Climate Change Isolationism

Ron Brownstein has an excellent column on the globally unique position of the American conservative movement’s climate change denialism, a view that’s completely different from the posture outlined by mainstream conservative parties in the rest of the world. Dave Roberts spins this out into a speculative notion about climate politics, but I think the main takeaway is that everyone needs to ease up on the idea that the failure of climate change legislation primarily represents a tactical failure of the Obama administration or US legislative leaders.

If you had a dynamic where the reality of greenhouse gas emissions causing warming causing substantial ecological problems was broadly accepted, you would still have a substantial political challenge in terms of doing something about it. There are a lot of relevant interest group stakeholders, a lot of room for disagreement about the details of economic and ecological ramifications around the margin, etc. And the role of skilled politicians in such a world would be brokering an acceptable deal.


But it really does all start with an act of volition on the part of political leaders across the board. You have to admit there’s a problem. It’s not possible to bargain with people who reject the premises underlying any possible diagnosis, and it’s not possible to force members of the opposition political coalition to accept the diagnosis. A posture of willful ignorance simply leaves the United States — and by extension the world — with an unsolvable problem.