Thursday, June 16, 2011

Global Warming threatens the very sense of self of conservatives so they reject the science reflexively

The Republicans have, since being taken over by conservatives, adamantly refused to even consider the possibility that global warming is true. Their reaction has been irrational to the extreme. Rhania Kalek describes this as being a bad case of cognitive dissonance.
Climate change poses a profound threat to many things that right-wing ideologues believe in. Conservatives tend to champion individual freedom, private property rights, small government, free markets, and above all else, unfettered industrial capitalism. Industrial capitalism is an economic system predicated on the accelerating extraction and consumption of fossil fuels for energy, which is driving the climate change we face today. To accept this basic premise, one is compelled to question the wisdom of capitalism itself, which is a terrifying notion for conservatives. And it doesn't take long to recognize that conservative values are inherently antithetical to the desperately needed actions to tackle global climate change.

Seriously dealing with the threat of climate change would require government to heavily regulate corporations and subsidize renewable energy. It would entail a strong international body, most likely boosting the power of the UN. It would bring an end to the inefficient and energy-wasting free-trade agenda, as localizing economies would become necessary to sustain communities. And, most importantly, confronting climate change demands addressing climate justice for developing nations suffering from the pollution of industrialized nations, or more simply, a redistribution of wealth from North to South. Climate change poses a direct threat to the spread of free markets, the maintenance of national sovereignty, and the continued abolition of governmental regulations, all key components of the conservative agenda. These are the types of ideas that cause conservatives to gasp, point, and shout "communist!"

When we recognize the role of cognitive dissonance, it becomes clear that conservatives and Republicans are more likely to dispute or deny the scientific consensus and the claims of the environmental community, in order to defend the industrial capitalist system. It is far more simple to deny science, than to accept that one's worldview is wrong. Unfortunately, environmental organizations are in a kind of denial as well. Climate change is about an economic model that demands infinite growth on a finite planet. However, environmental groups are reluctant to relate climate change to economics and politics, probably because conservatives would see it as confirmation of the right-wing myth that global warming is a socialist plot to redistribute the world's wealth.

For a conservative whose entire identity is defined by faith in the economics of capitalism and free markets, acceptance of climate change poses a danger to their sense of self, and will be avoided at all costs. Therefore, attempts to persuade this portion of the country with science and logic is a lost cause. However, for those of us who truly care about the future of our one and only planet and our species, it is time that we face what we have been loath to highlight in the past: Unfettered industrial capitalism is unsustainable and is causing climate change to spiral out of control. Until we begin to challenge the economics fueling environmental degradation, we are no better than our climate denying counterparts.
Consider what cognitive dissonance is.
there is a tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions (i.e., beliefs, opinions). When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors (dissonance), something must change to eliminate the dissonance. In the case of a discrepancy between attitudes and behavior, it is most likely that the attitude will change to accommodate the behavior.
The Republicans are going to resist any attitudes that challenge their strongly held free market beliefs. Those beliefs are core to the personality and self of strong free marketers such as Rand Paul, Lyin' Paul Ryan, David Koch, Dick Armey and Alan Greenspan. They have to deny global warming or admit that the strongest beliefs on which their core selves are based are wrong. They will not be convinced by science or facts. It is pathological with them.

The article is largely based on a sociological study entitled THE POLITICIZATION OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND POLARIZATION IN THE AMERICAN PUBLIC’S VIEWS OF GLOBAL WARMING,2001–2010 published in
Sociological QuarterlyVolume 52, Issue 2, Article first published online: 18 APR 2011

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