Why Do Conservatives Push Climategate?

On any given day, if one is browsing through the current discussion on global warming, the topic of “Climategate” will often come up. Climategate alleges that climate scientists exaggerated the data to support global warming as part of their hidden agenda to push the theory.

Climategate will almost invariably be mentioned by a conservative commentator, seeking to attack the scientific consensus behind global warming. Conservative backing of Climategate is just another part of a long-standing pattern; for years, some conservatives have sought to deny the existence of global warming.

The point of this post is not to discuss the validity of Climategate. Scientists are not the all-seeing Gods society often labels them; they are humans too and prone to human errors. That does not mean that their conclusions are incorrect (notice how the controversial data always seems to be “exaggerated” but still actually backs global warming).

The puzzle, rather, is why some conservatives do this. There doesn’t seem to be a point to it, simply put. Conservative philosophy is not inherently anti-global warming; being a Republican does not necessarily mean one must believe global warming doesn’t exist.

This is different from other, more understandable stands a conservative might take. If a scientific study came out whose conclusions supported the pro-choice movement (e.g. fetuses don’t actually feel pain until they’re born, or something like that), it would make sense for conservatives to question the study. Being pro-life constitutes a fundamental part of conservative ideology; it goes with “traditional values” and “family.” Similarly, if a hypothetical study found that tax cuts are ineffective, one would also expect conservatives to attack it. This is because cutting taxes constitutes part of the conservative philosophy, which emphasizes smaller government and individualism.

In contrast, denying global warming does not have anything to do with what conservatives stand for. Unlike abortion or taxes, global warming is not an issue to be fought over but a coming challenge to be faced.

Moreover, there exists a conservative solution to the challenge. This is called cap-and-trade, which uses the power of the market to solve a fundamental problem. Conservatives are supposed to like this stuff; free markets constitute the bread-and-butter of their philosophy. Conservative President George H.W. Bush implemented a cap-and-trade program which essentially solved the problem of acid rain. In contrast, a liberal solution to global warming (one which many liberal institutions theoretically favor) would be a carbon tax, which uses government to solve the problem.

The problem, of course, is that that radical socialist Barack HUSSEIN Obama also supports cap-and-trade. As with so many issues facing the nation today, the stances of conservatives seem purely based upon being against what liberals favor (even if they favor conservative ideas such as cap-and-trade).

Now, to be fair, liberals also have a job to do. Too often their arguments have been made with the wrong tone: the type of arrogant, “I-am-better-than-you” style which does nothing more than harden stances on both sides. The scientific community is not exempt from this critique (if anything, it is even more guilty of claiming intellectual superiority over the rest of us mortals). When liberals label those who disbelieve global warming “idiots,” that does not convince conservatives that global warming is real.

Indeed, both sides must mature their stances with respect to the problem of global warming. Liberals ought to address conservative grievances with respect, not arrogant high-handedness. Conservatives ought to realize that questioning the existence of global warming has nothing to do with being a conservative and stop pushing nonsensical theories like “Climategate”.

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2 Responses to Why Do Conservatives Push Climategate?

  1. Joe from NC says:

    My view of the right’s reaction to global warming and environmentalism in general is as follows:
    The big business branch of the GOP doesn’t want new environmental regulations in general because they will probably cost money. It’s true that not doing anything about the environment will probably cost even more money in the future, corporations are often short sighted when it comes to profits. (see the economic situation of the past decade) For example, when a corporation has to chose between a 100% chance of losing $1,000,000 this year and a 50% chance of losing $10,000,000 in 10-20 years, most if not all will opt for the latter.

    The “populist” right in the US has long viewed environmental movements with suspicion. Since new environmental regulations will increase the size of the government, oposing them is their knee-jerk reaction. Thus, the Limbaughs, Hannitys, and Becks of the world are all too happy to take up the big corporations’ cause. These people seem to live in constant fear of a communist conspiracy, and since environmental regulations hurt big business in the short term, it’s easy to convince them that anything to protect the environment is the “first step” on the road to communism.

    As for the focus on climategate, these commentators don’t need to prove global warming wrong, they just need to plant the seeds of doubt. Even if climategate involved only minor exaggerations, it plants that seed. They can now say, “We know they stretched the truth there. Who knows where else they have stretched it?” Since there audience already doesn’t trust the climate scientists, they will take one piece of evidence and let it confirm all their suspisions.

    As for acid rain, most conservatives denied it existed until the late 80s when it was fully proven to be true. Even after that Rush Limbaugh still didn’t believe it and said George H. W. sold out to the Democrats. I guess now that acid rain has been significantly reduced, Rush would say it was just a coincidence.

    • inoljt says:

      Nice analysis on the point!

      I do understand the business view; cap-and-trade will definitely cause pain to businesses. On the other hand, I think that the “populist” right is possibly approachable. A change in tone could do a lot to appeal to them.

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