A Climate of Controversy

Why does the Right—religious and otherwise—so strongly oppose the scientific theory of global warming? Everybody seems to just accept this as a given, apparently without noticing how odd it is. I can certainly understand why the Right, especially the Religious Right, would oppose theories about human overpopulation of the planet and its essential harmfulness. Such theories have obvious implications for the proper organization of sex and marriage and the family, about which the Religious Right has strong convictions. Similarly, I can understand their problems with evolution, which casts doubt on the human race being God’s favorite children. If they re-started the controversy about the geocentric vs. heliocentric vs. randomly organized universe, I could understand that too, though I would marvel at their ability to ignore evidence.

But global warming? Are they opposing the theory just because the Left (such as it is in this country) supports it? Yes, the science behind it is not yet rock-solid. I can remember back in the early 1980s reading some very persuasive scientific articles about the impending Ice Age, a theory that seems to have evaporated of its own accord in the intervening decades. (Although there is a perfectly respectable scientific scenario that involves global warming resulting in an Ice Age, at least in Europe, by way of shutting down the Gulfstream.)

One possibility is that the Right, Religious and otherwise, is in the pocket of the global oil industry, and opposes anything that could result in reducing the use of petroleum products and the profits to be derived therefrom. For individual politicians, this may be a sufficient explanation. The fact that the petroleum industry itself seems to be rolling quite well with the scientific punches and is now establishing multiple beachheads in alternative energy technologies casts doubt on it, however. The Left does seem to be underestimating the flexibility of global capitalism (which is probably quite prepared to market numerous consumer-attractive varieties of marijuana if it becomes legal, especially if tobacco also becomes illegal) but apparently the Right does too.

With some hesitation, I find myself returning to my gut-level realization that my fondest dream is somebody else’s worst nightmare. Let’s take that a step further. There are people out there for whom my fondest dream is their worst nightmare precisely because it is my fondest dream. If I (secularist feminist socialist that I am) can dream fondly of a future in which every household provides its own power from solar cells or whatever, why shouldn’t Ayn Rand, given her fondness for smokestacks and their emissions, be horrified by that dream? Certainly I read Rand’s utopian screeds with less than impartial skepticism, precisely because they are Rand’s and not, say, Marge Piercy’s. “I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,” after a while, becomes its own rationale, capable of justifying almost anything.

Some thinkers on the Right seem to honestly believe that the Leftist Conspiracy has concocted the theory of global warming as a great hoax upon both the economy and the body politic. They spend a lot of time attempting to demonstrate that the theory is not scientifically valid, or has even been fabricated from whole cloth by a bunch of mad scientists. But they never (so far as I know) bother to explain just why the scientists, or even their sinister political supporters, would go to all that trouble. Cui (the late congressman Sonny’s adopted Vietnamese daughter) bono? No doubt there are “green entrepreneurs” who could make money off it. If they’re any good at their job, they could perfectly well make money off of some other less speculative technology. Why bother with this one?

Other than the Doctor Fell theory, I have no answer, and have seen no plausible answer either from the Left or the Right. What am I missing? In the words of Our Leader, is this anything?


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