Why Are American Conservatives The Only Climate Science Skeptics?

by Jonathan Chait | October 11, 2010

Ron Brownstein points out the truly unique nature of the Republican Party's climate change skepticism:

Not only William Hague but such other prominent European conservatives as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have embraced that widespread scientific conviction and supported vigorous action.
Indeed, it is difficult to identify another major political party in any democracy as thoroughly dismissive of climate science as is the GOP here. Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, says that although other parties may contain pockets of climate skepticism, there is "no party-wide view like this anywhere in the world that I am aware of."

I suppose the Republican explanation for this anomaly would be that their party has discovered flaws in the climate science model that have escaped every other conservative party in the world.

I would say that the real explanation is the unique power of libertarian economic dogma in the United States. Compared with conservative parties in other countries, Republicans aren't especially racist or nationalistic. They're nominally committed to a higher level of religious-inspired regulation of personal freedom, but not in a way that dramatically diverges from international conservative-party norms. The main difference is that its commitment to anti-government ideology is so strong that it gives rise to crackpot pseudo-science doctrines like supply-side economics and climate science denial, because such doctrines are needed to justify anti-government stances that otherwise would be seen as wildly irresponsible.

Some of the difference is attributable to profit-seeking behavior by elites. But it can't be completely divorced from ideology -- even the Koch brothers' pattern of massive right-wing donations mixes pure self-interest with broader libertarian ideology.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/78288/why-are-american-conservatives-the-only-climate-science-skeptics