Commentary: Climate change and the conservative identity crisis

By John Krull
TheStatehouseFile.com 

INDIANAPOLIS – Thank goodness climate change turned out to be just a liberal hoax.

As the folks in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and Puerto Rico now can attest, there is absolutely no evidence that weather patterns have become more volatile and that the storms that hit us have become more and more powerful.

John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com

That’s why we didn’t see any flooding in any of those places. There were no power outages. No buildings were damaged.

No one lost a home or any belongings.

And, of course, that’s why no one died or was hurt.

Really, there was no suffering at all.

Because climate change is just a liberal hoax.

If it sounds like I’m scoffing at the conservative denial regarding climate change, it’s because I am.

I’ve never understood the hostility so many principled conservatives feel when it comes to the issue.

(The key word there is “principled.” The motivations of those conservatives who simply want to belly up to the trough supplied by the Koch brothers – who are heavily invested in fossil fuels – are easy to grasp.)

The reason that hostility mystifies me is that, in several key ways, dealing with climate change squares well with classic conservative thought.

Classic conservatives believe in preserving options. Therefore, they generally want to err on the side of caution. Rather than saying we shouldn’t be worrying about climate change until we know for sure that it’s a problem, they would be arguing that we should be taking sensible precautions until we’re sure there isn’t a problem.

If you doubt that, please substitute any other challenge – terrorism, North Korea, the old Soviet Union, gay marriage, etc. – in the place of “climate change” in that last sentence and see if it sounds like something a conservative leader would say.

Second, most conservatives’ faith in direct cause and effect is profound. That faith is so deeply rooted that they believe that even the smallest tax increase anywhere will have drastic economic consequences everywhere.

Yet, regarding climate change, these same conservatives find themselves in the position of arguing that we can pump and dump massive amounts of pollutants into the air, water and land – and that doing so will have no impact on the environment whatsoever.

The last point is the one that normally would be persuasive.

There is a massive amount of money to be made. Huge numbers of jobs will be created by solving the climate change problem – as we’ve already seen.

In 2016, the power creation industry in the United States provided around 1.9 million jobs. Roughly 40 percent of those jobs now are provided by renewable or low-emission power sources.

The solar power industry, for example, provided more than twice as many jobs as the coal industry – and that number keeps growing.

That’s why states and countries with intelligent, forward-thinking leadership are spending more time investing in newer, environmentally responsible technologies than they are in propping up old energy sources. Those states and countries aren’t doing so simply because they have governors who love to hug trees.

No, they’re doing it because they like the clinking sounds the coins make when they fall into their piggy banks. And they know that people who have good-paying jobs are more likely to be happy.

This is as it should be.

Capitalism, at its heart, is a system of rewarding people for solving problems. We pay the plumber not out of the goodness of our hearts, but because he or she fixed the pipes or kept the toilet from backing up.

For that reason, conservatives say they trust the market to respond to challenges and solve problems.

Except, apparently, when it comes to climate change.

In that case, they call it a hoax and invest heavily in trying to prevent the market from solving the problem.

There’s a cost for such foolishness.

Some of that cost will be calculated in lost jobs for coming generations and declining standards of living for those who try to deny the future, because the future will not be denied.

The more immediate cost, though, is being imposed on the communities and states that find themselves battered by winds and waves because too many conservatives forgot who they are.

And what they should stand for.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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