Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Really, what does the Republicans "climate zombies" accomplish?

A colleague mentioned this list (also see Joe Romm) of statements about climate change by Republican candidates for Senate. With one exception, they all doubt that human activity is responsible for climate change.

Sure I agree with all the commentators that the stance of all these candidates is depressing. The similarity of their statements suggests that it has less to do with what the individual's actually think about climate change, than the fact that climate change has become so politicized in the U.S. that Republicans need to express doubt in order to win their party's nomination. From their vantage point, denial and doubt is the only viable option.

As such, what's far more depressing to me than the statements themselves is what those statements imply about the utter failure to communicate the science of climate change and the rationale for climate change solutions in a non-partisan way. Maybe this should serve as a lesson that years of doing things like calling people who question climate change "brain-dead zombies" hasn't accomplished anything but maybe "fire up the base" (which in itself, didn't accomplish much in the past two years!)

You can be right without being arrogant. I've said it before: rather than demonize people who question climate change, it's worth thinking about their motivation and their reasoning, faulty as though it may be. Otherwise, the water will be flooding the front steps here in Vancouver, and we'll still be having the same inane arguments.


Greg said...

Passive verbs, your clue to something left out.

"[...]climate change has become so politicized in the U.S [...]"

Ask yourself who politicized it, and for what purpose. Then call them out in plain language. Republicans unleashed this tide of anti-science know-nothingism in the first place. That perhaps some of their candidates now feel like they've got the tiger by the tail is no excuse.

silence said...

As an intellectual argument, I agree that demonization has no value.

As a rhetorical strategy, it can be highly effective. My impression is that the idea is that since the fossil fuels industry has adopted the personnel and tactics of the tobacco disinformation campaign, the idea here is to adopt the same tactics which successfully defeated that campaign. One of the key ones here in the US was the demonization of tobacco industry executives and their shills, branding them as liars. The "climate zombies" approach looks like the same kind of thing to me.

Gatsby said...

Mike Castle just lost in Delaware (he was the exception). So now all of them doubt human activity is responsible for climate change. I think O'Donnell doesn't believe in evolution either.

Gatsby said...

Mike Castle just lost the Republican nomination in Delaware (he was the exception you mentioned above). So now all of the Republican candidates doubt that human activity is the cause of climate change. I don't think O'Donnell believes in evolution either FWIW.

The Cunctator said...

Erm, these aren't average Joes. They're millionaire lawyers, businessmen, and lobbyists running for the highest legislative body in the land. Their position on climate science is based on partisan gaming and political ideology.

Simon Donner said...

Lots of good points. The take-home (for me, at least) is that they are parroting what has become the "party line" on climate change, rather than actually giving it any thought. In that sense, they are being "zombies", I suppose. But keep in mind, from their point of reference, and from the literature and talking points they are presumably being given, their comments are reasonable. So we need to change the entire dialogue to change their "individual" views. And I'm guessing that insulting the "other side" is not the path to changing the conversation.

silence said...

The way the anti-tobacco-disinformation campaign worked wasn't by insulting people who believed that smoking didn't cause cancer, but by demonizing the folks who were pushing the view. The ones to go after here would be oil and coal company executives by showing how they're pushing the view and paying for it. First identifying congressmen, and then labeling their paymasters as "zombie masters" or something has real potential to be effective rhetoric.

Pangolin said...

How's that bit where we point out the ever-growing pile of peer-reviewed research verifying anthropogenic climate change working out? The media ignores it or gives one-to-one time to people who spout what amounts to coal and oil corporation propaganda.

They're called zombies since their brains seem to be immune to input from reality. It's an apt description.