The Pathological Denial of the Right

Many, many years ago, back when Ronald Reagan was primarily known as the host of Death Valley Days, I concluded that the essential difference between American liberals and conservatives was this: Liberals identified real-world problems and at least attempted to implement solutions, albeit solutions that didn’t always work. Conservatives tended to be in denial that many real-world problems were happening at all until it bit them on the ass personally, and since they tended to be a privileged lot that didn’t happen much. Racial discrimination was not a problem for them, for example, so (in their minds) it couldn’t possibly have been a real problem for anyone else, either. But if you had packed conservatives into a crowded theater and yelled “Communist!” they’d likely have trampled each other to death as they stampeded to the exits.

Of course, those long-ago days seem like the golden age of rationality compared to what we’ve got going on now.

Gail Collins points out that many of the states being hit by the real-world consequences of global climate change are governed by politicians in denial of global climate change. Collins notes that Louisiana is sinking into the Gulf at an alarming rate, and Gov. Jindal thinks climate change is just a “Trojan horse” full of nefarious liberal ideas that would destroy freedom. However, Jindal has come out against forest fires. Forest fires definitely are bad.

Another article in today’s NY Times begins,

In Louisiana, the most common way to visualize the state’s existential crisis is through the metaphor of football fields. The formulation, repeated in nearly every local newspaper article about the subject, goes like this: Each hour, Louisiana loses about a football field’s worth of land. Each day, the state loses nearly the accumulated acreage of every football stadium in the N.F.L. Were this rate of land loss applied to New York, Central Park would disappear in a month. Manhattan would vanish within a year and a half. The last of Brooklyn would dissolve four years later. New Yorkers would notice this kind of land loss. The world would notice this kind of land loss. But the hemorrhaging of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands has gone largely unremarked upon beyond state borders. This is surprising, because the wetlands, apart from their unique ecological significance and astounding beauty, buffer the impact of hurricanes that threaten not just New Orleans but also the port of South Louisiana, the nation’s largest; just under 10 percent of the country’s oil reserves; a quarter of its natural-gas supply; a fifth of its oil-refining capacity; and the gateway to its internal waterway system. The attenuation of Louisiana, like any environmental disaster carried beyond a certain point, is a national-security threat.

Where does it go, this vanishing land? It sinks into the sea. The Gulf of Mexico is encroaching northward, while the marshes are deteriorating from within, starved by a lack of river sediment and poisoned by seawater. Since 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has delisted more than 30 place names from Plaquemines Parish alone. English Bay, Bay Jacquin, Cyprien Bay, Skipjack Bay and Bay Crapaud have merged like soap bubbles into a single amorphous body of water. The lowest section of the Mississippi River Delta looks like a maple leaf that has been devoured down to its veins by insects. The sea is rising along the southeast coast of Louisiana faster than it is anywhere else in the world.

I confess, I hadn’t realized it was that bad. And Gov. Jindal’s response is to speak out against forest fires. One wonders (although not much) to what extent the petroleum industry in the Gulf influences his opinions.

Collins continues, “In Alaska, entire towns are beginning to disappear under the rising seas. Roads are buckling as the permafrost starts to melt.” And climate change is “causing the drains in Miami Beach to back up with saltwater, sending the ocean running down the streets.” The politicians in those states deny anything is happening being caused by man or about which anything can be done. And if pushed, they just say they are not scientists. Collins continues,

Florida is absolutely awash in backed-up ocean water and elected officials who are not scientists. Louisiana has a rapidly receding coastline and a governor who’s afraid of the energy industry. Alaska has drowning villages and a political establishment in denial.

Part of the problem is that climate change denial has become teabagger orthodoxy, and any Republican politician who so much as expresses willingness to consider the science is liable to be primaried. That, combined with energy industry money, pretty much guarantees that Republicans won’t admit there is a problem until they are drowning. And then they’ll blame Democrats for a shortage of lifebuoys.

9 thoughts on “The Pathological Denial of the Right

  1. What’s amazing about Bobby Jindal, is that he was a biology major, a Rhodes Scholar, and former President of the University of Louisiana – not your average GOP dummy.

    He is the poster boy for that Upton Sinclair quote: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Jindal might even understand and accept it privately, but no amount of understanding can overcome his cowardice and fear of losing his position.

    Jindal probably cares more about forest fires than the loss of football fields of land, since nobody lives down there. By contrast, climate change is front and center for people like Michael Bloomberg.
    A tipping point is coming, re climate change. When you have companies like Google and others dropping out of ALEC, because, as former Google president Eric Schmidt said of them regarding climate change “they’re just literally lying”, the days are numbered for this kind of denialism.

  2. Well, these Republicans may not be scientists, but they’re not exactly fish, either.

    So, they’ll “glub-blub” right next to us liberals, progressives, and Democrats – you know, people who may not be scientists either, but we tend to believe them when they speak.

    Maybe Jesus will save us.
    Our conservatives won’t lift a finger.

  3. “The Gulf of Mexico is encroaching northward, while the marshes are deteriorating from within, starved by a lack of river sediment and poisoned by seawater.”

    If there is any response from the right, it will probably be to bomb Mexico.

  4. For what it’s worth, the sinking of Louisiana doesn’t actually have much to do with climate change — it’s primarily the consequence of a hundred years spent diking the Mississippi.

    Not that that makes it any less of a problem.

  5. I have been at Miami beach during full moon tides and the wind blowing from the east. The storm drains back up, and indeed flood the streets. I’ve seen up to a foot of water in areas. The real problem will be a storm surge on top of the astronomical tide.
    The other, bigger threat is salt water intrusion into the everglades. That will wreck the ecosystem. The ‘glades are the nursery of the gulf of mexico. Then there is the threat to the Floridan aquifer.
    In 50 years, the “ridge” running through central Florida could be all that’s above the rising sea.

  6. @colin r: the sinking that Gail Collins is describing in her column is definitely due to climate change. It is the result of encroachment on the entire southern coast of Louisiana by the Gulf.

    While all of the failed and failing attempts to control the Mississippi by dikes (and other manmade solutions) are indeed problematic, the present and future problems that the big river will cause South Louisiana (as well as Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa) are also due to the same climate change that is affecting the Gulf Coast.

  7. We must remember that there is a plethora of Koch corrupted governors around this nation…Jindal is one of them…how else would you explain his “views” on this??? everyone agrees that he is a smart man…he is a scholar…and he denies the science…I come to the conclusion he is a quid pro quo corrupt politician dancing to the Koch boys dance music…

  8. Bob, research has shown that college educated Republicans are more likely to reject climate science than less educated Republicans. Chris Mooney calls them “smart idiots.” Furthermore, when confronted with the facts, they will often hold to their erroneous ideas even stronger. This is called the “backfire effect.”

  9. “Part of the problem is that climate change denial has become teabagger orthodoxy, and any Republican politician who so much as expresses willingness to consider the science is liable to be primaried”

    Which proves the point, that there really is no “tea-Party” never has been. Just the John Birch society re-branded, shielding the real money from appearing outside the mainstream. They create a new “party”, put a bunch of dimly lit bulbs out front (Sarah and Ted’s excellent adventure) and watch them shill for big oil and the chamber of commerce crowd, it’s brilliant! Jindal is just a minor player and an obvious coward, he knows if he keeps his trap shut the wing-nuts will take care of him with heaps of wing-nut welfare long after his political career lies in ruins. He’ll be part of the token darky club, along with his buddies Dinesh, Ben, Allen, Herman, etc!

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