In the wake of a comprehensive report on the projected effects of climate change nearly a century into the future—a report funded by the U.S. government and compiled by agencies within President Trump's own administration—many on the right have banged their predictable drums in order to either legitimize Trump's own kooky conspiracy theories or to delegitimize climate science as a purely political enterprise.
Set Trump aside. Of the effects climate change may have on the U.S. economy, he says gruffly, "I don't believe it." That's his prerogative and an unsurprising one, and should be taken in the context of everything else he says: whatever is convenient for him.
But for Republicans and conservatives, it's both willfully ignorant and negligent not to acknowledge that there is in fact a scientific consensus that the Earth is warming and man is responsible for much of it.
By all estimates, 97 percent to 100 percent of scientists worldwide agree on these two facts. That's about as compelling as it gets, and the longer the right refuses to accept this basic premise, the longer they'll be locked out of taking part in a meaningful solution.
Many of us on the right have long acknowledged climate change is real, only to be harangued by liberal absolutists who refused to entertain any questions about what, exactly, we should do about it besides becoming vegans, signing meaningless international treaties and throwing hundreds of millions of dollars into solar sinkholes.
There was good reason for healthy skepticism. For example, numerous scientific projections about temperatures and sea levels did not bear out. Likewise, the rigors of science, by definition, have resulted in multiple revisions of once-certain conclusions. A 2006 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for example, underestimated the effects of methane produced by livestock by a full 11 percent. And scientists are still divided on a great many things—like whether global warming is causing more hurricanes or making them more intense.
Asking questions is the basis of the scientific method, and should never be dissuaded. Conservatives should continue to debate how to stanch the effects of deadly climate change and offer solutions that are both fiscally responsible and have a high expectation of efficacy.
But for those who would continue to parrot the president's dim-witted, Fox-friendly sound bite that global warming is a "hoax," or intentionally confuse weather patterns and climate while pointing to a mound of snow in your back yard, you're now officially part of the problem.
Take, for instance, the newest iteration of climate-change deflection: "These scientists are motivated by money."
It's a charge we have heard over and again in the past few days. Among others, CNN contributor Rick Santorum argued, "If there was no climate change, we'd have a lot of scientists looking for work." He continued, "And of course, they don't receive money from corporations and Exxon and the like. Why? Because they're not allowed to, because it's tainted. But they can receive it from people who support their agenda."
Few in the media have bothered to find out whether that assertion is actually true. If they did, they'd see that a majority of climate-research funding comes either from the federal government or left-wing foundations.
But this problem cuts both ways. If the argument is to be taken seriously, then we must also disregard research that Santorum might espouse—on, say, abortion or coal or guns—because it was funded by conservative think tanks. I doubt very much he'd like that.
Republicans can continue to protest reality and stick their heads in the sand, but the sooner they acknowledge the very basic facts of climate change, the sooner they can get to crafting a conservative strategy to combat it, instead of ceding the territory solely to Democrats.