Of this year’s GOP nominees, none recognize climate change as a man-made problem, or a problem at all.
Their views differ from those of the men and women who actually study climate change, 97 percent of whom will confirm that anthropogenic global warming is indeed occurring. Given that 2015 was the hottest year on record, topping the previous highest, 2014, by a wide margin, the consequences of unmitigated warming should be inescapably difficult for leaders to ignore.
Why then might the Republican front runners—and, to a lesser degree, their supporters—openly embrace such anti-science positions?
The most obvious and well-documented reason is money: burning carbon is good business, and the billionaires behind the fossil fuel industry—and the politicians they support—stand to lose the most, were the status quo disrupted.
But there are subtler mechanisms at work. Effectively confronting climate change with anything more than band-aid solutions will entail a massive restructuring of nearly every aspect of our lives—from transportation and energy to food systems, land use, and consumer choices. It’s easier to look away, especially when the proposed solutions—government regulation—are at odds with one’s political predispositions.
Psychologists call it “cultural cognition”: the filtering of facts through a value lens. When something doesn’t fit with our preconceived ideas of how the world works, we discard the thing, and rationalize our reaction afterwards.
Naomi Klein puts a point on it: “How can you win an argument against government intervention if the very habitability of the planet depends on intervening?”
The answer, of course, is that you can’t. Better to deny the mess in the first place.