Conservatives? I don’t think so (Part I)

Posted: February 16, 2015 in Livin' in the USA, Politics, Science
Tags: ,

The meaning of the term “conservative” has shifted over the years. Half a century ago, it meant (at least in theory, if not in practice) someone who was careful, cautious, responsible, studious, honest, resistant to the expansion of government powers, and intent on preserving the best of what currently exists, especially constitutionally protected freedoms.

Now, the term means nearly the exact opposite. As for “careful, cautious, responsible” one need only look at the very wide swath of “conservatives” who are climate change deniers. The science is in. Over 97% of peer-reviewed studies in scientific journals have concluded that human-caused climate change exists. Almost exactly the same percentage of climate scientists agree. The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting. Sea levels are rising. Portions of the U.S. Southwest and plains states are already in severe, prolonged drought. Last year was, globally, the hottest year ever recorded. Nine of the last ten years were the hottest on record. And the increase in global temperature correlates almost exactly with the amount of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the air. (Yes, correlation is not causation. And, yes, the causes of climate change are complex, but they’re fairly well understood; and an increase in temperature resulting from an increase in carbon dioxide emissions is exactly what one would expect.)

As for “studious, honest,” so-called conservatives routinely denigrate science, scientific theories and scientists themselves. Some go so far as to make the ludicrous claim that there’s a conspiracy on the part of scientists to promote a global warming “hoax.” This indicates that these “conservatives” have no idea of how science works. Two of the most outstanding features of science are how open and how self-correcting it is. Scientists publish their findings and theories in journals, and other scientists read and dissect those theories and findings, searching for flaws. This is how science works. It’s also how scientists advance their careers–if they can publicly show fault with the findings and theories of others, it’s a step up the career ladder. This is hardly the stuff of conspiracy.

In the face of overwhelming evidence pointing to human-produced (by burning fossil fuels) climate change, a great many “conservatives” claim that there’s still a “debate” over the matter. Some admit that climate change exists, but deny that it’s man made, even as they’re entirely unable to point to any other even remotely plausible cause. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many “conservatives” still insist that there’s no “proof” (as if there’s 100% proof for anything), and gleefully promote measures (“drill baby, drill”)  that will almost certainly aggravate the problem.

Some “conservative” politicians and pundits even pretend that scientific theories and findings are “unscientific,” as if they were the ultimate authorities on the matter, when it’s a safe bet that almost all of them have no more understanding of science and the scientific method than your neighbor’s pitbull.

This brings us back to “cautious, responsible.” The “conservative” approach to climate change is about as cautious as playing Russian roulette–with a pistol with five chambered rounds. More accurately, it’s like playing Russian roulette with a loaded semi-automatic, with the gun pointed at our children’s heads. Even if you buy the extraction-industry line that it’s not proven that fossil fuel consumption is the cause of global warming, is it in any way cautious or conservative to risk inflicting global devastation on our children and grandchildren? What on earth is “conservative” about recklessness and irresponsibility?

* * *

Later this week we’ll look at the “conservative” approach to governmental power and individual rights.





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