Environment, Politics, Recommended, Science

Empiricism and Dogma: Why Left and Right Can’t Agree on Climate Change

As a climate scientist, I often hear puzzled complaints about the political polarization of the public discussion about anthropogenic global warming. If it is an empirical and scientific matter, such people ask, then why is opinion so firmly divided along political lines? Since it tends to be the political Right that opposes policies designed to address and mitigate global warming, responsibility for this partisanship is often placed solely on the ideological stubbornness of conservatives.

This is a theme common to research on political attitudes to scientific questions. Division is often studied from the perspective of researchers on the Left who, rather self-servingly, frame the research question as something like: “Our side is logical and correct, so what exactly makes the people who disagree with us so biased and ideologically motivated?” I would put books like Chris Mooney’s The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality in this category.

Works like The Republican Brain correctly point out that those most dismissive of global warming tend to be on the Right, but they incorrectly assume that the Left’s position is therefore informed by dispassionate logic. If the Left was motivated by pure reason then it would not be the case that liberals are just as likely as conservatvies to deny science on the safety of vaccines and genetically modified foods. Additionally, as Mooney has argued elsewhere, the Left is more eager than the Right to deny mainstream science when it doesn’t support a blank-slate view of human nature. This suggests that fidelity to science and logic are not what motivates the Left’s concern about global warming.

Rather than thinking about the political divide on global warming as the result of dogma versus logic, a better explanation is that people tend to embrace conclusions—scientific or otherwise—that support themes, ideologies, and narratives that are preexisting components of their worldview. It just so happens that the themes, ideologies, and narratives associated with human-caused global warming and its proposed solutions align well with the political predispositions of the Left and create tension with those of the Right.

The definitional distinction between the political Right and the political Left originated during the French Revolution, and relates most fundamentally to the desirability and perceived validity of social hierarchies. Those on the Right see hierarchies as natural, meritocratic, and justified, while those on the Left see hierarchies primarily as a product of chance and exploitation. A secondary distinction, at least contemporarily in the West, is that those on the Right tend to emphasize individualism at the expense of collectivism and those on the Left prefer the reverse.

There are several aspects of the contemporary global warming narrative that align well with an anti-hierarchy, collectivist worldview. This makes the issue gratifying to the sensibilities of the Left and offensive to the sensibilities of the Right.

The most fundamental of these themes is the degree to which humanity itself can be placed at the top of the hierarchy of life on the planet. Those on the Right are more likely to privilege the interests of humanity over the interests of other species or the “interests” of the planet as a whole (to the degree that there is such a thing). On the other hand, those on the Left are more likely to emphasize a kind of pan-species egalitarianism and care for our shared environment, even if that means implementing policies that run counter to humans’ short-term interests.

Within humanity, there are at least two additional ways in which narratives about hierarchies influence thinking on global warming. One of these concerns attitudes towards developed versus developing countries. Firstly, the blame for global warming falls disproportionately on developed countries (in terms of historical greenhouse gas emissions) and proposed solutions therefore often call on developed countries to bear the brunt of the cost of reducing emissions going forward. (Additionally, it is argued that developed countries have the luxury of being able to afford increases in the cost of energy.) Overall, the solutions proposed for global warming imply that wealthy countries owe a debt to the rest of humanity that should be paid due at once.

Those on the Right are more likely to see the wealth of developed countries as rightfully earned by their own industriousness, while those on the Left are more likely to view the disproportionate wealth as fundamentally unjust and likely caused by exploitation. The idea that wealthy countries must therefore be penalized and made to subsidize poor countries is one that aligns well with the Left’s views about rebalancing unfairness. An accentuating factor is the Right’s tendency to favor national autonomy and therefore to oppose global governance and especially international redistribution.

Hierarchy narratives also help to determine political positions on the wealth of corporations and individuals. On the Right, oil and gas companies (as well as electric utilities that utilize fossil fuels) are held to be a product of innovation and a source of wealth creation; the smartest and most deserving people and organizations found the most efficient ways to transform idle fossil fuel resources into the power that runs society and, consequently, have greatly enhanced human wellbeing. For conservatives, it is therefore fundamentally unjust to blame those corporations and individuals that have done so much for human progress. The counter-narrative from the Left is that greedy corporations and individuals exploited natural resources for their own gain at the expense of the planet and the general public. They therefore support policies that blame and punish the fossil fuel industry in the name of cosmic justice and atonement.

Global warming is a tragedy of the commons, in which logical agents act in ways that run counter to the longterm interests of the group. These types of “collective-action problems” usually call for top-down government intervention at the expense of individual action and responsibility. Furthermore, the longterm nature of global warming demands acquiescence to collective action across generations. This natural alignment of the global warming problem with collectivist themes makes the issue much more palatable to the Left than the Right.

In addition to these fundamental ideological issues, there are a number of circumstantial characteristics that contribute to polarization regarding global warming.

For instance, in the US, Al Gore was one of the political figures most responsible for bringing global warming into the national consciousness. Once a former vice president and presidential nominee became a flag-bearer for the environmentalist movement, it only increased the perception that this is a partisan issue.

There is also the longstanding claim by those on the Right that the global warming issue is a Trojan Horse intended to bring about all manner of unrelated changes desired by the Left. Books like Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate and initiatives like the Green New Deal have done nothing to dispel this fear. For example, the Green New Deal Resolution includes the following proposals:

Providing all people of the United States with—(i) high-quality health care; (ii) affordable, safe, and adequate housing; (iii) economic security; and (iv) access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.


Guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States.


Providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States, with a focus on frontline and vulnerable communities, so those communities may be full and equal participants in the Green New Deal mobilization.

These objectives satisfy the Left’s policy goals. But, whatever the merits of those goals, it is not at all clear how they relate to global warming, if at all.

So, it should really not be particularly mysterious that opinions on global warming tend to divide along political lines. It is not because one side cleaves to dispassionate logic while the other remains obstinately wedded to political dogmatism. It is simply that the problem and its proposed solutions align more comfortably with the dogma of one side than the other. That does not mean, however, that the Left is equally out-of-step with the science of global warming as the Right. It really is the case that the Right is more likely to deny the most well-established aspects of the science. If skeptical conservatives are to be convinced, the Left must learn to reframe the issue in a way that is more palatable to their worldview.


Patrick T. Brown is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose State University, California. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickTBrown31

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash


  1. A nice article. I want to throw something in not mentioned: Many adult religious conservatives in the United States do not believe the Earth is more than 10,000 years old (38% in 2017 according to Getty), and thus some of the most engaging data in the field of climate science will be ignored outright. What can be done to engage this cohort if they immediately discard relevant data? We had a critical disagreement long before Al Gore’s documentary…

  2. What a lot of people on the Right find irksome about the climate issue is that the left is only too happy to see climate change in every summer thunderstorm and every winter blizzard, yet at the same time automatically opposes real-world solutions to the carbon problem.

    I would like to see a cultural Great Climate Treaty. The right would agree to take climate science and greenhouse physics seriously; the left would agree on the need to replace our baseload fossil fuel usage with nuclear, and to allow large-scale geoengineering, such as ocean seeding, to sequester existing carbon.

  3. Although the article makes many valid points about people on different sides of the political spectrum being more disposed to favor certain POVs about global warming according to their pre-existing biases - there is also a patronizing neglect on the part of the author to acknowledge that some people might actually be principally motivated and focused on the science itself.

    For example, I consider myself a political conservative - yet my skepticism about anthropomorphic global warming catastrophism ( AGWC) is based on reading about the science. If I were to see compelling scientific evidence that the AGWC stance is accurate, I would be quite happy to change my current view. As it happens, I have many environmental concerns : water and air pollution, endangered species, overpopulation, etc.

    To be told that my stance is emotional and not based on science is condescending.

  4. Yes. If you actually take the time to look into the material of “deniers”, you’ll find that quite a lot of them are very good scientists, with good scientific objections. But according to the climate change establishment, no, the science is settled; there can be no dissent. Any scientist who dissents must be a paid shill of the fossil fuel industry. As such the dissenters are viciously attacked, censored, their careers in many cases destroyed.

    I agree with the implication of the author’s argument that it is idiotic to reach conclusions on complex issues primarily based on one’s political sensibilities. But, as you point out, he is neglecting to mention the fact that there is an entire group of people who oppose the science of climate change for non-political reasons entirely.

    That’s why, in my view, after seriously considering some of the dissenting scientific literature on climate change, as well as the intolerant orthodoxy that has grown up around the whole issue in academic and scientific institutions, not to mention the often shysty methods the principal proponents have employed to assure the world that the science is settled, and how viciously they seek to squash dissenters (and how often they succeed)… after considering all this, I have come to the conclusion that global warming is just the leftwing version of the war on terror; both are based on lies.

  5. People conflate the increase in global average temperatures (and its robust scientific basis) with the predicted catastrophes associated with it. We are very confident that temperatures are rising and that greenhouse gas emissions are part of the cause of that rise. However, many well-meaning people are just as confident that catastophe looms as a result, without scientific basis, as near as I can tell.

    The near total scientific consensus on warming falls apart when one surveys the same scientists on the expected severity of the consequences of global warming. ( Farnsworth and Lichter, 2011) Yet it is the severity of the catastrophe that people point to when they want to change policy.

    So. How confident are you that catastrophe comes in the next 100 years? How confident are you that we will not be able to adapt? Why? I have asked many people these questions, and I have yet to receive a good answer from a person on the left.

    ps: I found the F&L article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveys_of_scientists'_views_on_climate_change

  6. The author is to be commended for reaching outside his bubble, but I will critique a miss.


    Those on the Right are more likely to see the wealth of developed countries as rightfully earned by their own industriousness, while those on the Left are more likely to view the disproportionate wealth as fundamentally unjust and likely caused by exploitation. The idea that wealthy countries must therefore be penalized and made to subsidize poor countries is one that aligns well with the Left’s views about rebalancing unfairness.

    From the Right’s perspective, the Left has woefully ahistoric tendencies. “Likely” implies a mythology, not facts. The Left has ignorantly mythologized the facts to fit their supposed origin of the current state- sometimes to fit environmental narratives, sometimes to fit power structure narratives- regardless, the past must have been whatever makes their current interpretation of reality logical.

    Applied point: Every time an apocalyptic environmentalist claims we have X years before things are irreversibly destroyed. The Left, using language symbolically and ahistorically, ascribes noble intention etc. The Right, actual being fact-based with regards to historic items, chalks it up to a hoaxster and recalls how many times they’ve “heard THAT one before.”

    The Right may be religious, but the Right values pragmatism and accuracy over emotion. Heartless conservatives, remember? Emotion is only brought in with the intent to manipulate.

    Or, control the histrionics that support your views, they hurt your case.

  7. “There is also the longstanding claim by those on the Right that the global warming issue is a Trojan Horse intended to bring about all manner of unrelated changes desired by the Left. Books like Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate and initiatives like the Green New Deal have done nothing to dispel this fear”

    This is not a fear - it is an observation. Putting aside the rat-bag that is the Green New Deal, there is nothiing in the list of solutions for climate change that was not proposed by the radical Left long before climate change was first publicized. Conservatives can see through the fig leaf. .

  8. Whenever I see somebody use the term “climate change denier” - I know they are completely motivated by politics and know and/or care nothing about the actual science.

    Because, first of all “denier” is a term modeled after “Holocaust denier” - making it disingenuous and intellectually dishonest. Secondly, you can accept that the climate changes while questioning how much of the change is man-made, questioning whether the man-made component is significant compared to the natural component of warming gases, question how harmful the warming is, question when the warming will occur, question the validity of the models, etc. There are endless areas which should be subject to scrutiny - which is the very essence of science - questioning.

  9. Its hard to not be skeptical of something that comes with such outlandish apocalyptic claims. The solutions outlined for solving climate change are mostly untenable as well. The cost/benefit ratio is totally out of whack. I would not call myself a denier of climate change but I am certainly a skeptic of man made catastrophic climate change. The climate has been heating in recent history but we cant even agree on how much with much certainty and its hubris to think we know how much humans are contributing to it. That basically the climate is like a heater where we can dial the thermostat up or down on demand by manipulating emissions. I just cant buy into that. Give me a sensible plan that doesnt hammer the poor or destroy massive amounts of wealth and jobs and I’d be willing to listen. Still waiting.

  10. Quillette is making this too easy.
    It’s like shooting GENDER QUESTIONING fish in a RENEWABLE barrel.

    This guy exemplifies the self-unaware arrogance of the Left.
    “WE believe in ‘Science!’ Those knuckledraggers believe in DOGMA!”
    (…except when it comes to XX and XY…then all bets are off and it becomes a “Social Construct” or some other invented insanity)

    "A new study by researchers at Turku University in Finland found that the human contribution to a rise of 0.1°C in global temperatures over the last century is just 0.01°C.

    Kauppinen and Malmi conclude that global temperatures are controlled primarily by cloud cover and that “only a small part” of the increased carbon dioxide concentration is anthropogenic.

    The study also calls into question the claims of the UN IPCC, which concluded that global temperatures are largely driven by human activity.

    While the methods and results of the study can be debated, this once again illustrates how there is no overwhelming consensus on man-made global warming as the media often claims.

    THE PAPER: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1907.00165.pdf

  11. Thank you for a good read Mr. Brown.

    I am on the right side of things (pun fully intended) but I have always thought it was strange that care for the environment was considered a “left” issue. As a conservative I believe in slow moving change and that new is isn’t always better. Nature and preservation should be part of the conservative dialogue and for the most part isn’t. This article made a lot of sense as to what the appeals are on either side. I think articles like this can start a dialogue between two ideas of thought.

    I am not sure how much I believe in the over arching story of global warming being strictly a man-made. BUT It is not logical to deny the immediate harmful effects of poisoning your environment and thus poisoning yourself.
    (Spraying pesticides - bad for environment - ends in cancer. Using asbestos as insulation - bad for environment - ends in cancer. Plastics with BPA - bad for the environment - ends in cancer)
    I don’t really see that as being a left/right issue as much as self preservation/quality of life. I think most people left/right when presented with facts would agree that that is a bad idea for all involved. Many would not see as a political issue. What is a political issue is how to address.

    When I talk with people very much on the right and I discuss deep sea trawling, air quality in cities, and similar topics, most seem very in support of managing the situation. However, where I see a butting of heads is exaggeration and implementation.

    (Exaggeration)While I am against BPAs in plastics, I am not against all plastic usage. Sanitation is a big concern, plastics play huge roll in sanitation. My alarms start blaring the moment someone calls for ALL plastics to immediately be cut.

    (Implementation) I do have a bias as I live in California and understand this may be different in other states/countries. Whenever I hear that there is a plan to help the environment in CA I cringe. All the environmental laws just seem like virtue signaling. BAN on Plastic bags (actually we just mean replace with thicker bags that we can tax… for the environment) BAN plastic straws (even though this has little data backing the actual use of doing such. When you could ban styrofoam which has been proven to have significant environmental impact).

    There is such a huge concern about not polluting water BUT several CA beaches were rated as some of the unhealthiest beaches. https://healthebay.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/BRC_2019_FINAL2.pdf
    Yet we allow for homeless people to use RV’s outside of RV parks and look the other way when raw waste is put down the drains leading to the oceans. We also ignore the fact that neighboring Mexico flushes their waste and other toxins in the water which drifts right back over.

    For my ladies and fellows on the left, I am not saying that all of you are virtue signaling, I know most of you have genuine care and concern for the environment. It is the policies and politics of environmentalism are backwards thinking, illogical and pointlessly detrimental. I welcome thoughts and actions on how to fix this.


    a republican conservative

  12. The ‘science’ industry itself acknowledges a good deal of shenanigans in the workings of research and publication.

    To paraphrase someone famous; it’s the worst system of learning we have, except for every other one. The flip flops on what seem to be basic, relatively straight forward subjects, the ultimate cause of which we often learn to be politically based or the results of deliberate shenanigans, don’t inspire a lot of confidence.

    Worse, when we ‘conservatives’ point out shenanigans, real or imagined, we’re met with mockery, derision, and insults rather than, ‘here are the reasons we think X is true’.

    It’s not as if we don’t understand that knowledge changes with the revelation of new information. We get that, accept and applaud it.

    The IPCC is an agency of the UN. For that reason, what comes out of the IPCC is biased toward the goals of the UN. This should be an uncontroversial statement.

    After all, if I change the nouns a bit thusly: “EMRE is an agency of Exxon/Mobile. For that reason, what comes out of EMRE is biased toward the goals of Exxon”, no one is going to bat an eye. It’s self evident.

    The UN wants to be the world government. It needs a world wide, overarching issue upon which to elevate itself into that lofty position. This is self-evident.

    That fact does not automatically render everything coming out of the IPCC as utter nonsense any more than everything coming out of EMRE is utter nonsense. It does mean that when we look at their research, we should acknowledge the bias and keep it in mind.

    The UN, governments across the globe, and crony capitalist corporations see in AGW a means to gather power, money and resources under an big umbrella with the words, “we’re saving the world!” written across it.

    No doubt some are earnest in the belief they are trying to do good but I’d wager there are damned few of that type. It takes a particular brand of gullibility to imagine recycling, alternative energy and returning to horse drawn carriages will save the world. Such people are beyond reason.

    Whether humanity causes 1% of AGW or 100% isn’t really relevant. We lack the ability and wisdom to deliberately, effectively manipulate global climate. Whether the climate changes on its own or because of us, doesn’t matter. We adapt or die as has been the case since the beginning of life.

  13. " It really is the case that the Right is more likely to deny the most well-established aspects of the science"

    Nope. It really is the case that activist scientists refuse to engage publicly with highly-credentialled scientists such as Richard Lindzen.

    Until that happens - and not just a ten minute series of contradictions, but real, persistent discussion away from the peer-reviewed paywalls - empirical scepticism flourishes.

  14. The various discussed political dispositions certainly contribute to why people on the left and right disagree on this issue, but I think there is an even more fundamental distinction: the right is more cautious, and thus skeptical, by nature.

    Climate alarmism requires you to believe we can accurately estimate global temperature right now. That requires believing the global array of thermometers are accurate and we can accurately extrapolate between them for a global average. That’s the easy part: you must now believe that we have a similar accurate estimate of global temperature records going back decades. Then, you must accept that the hodgepodge of temperature proxies in the geological record are sound, and that you can extrapolate between them and across the geographically disparate regions. You must accept this despite the fact Earth sciences are notorious for not giving adequate consideration of uncertainties.

    Now, if you accept that warming is occurring, climate alarmism requires you to believe it is warming faster than it has been previously. Our Canadian readers are standing where 3 km of glacier existed 14000 years ago. There’s hard evidence that warming has been happening. You must be confident that recent measured warming is significantly faster than what was occuring before. Then you must be confident about how much of this warning is due to humans and how much is a continuation of natural warming.

    If you can be confident about the temperature record, the rate of warming, and the human impact, you must then believe there will be drastic negative consequences if the human component to the warming continues. Given nature is never static, you must believe that the consequence of this warming will be significantly worse than the regular warming the planet was already doing and the inevitable return to a glacial period.

    If you do believe the temperature records, the significant human influence, and the horrible consequences, to truly get on the global warming bandwagon you must believe that there is some feasible solution whose consequences would not be worse than those of global warming. You must believe the threat is sufficiently dire with sufficient certainty that a restructuring of the global economy is necessary.

    Conservatives get lost at every stage along the way here (and more, as I’m sure we’ll see in the comments).

  15. Precisely. What annoys me is the lack of effort by people to look into the issue. The CO2 warming theory relies purely on a general correlation between CO2 levels and the earth warming out of the Little Ice Age. Yet the correlation is not consistent nor evident on any time scale except the period from the late 70s to ~1998, when the pause began! This is acknowledged in Climategate emails, where they privately concede that though it looks like that warming has a human fingerprint for that one period, they can’t really say for sure! Note, the rise and fall of T during the 20th C and the retreat and advance of ice fits better with ocean cycles than CO2.

    They also are faced with the unfortunate fact that one of their own scientists, Phil Jones of Climategate fame, stated that the rate of temperature rise in the 1800s and the early part of the 20thC is the same as the recent one, despite lower CO2! So why, logically, would CO2 be identified as the culprit? To get around this, they say ‘Oh, but ‘other factors’ came into play’! A thirty year cooling period during the 20thC as CO2 increased? Other factors. Previous identical warming? Other factors. An 18 year pause as CO2 increased at the fastest rate? Other factors. This is NOT science. This is simply accepting, a priori without evidence, that CO2 has a significant effect on global temperature! Once you accept that proposition, of course you can add and subtract things to your recipe to make the cake rise! That is not how science works. The hypothesis is unfalsifiable if post hoc ‘other factors’ are simply added in to rescue their failed models!

    Here’s two key facts that immediately undermine the possibility of claiming CO2 plays a significant role. First, it is widely acknowledged they cannot adequately model the current climate system, it is simply too complex. How can they predict the future of such a dynamic system? They don’t KNOW all the variables now, let alone future ones! They can’t measure them, and even if they could, they can’t predict all the complex feed backs and interactions. Models are ‘convenient fictions’ according to Oxford climate modeler, Dr David Frame. Convenient indeed. Convenient for pushing a political and ideological agenda that has been co-opted by big business.

    Water vapour together with clouds (condensed water vapour) is responsible for the vast majority of the greenhouse effect. Why are the public not made aware of that? Any quick check of IPCC literature and scientific papers notes the limitations and uncertainty in the models. They can’t adequately account for clouds, which have a vastly bigger impact on earth’s temperature. Think about it. Even if there were only two variables to consider with all other variables constant (which they’re not), if you can’t measure the effects of the MAIN variable, let alone how it will behave in the future, how can you possibly detect and attribute any changes to the minor one???

    Other major factors deliberately sidelined, because they can’t be ‘blamed’ on humans include the SUN and oceanic cycles. The charter from the outset of the IPCC was to focus on CO2, because they agreed it ‘should’ cause global warming, and that’s what they’ve done.

    Don’t get me started on the data ‘adjustments’ and discarded data from older papers that don’t fit the narrative!

    It’s a scam of monumental proportions.

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  4. Ian says

    When evaluating a particular climate change claim, there are three main criteria:

    (1) Is the effect present in the data? We have about 50 years of satellite era data in which the earth has also been warming. If something is going to happen we should be able to see it to some degree already in the observations

    (2) Is the effect supported by simple physical reasoning?

    (3) Is the effect supported by global climate models, and more detailed cloud models?

    With this in mind, I would say the evidence and models strongly support heat waves as a consequence of global warming. Sea level rise is very likely to occur but the timescale is unclear and there will be a lot of regional variability. What will happen to hurricanes and other storms, we really don’t know. There is some evidence for more extreme rainfall events.

    The most credible overall climate change blogger is Cliff Mass.

  5. Jack Davis says

    My consciousness began to be raised about environmental issues thirty years ago. A big difference between how the issues are perceived then vs now is that now it appears, to me at least, that our survival increasingly hangs in the balance as we progress from my generation to my grandchildren and for their grandchildren. I will state up front my “bias”:
    Much of Siberia is in flames today and most buildings that have stood on permafrost for many decades are expected to sink or fall over in years to come. Greenland and glaciers around the world are regularly surprising scientists by melting at ever increasing rates. Europe is breaking all time heat records. Flora and fauna are moving northward to cooler and more survivable habitats. The US is predicted to lose a great deal of its arable land drought and decreasing aquifers. The intensity of tropical storms is predicted to increase in response to rising ocean temperatures. “Normal” high tides are increasingly encroaching on streets in Miami and Maryland’s eastern shore.

    It is likely most Americans would have an immediate reaction to my above statements which are based on science. Indeed, are they the result of science or fake news? Empiricism or dogma?

    As Brown points makes clear, the issues have become increasingly politically polarized. For several years I have been puzzled as to why more people, specifically Americans, don’t seem to understand, or want to understand, the gravity of the situation, specifically about the long term implications of anthropogenic climate change. Is it just “bone headedness” or based on dogma and political agendas on both sides of the aisle?

    In an effort to make some personal progress in understanding the intractability, indeed closed mindedness, of the national “discussion”, a few months ago in Florida I suggested to some members of the Humanist Society of Sarasota Bay or HUSBAY that it take up the question and discuss it honestly and courageously using the Socratic method. (HUSBAY is a non-religious nonprofit of which I have been a member for 2-3 years http://www.husbay.org.) To my surprise it soon became clear to me that the gulf of differing opinions in our society on this subject seems to be reflected somewhat in our members and that any “discussion” likely would end up as just being another round of structured debate and rhetoric result in a “winner” and a “loser” and little additional understanding of why Americans are so polarized and therefore paralyzed.

    If we don’t understand that we are all somewhat dogmatic on this subject we have no hope whatsoever at deciding the importance of our predicament and whether or how we might be committed to doing something about it.

    Today I read Patrick Brown’s piece in Quillette. It is worth the time to focus on the hierarchical underpinnings of our dogmas to better understand our different political positions on the question of anthropogenic climate change. Brown’s last paragraph sums it up well:

    “…So, it should really not be particularly mysterious that opinions on global warming tend to divide along political lines. It is not because one side cleaves to dispassionate logic while the other remains obstinately wedded to political dogmatism. It is simply that the problem and its proposed solutions align more comfortably with the dogma of one side than the other. That does not mean, however, that the Left is equally out-of-step with the science of global warming as the Right. It really is the case that the Right is more likely to deny the most well-established aspects of the science. If skeptical conservatives are to be convinced, the Left must learn to reframe the issue in a way that is more palatable to their worldview.”

    Time permitting I plan to reorganize Brown’s article into a questionnaire the answers to which should inform the questionnaire taker as to their particular dogmas and political narratives on the topic. I hope others do something similar. Jack Davis

    • Bob graham says

      Mr. Davis establishes his “progressive credentials early, with his list of “maybe” events that “might” be caused by climate change.
      Then he repeats as “fact ” Browns fraudulent assertion that “rightists are more likely to deny most well established climate science.”
      That is only if you blindly accept the IPCC’s version of climate change, blaming it all on CO2, and man. He’s quite happy with the fact that there is NO proof supporting this hypothesis, and lots of science showing it’s not true.
      The IPCC contends it’s all man’s fault, and refuses to fund research that doesn’t state that at fact. This isn’t science, but political dogma, and I’m disappointed normal people would accept this fraud as true.
      Once you see the mass of alternative submissions, showing the sun, clouds, and ocean currents have major climatic effects, it becomes obvious the IPCC is wrong, and it’s simply wasting $ trying to prove a negative.

  6. bill53 says

    “That does not mean, however, that the Left is equally out-of-step with the science of global warming as the Right. It really is the case that the Right is more likely to deny the most well-established aspects of the science. If skeptical conservatives are to be convinced, the Left must learn to reframe the issue in a way that is more palatable to their worldview.”

    Nonsense, the problem most conservatives like myself have is not that climate change doesn’t exist. We just don’t believe man is the biggest driver or the solution. This entire soiree is a redistribution of wealth from the Northern Hemisphere to Southern Hemisphere. It has nothing fdo with climate change. It is just a way for the progressives to punish success.
    The US spending 15 trillion dollars over the next 10 years to mitigate a “possible” 1.5-2 degree temperature rise by “possibly” .5 degrees. We would be better off moving out of flood plains and away from the coast. Hardening those homes and buildings that remain, like building sea walls or dykes.

    Now we have the Sun, the PRIMARY DRIVER OF EARTHS CLIMATE. Entering a Grand Sunspot minimum, which in the past has been associated with cooling temperatures. What are these climatologist folks going to suggest? Maybe spreading coal dust on glaciers and the South Pole to absorb the Sun’s rays? Oh wait, they did suggest this back in the 70’s.

    Lets face facts man doesn’t control the climate the way these climate change folks think. We will adapt to anything the Earth throws at us. Without having to bankrupt the US or the West. .

  7. In general term it is not true that conservatives tend to deny climate change. Of 17 right-wing populist parties in Europe, only 3 deny climate change, namely Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), the Belgian People’s Party and the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV).

    Source: Denial and Dampening Ambition: Where do Europe’s Right-Wing Populist Parties Stand on Climate Change? by Chloe Farand, Desmog, Thursday, May 16, 2019

  8. erich20 says

    I am extremely disappointed in all of you. There has been a noble effort to collect and analyze both carbon levels and global temperatures (whether 100% accurate or not, it is the best that the world’s scientific community has been able to generate to date). There is extensive evidence of massive reductions in polar ice (I’ve seen it in person), and there have been extreme weather incidents around the globe for several decades. Unfortunately the confidence intervals for each of these observations will never be high enough for the greatest skeptics, but aren’t they enough to raise concern that something very bad seems possible, even likely?

    As a nation we’ve historically done what we thought was right. Many times we didn’t have absolute certainty but we acted anyway.

    When people believed that the depleted ozone was a direct result of CFC’s, we acted. There was less scientific evidence then to correlate the cause and effect than there is now for climate change, but we knew that doing something was better than doing nothing.

    We are the country that put a man on the moon. We didn’t stand by and debate whether the math was accurate, we had faith in our brightest minds, took a chance, and changed history.

    Lincoln didn’t stand by when he had the opportunity to abolish slavery. We were at the height of the Civil War and millions of lives were in the balance, yet he stood steadfast and urged congress to put an end to evils of slavery. He wasn’t absolutely certain of the outcome, but he acted because he knew that it was right.

    Our fore fathers aligned themselves with the French at the start of the revolutionary war. There was no definitive confidence that the French monarchy would support them but they took a chance because they knew the weight of the English Crown and its mercantile economy was more than the colonies could bear.

    This is our time to make history. If we are wrong about climate change and we replace burning fossil fuel with nuclear energy, is that really such a bad outcome? Is less expensive energy and cleaner air and water such a horrible legacy? If we are right, then we save the planet for future generations.

    Even if they can adapt to the fallout of climate change, why should our children have to? What right do we have to alter the balance of nature? How stupid are we to have an excellent alternative to fossil fuels, like nuclear, and not use it to the fullest. Didn’t we become the greatest nation in the world because were weren’t afraid to innovate? Since when did crappy Hollywood movies and scare mongering stop of from embracing smarter science?

    Let’s stop debating and start embracing a better future. I never want to look my children in the eye and say “we just weren’t 100% sure there was a problem.” Or, “we didn’t act because we hated the people that first raised the alarm”.

    FYI: I’ve been a Republican my entire life, but at his point I’m sick of all the political noise. Even if there is just a 5% chance that we are ruining the planet for our kids, we have a responsibility to do something to prevent that from happening. If not us then who?

    • prometheus says

      “Even if there is just a 5% chance that we are ruining the planet for our kids, we have a responsibility to do something to prevent that from happening.”

      What if there is a 1% chance? Or a 0.1% chance? Is it still our responsibility then? I mean, lets turn it around. Suppose there is a 95% chance that it ain’t broke and we don’t need to do anything. Or a 99% chance. Should we engage in a radical transformation of our economy, technology, and infrastructure and take the risk that we will break something? Fact is, we have no idea what the chances are that we are “ruining the planet.”

      What is that something we should be doing anyway? Global communism? Imprisoning people who use fossil fuels? Extermination of the human race altogether? I’ve heard all of these. None of them sound particularly appealing.

      And who says we can prevent anything anyway? Why shouldn’t our focus be on adaptation, recognizing that climate always changes?

      At the end of the day, your final appeal requires action based on a hypothetical — probably imaginary — worst-case scenario. All you have to support this is fake news fear-mongering by the media, who have utterly abandoned journalistic integrity in the search for outrage-bait articles. They are unreliable at best, outright liars at worst. The same people shrieking about climate change are the same people who fight against nuclear energy and believe that renewables can keep everyone alive through northern winters. What a joke.

      The whole sky-is-falling nonsense is political noise, bandied about by those who would use mob-based fear to seize political power.

      • SerenityNow says

        Here’s the rub. I have thrown the idea of making a serious commitment to nuclear power as a means of addressing the climate change question with my liberal friends. France does it, they have a minuscule carbon footprint compared with most Western nations. It’s proven to be effective, clean, and safe. Yet with all these facts backing up the benefits of nuclear power to tackle fossil fuel use, I get roundly rejected by those who say nuclear is not the answer.

        I wish I knew why they oppose it.

    • Bob graham says

      Erich is obviously in panic mode, pleading patriotism as a reason to “attack” climate change, whe we have NO idea how (or why) to do this!
      His contention that COs and global temp are the failed idea of the IPCC, and has been shown to be grossly wrong, with real world data, not computer modelling. The IPCC proposal grossly magnifies the CO2 effect, totally out of step with reality. CO2 levels continue to rise, while global temp has been flat for 2 decades. There are studies of past conditions that show CO2 levels FOLLOW temp increases; rather than CAUSING them. The data is confusing and even the IPCC them selves state “future weather is chaotic in nature, and currently unpredictable or controllable”.
      Adaption and mitigation are the only logical responses; not establishing bigger bureaucracies or film flam schemes.

  9. Brown offers a terribly confused and mistaken article. AGW is not a matter of opinion. One either supports the tenets of science or they do not. There are those who believe reality is determined by consensus and there are those who know reality is defined by empirical evidence. Left and right are merely labels for that division.

    Since the increasing trend in total atmospheric CO2 concentration does not reveal a measurable anomaly, deviation or increase in slope associated with the proclaimed contribution of CO2 by humans from burning fossil fuels, then it is not logical to expect that human-produced CO2 will result in a measurable change in temperature as a result of burning fossil fuels, nor a change in sea level, nor a change in glaciers, nor a change in myriad other natural events. All of these measurements of other natural events are confounded by numerous additional simultaneous biases which are absent from the simple measurement of net CO2 atmospheric concentration trend versus time, measured by the Keeling facility on Mauna Loa since the late 1970s.

    The introduction of human-produced CO2 is not detectable as a change in the ongong rate of change in net atmospheric CO2 concentration. That is the baseline measurement. The human input is not a detectable blip. Yet the Keeling Mauna Loa CO2 data easily and reproducibly records the changes in the CO2 concentration due to winter and summer changes in plant growth.

  10. dirk says

    About this Tragedy of the Commons, that, indeed, was a special case. And one of the great difference of the New World and the old Continent.

    Early 19th century, a certain British economist came with the idea that individual behaviour in a common field would eventually be at a disadvantage of all, especially where grazing potentials and productivity was at stake. This idea scarcely had any impact or interest, because, everybody knew this truth, either directly (many people at the time had a few sheep , cows or a horse in the commons), or from hear say.

    However, some 100 yrs later exactly the same thing was explained (not by an economist now, but by an ecologist) in the journal SCIENCE. Imagine the turmoil that followed. Not only this article was cited more than any other one before, also the impact and discussions were chaotic. Huuuh?? What??
    What is this now? The holy grail of Adam Smith after all not so holy anymore? The profits of individual enterprise not in the end profitable for society and all of us?? The utilitarianism in discredit?? This can’t be!

    No, this was also highly improbable in a fresh,,new nation as the US, with lots of hinterland and seemingly endless resources, and, besides, at the verge of imposing its imperium and influence on the rest of the globe, just after 2 worldwars won, just after the birth of the UN and the Worldbank.

    However, these times now seem already archaic, and no longer valid.

  11. erich20 says

    I’m glad to see we are addressing each other’s comments and not just screaming into a vacuum. Mr. Graham, I’d like to see the data you’re using to draw these conclusions. Everything thing I’ve read and heard form top scientists specifically says the exact opposite of what you contend. Look at climate.gov or NASA’s website or listen to leading Ivy League scientists. They all concur with what I outlined. Temperatures have risen by 0.8 C since the 1950’s and 1.4 C since the 1880’s. Satellite images also show a 40% decrease in the norther polar ice sheet since the nineties and every major scientific organization on the planet concurs with this data.

    It feels like the naysayers are the chicken littles in this real world challenge and I struggle to understand why. Even the Coke brothers recently employed climate scientists to refute NASA’s and European data and the scientists they hired came back with data that mirrored by NASA and Europe.

    I’m not pleading patriotism. I’m pointing out how patriots act when the stakes are high and a difficult decision needs to be made. This used to be an ideal respected by Republicans.

    Why do we continue to support burning fossil fuels on a global scale. Energy consumption is expected to increase dramatically this century as more and more people move out of poverty around the world. It is time to move to better science. If we don’t, other nations will and they will pass us by because they will have more affordable energy, a larger labor force and fewer environmental issues to contend with. When did the US stop playing to win?

  12. Bob Cherba says

    “The counter-narrative from the Left is that greedy corporations and individuals exploited natural resources for their own gain at the expense of the planet and the general public. They therefore support policies that blame and punish the fossil fuel industry in the name of cosmic justice and atonement.”

    The Left seems to ignore that the only reason these “greedy corporations” exist is because the general public buys what they produce. In the 1800s, people preferred coal to wood, and kerosene to whale oil, and driving cars to walking or using horses, which were choking cities with manure and urine. For the last 100 yrs or so we’ve increasingly liked traveling by air rather than train or steamboat.

    These were all improvements in our standard of living and improved the environment we lived in — and freed most of us from spending our lives scratching out a living on farms.

    I’m in my 80s, a retired engineer, conservative (Republican if you like.), and have been skeptical of the catastrophic climate change predictions as long as I can recall. Models are GIGO, no matter how powerful the computer; the atmosphere is chaotic; the “scientists” keep “adjusting” the data (always in the warmer direction); we’ve had more severe weather in the past; Algore lies to us; it’s more about world government/socialism/communism/redistribution than the climate; and few if any of the doomsday predictions of the alarmists have ever come true.

    The world will not end tomorrow, or next year, or in 2100. I hear the sun will incinerate us in a few billion years.

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