Become What You Despise? Why "Beating" Conservative White Male Climate Deniers May Mean Joining Them

Wed, 2011-08-17 07:44Chris Mooney
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Become What You Despise? Why "Beating" Conservative White Male Climate Deniers May Mean Joining Them

David Roberts of Grist has written a wonderful and psychologically deep portrait of why conservative white males deny climate change—and much else—and how this is an unshakeable part of their political identities. He concludes that you can’t sway them, so you have to just beat them, politically, with activism and votes.

To do that, Roberts adds, you need not to move to the center, but to stoke intensity on the part of your base. So that’s what we need to focus on:

….perhaps the answer is not to reduce intensity in hopes of attracting CWM. Perhaps the answer is to increase intensity in order to overcome CWM. Intensity is increased first and foremost through organizing, but also through clear, inspiring messages that draw sharp lines between those fighting for progress and those fighting against it.

The implicit premise of climate “pragmatism” and similar efforts is that CWM are stronger, that climate hawks can’t win a direct clash. And for now, that seems to be true. Beating back the radical conservative resurgence is something that nobody on the left has figured out yet. But the alternative, attempting to win over CWM by soft-pedaling climate, doesn’t exactly have a record of success either.

Roberts is so close, and yet also so far.

Everything he says about the psychology of conservatives is right on, and there are actually multiple studies proving it. But he says nothing about the psychology of liberals–which is basically the flipside of what he says about his “CWMs.”

This means that, while there may be exceptions, for the most part liberals-slash-envirionmentalists are not going to be as opinion intense or as unified as conservatives. They are going to disagree and squabble more amongst themselves. They are going to focus not on being the same as one another and being unified, but on being different and unique–disunified, and disorganized.

So how do you make liberals into the true and non-oxymoronic “climate hawks” that Roberts wants to see? It’s incredibly hard. Just look at the spats that erupt constantly on the center and left over climate policy, and how everybody is balkanized and in a completely different camp from those who are only half a political degree away from them on a 360 degree spectrum.

Look at the repeated internecine fights we’ve had over the “End of Environmentalism,” over framing, and over whether messaging should focus on talking about clean energy or about the science of climate.

Or, just count how many different environmental groups there are.

Or, just watch the Monty Python bit about the People’s Front of Judea versus the Judean People’s Front.

You get the point, I think.

So what’s the solution?

I’d say the beginning of the solution is to teach liberals and environmentalists about their own psychology–they’re often clueless about this, all the way up to the White House, apparently. And then call a summit to see if they will actually finally behave in a unified way.

The problem is, you’d better not make it a summit in which everybody gets to have an equal say, and there is no “leader” calling the shots. So you have to design a highly structured agenda at a highly organized and businesslike meeting. And then you have to hope that all these liberal environmentalists will return home and stick to it and implement it…see the problem here?

Previous Comments

It is always easier to say no/take the negative in any argument rather than present new solutions or try to compromise. Since liberals tend to be more open to compromise and seeking the middle road, their path is always going to be harder than the fundamentalist “No”

Are you ever shocked or surprised when you move your mouth, at the things that tumble out of it?

I agree with you completely. The Climate Hawks are really more of Climate Pigeons. They flock in huge numbers, but scatter in chaos at the first sign of danger.

You are right though that the Climate Pigeons will never be able to beat CWM’s in the climate fight. The CWM’s are smarter, wealthier and better organized.

The Climate Pidgeons are nothing more than a loose coalition of journalists, academics, overpopulationists, NGO leaders and others who receive climate funding for their salaries.

Both you Chris, and David Roberts who you are responding to, make your living primarily off environmental publishing, with a central focus on Climate Change.

Maybe its time to join the CWM’s and get a real job.

The ultimate goal of “beating the conservatives” needs an adjustment.

How about a free exchange of ideas while recognizing and looking for valid concepts from every side.

How about everybody taking a step back starting with cutting back on the labels?

I’d say the beginning of the solution is to teach liberals and environmentalists about their own psychology–they’re often clueless about this……

Hmmmm……….

I’d be a bit careful about this approach if I were you.

Once you point out to them that their entire worldview is founded upon a set of dubious principles, adopted solely to bolster their self esteem, who knows where it could lead - mass mental breakdown I expect.

As the saying goes, “If all Dave Roberts and liberal psychologists have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a conservative white male”. lol

Gee who was that guy who wrote about liberal psychologists being biased against conservatives due to inbreeding of thought and leading to a closed-minded point of view? Where is that guy when you need him? lol

Lets see, weve already got Schwarzenegger, the Pope, McCain, and a BUNCH of folks that were for climate before they were against it. It seems like CWMs are strangely disorganized and non-disciplined. Maybe they arent responsive to leadership as much as they are to PR and propaganda campaigns.

For the CWM deniers, there is no shaking them. They are completely duped by their party & scientific evidence will not sway them. It’s like orthodox religious folk. There IS no possible other reality for them. They need to hear their denier messiah’s change their minds first. Then, like good lapdogs & unthinking drones, they will change too.

It’s largely only a phenomenon experienced in Oz, Canada & the USA where the largest fossil fuel companies are & who in turn pay the conservatives handsome bribe money. White conservative in Europe are very supportive of the AGW theory & are leading the charge on green tech.

Shows how easily rusted on conservatives in Oz, Canada & the USA are willingly conned. Trawling the internet for denier sites to feed their confirmation bias.

Scientists just need to focus on bringing more & more evidence to the table. Deniers are weak in this area & have virtually none, only wives tales & opinion. Then progressives & conservatives that aren’t conned or bought can move forward into the green tech boom, which already employs more people than the fossil fuel sector.

Hi Phil

With all respect , we are not being “duped” by anyone. Most of us like to feret out the truth for ourselves .

I find it interesting that since “climate change” has fallen on hard times most Liberals are abandoning the propaganda. This will continue with the exception of a few remaining diehards.

Best regards in your research Phil. Thanks.

The main problem conservatives have with climate change is that they can not think of any conservative solutions to it. As a rule conservatives do not like government bureaucracies, but that is the mechanism we have for fighting climate change.

If more voters would prefer a carbon tax over regulation I think conservatives would be more open to that. For example, if I remember correctly, once the majority of Americans became concerned about climate change suddenly George W. Bush believed in it. For this election cycle though no conservative in their right mind would advocate raising taxes. http://embryonic-concepts.blogspot.com/2011/07/environmental-policy-why-we-dont-tax.html

At the beginning of President Obama’s term James Hansen sent him a letter explaining why cap and trade would be ineffective in lowering CO2 and why a carbon tax would be a much better solution. Hansen mapped out what I thought was a very equitable program ensuring that energy poor citizens would be protected from rising energy prices. The president was never interested in meeting with Dr. Hansen and backed away from any leadership on the issue leaving it to Harry Reed and Nancy Pelosi.

When Waxman-Markey C&T was introduced I remember reading that it would give Nancy Pelosi discretion over $6 billion in revenue to distribute as she saw fit, and while citizens in her district might not have been concerned who got that $6 billion, the rest of the country was concerned about abuse in the form of money dolled out to political supporters.

Your point is even harder to refute when trust in congress is now 11%. A clear transparent apolitical carbon tax could be a possibility but I see it still meeting alot of resistance until we get back to a much more robust economy and it would be met with disdain by Wall Street and Banks that would profit from carbon trading. Also such a tax would only be considered by Romney or Huntsman if BHO loses in 2012.

I really think that neither C&T nor a straight carbon tax will ever be implemented in the US or Canada anytime soon. Politicians in those places are paying very close attention to what is happening (politically) in Both the UK and Australia. The British papers are all crying about ‘fuel poverty’ for ALL people there and the Aussies are going to run PM Gillard out of office after she went back on her campaign promises and passed a very unpopular carbon tax.
Let’s be honest about this; the majority of voters don’t want their fuel/electric bills to go up. Politicians aren’t stupid.

I just read at Grist that $1.42/watt solar will be here soon. You would have to be brain dead not to install solar at that cost. Residential soalr installation jobs would skyrocket. Looking at the historic cost curve on solar, which has been dropping, this is not fantasy.

In the short term though I think if Romney or Huntsman were president they could be convinced that taxing pollution is a good idea provided income taxes are eliminated or at a minimum drastically cut. Currently, companies are sitting on a mountain of cash, & taxing pollution would give them both an incentive and a target for investment.

Sooner or later though conservatives & libertarians will have to stop acting like pollution does not exist as most but not all do. Taxing pollution with commiserate reductions or elimination of income taxes will be their strategy. Liberals will oppose this because they are too invested in the class warfare narrative. http://embryonic-concepts.blogspot.com/

In my many years of real life experiences I can only find praise for our clean up and reduction of pollution. Having lived in London with its smog’s, Birmingham with its heavy engineering to clean up in San Francisco Bay up.

The biggest problem here is calling CO2 a pollutant. This goes against everything I have ever learnt or experienced (market gardener). It just doesn’t gell and observation of the success of scientific forecasts of global warming gives me no confidence.

Nothing to do with politics, religion, race, color. That’s just introducing emotive labels which to me just increase my position to what you call the skeptic/denier label you would give me.

If what I am calling pollution is unclear then what you are calling pollution is equally unclear. I will address your question though.

I will define pollution as a waste product that is disrupting a natural process that people have come to depend upon or is harmful to human health.

The legislature will have to decide what pollutants to tax & at what rate.

I am not interested in arguing in this forum what is & is not a pollutant. There is already plenty of information available on that matter else where. http://embryonic-concepts.blogspot.com/

I totally agree with you that taxing socially unacceptable practices is effective in focusing attention on them and reducing them.

However, my point is that it goes completely against my natural and observational senses to put that label on CO2.

By all means tax energy use in all its forms if that is an equitable tax. Just stop this nonsense by leading the charge with CO2. Its just a turn off to anybody who has a grain of common sense. It is also offers a gravy train for those wanting to make bucks and use as political wrangling along the way.

Understanding why CO2 can be a pollutant really is not complicated. Pure water is sure not a pollutant, but just try staying submerged for 30 minutes with no air. Not so wonderful then.

It really is possible to have TOO MUCH of an otherwise good thing.

And as for the accuracy of past predictions: if the forecasts were scattered around the observed behavior more, it would be an indication that they were not much good. But the actual course of climate change has pretty consistently *exceeded* forecasts. Our models are erring on the side of over-optimism.

CO2 becomes deadly in sufficiently high concentrations but we can’t get there from here. There is no lake of CO2 to drown in on this planet.

The problem with CO2 has to do with the green house effect of course. I was addressing the resistance to calling it a pollutant.

yeah - Im open to the possibility that the enhanced greenhouse effect may be a net positive.

In my many years of real life experiences I can only find praise for our clean up and reduction of pollution. Having lived in London with its smog’s, Birmingham with its heavy engineering to clean up in San Francisco Bay up.

The biggest problem here is calling CO2 a pollutant. This goes against everything I have ever learnt or experienced (market gardener). It just doesn’t gell and observation of the success of scientific forecasts of global warming gives me no confidence.

Nothing to do with politics, religion, race, color. That’s just introducing emotive labels which to me just increase my position to what you call the skeptic/denier label you would give me.

“In my many years of real life experiences I can only find praise for our clean up and reduction of pollution. Having lived in London with its smog’s, Birmingham with its heavy engineering to clean up in San Francisco Bay up.”

Titus it’s an age old problem & it’s nothing new. There used to be lot of pollution in most major cities around the world ( & still is for many) until regulations were put in place to force industry into better practice. Without it, they would not have changed. It was regulation that benefited those in the vicinity of the smoke stacks. Same with CFC’s & the ozone hole. Same with lead in paint or petrol. Same with asbestos in roofing or walling. Same with CO2.

Science decided there was enough evidence to change how we used those substances. Policy was drawn & eventually implemented. Not before the business put up a fight which often dragged on for years to prevent action or legislation.

Nothing much has changed , but today the new kid on the block is CO2. There is enough evidence to act & we need to act. There is no 2nd planet. There is no trial run. The affects are not just local, this one is global.It doesn’t understand politics.

Conservatives should be backing green tech free market solutions, competition & opposing monopolies.

But day in, day out ,conservatives are on this blog fighting for a monopoly on our energy & fighting the free market & competition.

Phil:
But day in, day out ,conservatives are on this blog fighting for a monopoly on our energy & fighting the free market & competition.

That is just silly and you know it.

We are all in favor of free market energy development.
If and when wind and solar and any of the other innefficient energy sources becomes viable on its own, we will for sure embrace it.
At this time, none of them can make it without rediculous subsidies so they are not in any way free marked or competitive.

And the practice of using lies about CO2 in an attempt to force their adoption is just immoral and dishonest.

CO2 is indeed just harmless plant food and we need more of it.

1000 ppm would be great.

Absolutely on the nail from my market gardening experience. This is the level where most plants are at their most efficient with a balance between best use of warmth, water and nutrients.

Of course their are planets that genetically thrive better in less and those in even more. But that’s how nature works and can maintain itself in a mind boggling plethora of conditions.

Common sense at last. Thanks “plant food”.

An interesting corrolation:

in the last 50 years,
CO2 has increased about 30%
population has increased about30%
Food production has increased about 30%

One wonders how many more people would have starved to death in that time, if CO2 had been held stable.

Hmmmmm.

But then human lives are not important to lefties. As the DDT fiasco clearly demonstrated.

“At this time, none of them can make it without rediculous subsidies so they are not in any way free marked or competitive.”

You mean like the ridiculous subsides that the fossil fuel sector has received for the past 100 years? Let’s stop the fossil fuel subsides & give the clean tech sector the same amount that the fossil fuel sector has received & we can then remove subsidies from both of them eh?

Why does the fossil fuel sector need subsidies anyway? Can’t they stand on their own two feet by now?

CO2 is indeed just harmless plant food and we need more of it.

1000 ppm would be great.”

You know you are talking to a zombie when you hear that sort of stuff. What is the highest CO2 levels on the planet that humans have experienced? You do understand that we are not plants don’t you?

How is your immigration policy at present? Are you excited about 10’s of millions wanting to migrate from hot or low lying areas into your country?

So Phil; you are then denying plants there full potential to thrive in glorious abundance. Who are these humans anyway?
Sheeeessh such arrogance. And I do not think your tree hugging friends would be very pleased hearing you say that,

And do learn some history on how populations of every living thing have continuously adapted by moving around with changing environments. Those that don’t just die. So prepare to immigrate Phil………

Reading some of this stuff I wonder who the zombies really are.

PHIL
You have been listening to your own propaganda again.

1. Show me proof of subsidies for oil companies other than competetive taxes that are no more than encentives to bring jobs to a perticular area.

2. Humans live in 5000 + ppm CO2 all the time in many environments. The average for office buildings is 1000 for goodmness sake. Your own house is often above 1000. C02 below 7000 ppm is harmless to humans. Plants do best between 1000 and 1500 on average.

3. There are to date no climate refugees and there are not likely to be any in future other than natural migrations as cliamte zones shift around as they always have.

Take a valium and relax. There simply is no crisis.

Well …. Other than the total waste of money on mythlogy.

PHIL
You have been listening to your own propaganda again.

1. Show me proof of subsidies for oil companies other than competetive taxes that are no more than encentives to bring jobs to a perticular area.”

Sure:

http://www.desmogblog.com/congress-seeks-end-billions-subsidies-oil-companies

“that are no more than encentives to bring jobs to a perticular area.”

So clean tech subsidies are a problem….because?

“2. Humans live in 5000 + ppm CO2 all the time in many environments. The average for office buildings is 1000 for goodmness sake. Your own house is often above 1000. C02 below 7000 ppm is harmless to humans.”

Please provide evidence.

“Plants do best between 1000 and 1500 on average.”

We are not plants. Also, not all plants do well with higher CO2 levels. Some staple food crops grow bigger, but have less nutrition.

“3. There are to date no climate refugees and there are not likely to be any in future ”

Obviously we will have to agree to disagree.

“natural migrations as cliamte zones shift around as they always have.”

Regardless of what YOU want to call it. How is your refugee policy? Where will the millions go that will “naturally migrate as climate zones shift”? The Holocene optimum has provided a stable environment where populations have not needed to migrate quickly or en masse. If we change that optimum, they will have to migrate.

“There simply is no crisis.”

Fortunately, there are skilled people in charge. Not armchair experts with no qualifications.

LOL……

Skilled people in charge????

Evidence please… Hahahahaaha

And as for CO2 levels… Good Grief Phil.. google Safe CO2 levels.
you can read all the government regulations about house and office levels and the Safe Standards for Mines and Submarines.
In there you will find that 1000 to 5000 are considered perfectly safe and only at extream levels does co2 even begin to become annoying.

Something over 50000 ppm as I recall….

We don’t have enough oil or gas on the planet to get the concentrtion anywhere near toxic levels. Even if we burned it all in the next year.

And really….. Phill…..

You really expect us to accept an article from this blog as credible evidence of anything…. Seriously?

“And as for CO2 levels… Good Grief Phil.. google Safe CO2 levels.”

I did, thanks for the advice. Obviously you didn’t take your own medicine.

WILL EXPOSURE TO CARBON DIOXIDE RESULT IN HARMFUL HEALTH EFFECTS?

Exposure to CO2 can produce a variety of health effects. These may include headaches, dizziness, restlessness, a tingling or pins or needles feeling, difficulty breathing, sweating, tiredness, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, coma, asphyxia to convulsions and even frostbite if exposed to dry ice.

The levels of CO2 in the air and potential health problems are:

250 - 350 ppm – background (normal) outdoor air level
350- 1,000 ppm - typical level found in occupied spaces with good air exchange.
1,000 – 2,000 ppm - level associated with complaints of drowsiness and poor air.
2,000 – 5,000 ppm – level associated with headaches, sleepiness, and stagnant, stale, stuffy air. Poor concentration, loss of attention, increased heart rate and slight nausea may also be present.
>5,000 ppm – Exposure may lead to serious oxygen deprivation resulting in permanent brain damage, coma and even death.

“only at extream levels does co2 even begin to become annoying.

Something over 50000 ppm as I recall….”

Yes, death at 5000 ppm would be rather annoying.

http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/eh/chemfs/fs/carbondioxide.htm

Also, you are talking about the effects on biology. I am talking about the effects of the planet, climate & environment. Humans are no longer nomads. We have cities in low lying areas, we build on river banks & we have largely static populations. The holocene period has ensured a stable environment for the last few thousand years. Stable enough for us to leave cities on the coastlines & rivers for centuries. Change that & you change everything. The optimum will no longer become optimum.

“You really expect us to accept an article from this blog as credible evidence of anything…. Seriously?”

You are right. I forgot you are incapable of research & finding out the facts. Thanks for the tip.

Ever notice how manaically obsessed with race Mooney and other leftists tend to be?

Its a shame that people pay so much attention to something as insignificant as skin pigment variation.

My sense is that mankind will overcome this weakness when we fully accept the science that there is only one human race.

ignorance is not bliss

You are missing a fundamental part of the equation here. I speak at least for myself.

I am a conservative , Christian , white male , reasonably intelligent , reasonably well educated , and I feel The Creator has plans for this planet irregardless of what mankind may feel about it. Sorry.

Am I being religious ??? Yes , at least that partly clouds my thinking and my reasoning.

Are you being religious ??? I would say yes , in a sense you are too. Planet Earth is your God , you worship at the altar of mother nature , Mr. Suzuki is the prophet, and Mr Gore is the savior.

If I could dis-prove the Creation theory, I would dump it in a split second. But I am not able. If I could be convinced that man can control the planet , I would side with you in an instant. But I am not able.

The theory of evolution functions exactly as intended. It keeps the Creator out of the picture. This is what men desire most. Just ask yourself.

Best regards as we ponder our future. Thank you.

Ok…
I am an athiest so clearly I don’t agree.
However…!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I believe in the scientific method.
Therefore, If I am true to science I can not prove that he is wrong and thus MUST allow for the possibility that he is right.

I don’t believe it, I simply must be honest and admit the possibility.

One thing I do know however… Irregardless is not a word. (sorry)

I do consider AGW and creation theory to be of equal merit.

This is so true I have noticed this a LOT on our side. However trying to please everyone is a losing strategy.