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How Did an Entire Political Party Decide to Reject Climate Change Science?

This post first appeared in the Washington Monthly. Ron Brownstein notes in a terrific new National Journal column just how striking it is to see a major American political party decide, all at once, to reject climate science in its entirety. (via Jay Rosen) British Foreign Secretary William Hague, a prominent conservative leader in the U.K., was in the U.S. last week, and described climate change as perhaps the 21st century's biggest foreign-policy challenge," He added, "An effective response to climate change underpins our security and prosperity."
His strong words make it easier to recognize that Republicans in this country are coalescing around a uniquely dismissive position on climate change. The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones. [...] Just for the record, when the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences last reviewed the data this spring, it concluded: "A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems." Not only William Hague but such other prominent European conservatives as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have embraced that widespread scientific conviction and supported vigorous action. Indeed, it is difficult to identify another major political party in any democracy as thoroughly dismissive of climate science as is the GOP here. Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, says that although other parties may contain pockets of climate skepticism, there is "no party-wide view like this anywhere in the world that I am aware of."
And in case this isn't clear, unanimous Republican opposition to any meaningful efforts to combat global warming makes any kind of coordinated international effort impossible. What's more, as the climate crisis intensifies, and the need for swift action becomes even more painfully obvious, the GOP line is getting worse, not better. How many Republican U.S. Senate candidates on the ballot this year support efforts to address global warming? None. I realize that part of the problem here is that Republicans reject the science because they oppose the solutions. If they acknowledged reality, GOP officials would no doubt have a harder time explaining why they don't want to deal with a climate crisis that has the potential to wreak havoc on the planet in dramatically dangerous ways. But the result is the same. The combination of deliberate Republican ignorance and the Republican scheme to break the United States Senate makes the crisis even more serious, with little hope on the horizon. It also speaks to a larger truth -- because there's no commonly shared reality among Democratic and Republican policymakers, the prospects for compromise are effectively non-existent. Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine this morning noted, "I don't know who first described politics as the 'art of compromise,' but that maxim, to which I have always subscribed, seems woefully unfashionable today." Yeah, I wonder why that is.