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.

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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.