not in that order).

Here is the full segment:

As then NY Times columnist Andy Revkin explained about one denier conference a few years ago, “The one thing all the attendees seem to share is a deep dislike for mandatory restrictions on greenhouse gases.” What unites these people is their desire to delay or stop action to cut GHGs, not any one particular view on the climate.

It is nearly impossible to win an argument with a conservative or libertarian who hates government-led action. Yes, you can try to point out all the great things the government has done (the Internet, anyone?) and try to point out that they invariably support government-led action for military security, and, of course, government subsidies and regulations to promote energy security, at least as it applies to the oil industry and nuclear energy pork.

I have made a different argument: If you hate government intrusion into people’s lives, you’d better stop catastrophic global warming, because nothing drives a country more towards activist government than scarcity and deprivation.

Real adaptation requires much bigger and far more intrusive government than mitigation. Indeed, if the anti-science ideologues continue to stop serious mitigation, then the government will inevitably get into the business of telling people where they can and can’t live (can’t let people keep rebuilding in the ever-spreading flood plains or the ever-enlarging areas threatened by sea level rise and Dust-Bowlification) and how they can live (sharp water curtailment in the SW Dust Bowl, for instance) and possibly what they can eat. Conservative opposition to serious climate action now will force big government in coming decades to triage our major coastal cities — Key West and Galveston and probably New Orleans would be unsavable, but what about Miami and Houston? (See Don’t believe in global warming? That’s not very conservative.)

This is why Tea-Party ‘conservatism’ is probably the most radical political philosophy ever to achieve significant political power in this country, since it ultimately will destroy the American way of life as we have come to know it, leading to untold misery and far bigger government than this country has seen in the post-WWII era.