The Link Between Climate Change Denialism and Fundamental Christianity

I think the primary political framework for climate change denialism is Libertarianism, with a lot of overlap with Tea Partiers, who are essentially Libertarians Without Brains. Libertarians can't live with the fact that their philosophy guarantees the misery and horrors of climate change so most of them (but not all) exist in full denial. At the same time, christian fundies are against climate change science because they are against science. Fundamentalist and Atheist Libertarians overlap in the area of climate science denialsim, and it is often strange to see that. We even see climate change denialists among organizations like JREF and other skeptical groups, and now and then I've seen those individuals allying with fundamentalist anti-science Christian-motivated denialists to attack scientists or science communicators.

Meanwhile, this is bizarre and disturbing at several levels:

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We've seen this sort of thing before many times (remember the guy in Washington State who wanted to create giant fans that would float around in the sky and cool things down?). Just thought you might want to see a current example so you know they are all still crazy.

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Of course if you truly follow what Christ suggests you don't worry about the future one bit: "Consider the lillies of the field...) from the sermon on the mount as an example. But of course as usual one uses Christ to ones own purposes and ignores even the full implications of that idea, i.e. you should not worry about future deficits in the same way as not worry about climate change.
A much bigger part is don't you tell me smartly pants how I ought to live, its none of your business. If it does not directly harm someone stay out of my business.

Creationism+Tobacco tactics=Climate Denial. Without either of its two ingredients I don't think climate denial would be as big of a problem.

Not that all fundies are climate-change deniers. There are whole evangelical groups promoting the science. As well, most evangelical churches tend not to be involved in climate change denialism because they're putting efforts into community projects instead.**

I don't know what it is like in churches down in the states though (those ones appear to be slightly more rabid, at least based on the media-coverage we're fed).

*caveat: this is just from my experience. I was a fundie and still have many friends active in the church, and am in contact with many people around the country (and some in the states) I went to seminary with, so I definitely more general info on this than even most church folks, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if a proper survey showed me to be wrong.

By Dan J. Andrews (not verified) on 13 Apr 2013 #permalink

Greg, please document your comments on libertarianism. I've been a libertarian for decades (and an atheist for one) and libertarianism is based on the premise that government is too easily corrupted so we need to keep it focused only on what we really need from it (like protection of the commons and our freedoms) and be constantly on the alert for this corruption. What libertarians really care about w.r.t climate change is not that's its not real (we have been convinced of it) but what to do about it. Gov't programs are guaranteed to be big, costly, corrupt and largely ineffectual. Real free markets permit different solutions to be tried and winners determined by economics, certainly not a perfect system but better than having large corporations 'buy' gov't issued preferences which simply enrich their top stakeholders (note: not necessarily stockholders).

Not all evangelicals are fundamentalist, although in popular culture the terms the terms tend be used interchangeably, and the definitions tend to get fuzzy. See, for example:
(the link claims that about a third of people that identify as evangelical voted for Gore)

I suspect (admittedly without much evidence) that climate denialism among fundamentalists is driven more by politics (in that they have identified with the GOP) than by religious dogma.

By Nick Theodorakis (not verified) on 14 Apr 2013 #permalink

Nathan, Ron Bailey himself told me that he was practically drawn and quartered by his fellow libertarians when he came out saying that climate change is real a couple of years back. His positions sounds much like yours, but it is not the position that Bailey claimed was common among libertarians.

The Heartland Institute is self identified as a Libertarian organization and has board members and affiliates who claim themselves to be Libertarians. Heartland, a "libertarian think tank," is a key player in climate science denialism, and by that I mean claiming that climate change is not real, or if it is, it is not caused by humans, etc.

Beyond that, I can't help you much; both climate change denialists and liberians tend to shift the definitions around enough that it is hard to see how "principled liberians" such as yourself and Ron fit into that particular political movement.

Regarding letting the free market fix climate change, that is impossible. The external costs of carbon release are not part of the market and can't be part of the market forces. Imagine a world where money, once it became 100 years old, exploded and killed whoever owned it, but that this feature was unacknowledged. You might get a nice free market thing going in many respects (though that is unrealistic given the demands on society and individuals that a true free market system makes to be a true fee market system) but then the people would money would get all blow'd up, and that would not be part of the market forces. Unless you can show me now the free market would address the external costs of fossil energy use, I have to view your suggestion as impossible. An example of an external cost wold be moving much of the world's population inland out of cities that will be flooded by sea level rise, caused by melting glaciers, caused by warming, caused by burning carbon.

I'll save you the trouble of providing two of the usual Libertarian answers to that question:

1) The threat of sea level rise is exaggerated. (It isn't)

2) We need to rethink cities anyway. (True, but that does not explain how you link costs of moving New York City to Beacon, New York to heating your home and hot water.)

I'm sorry we did not get to address your comment on line .... the email came to us as the show was closing, apparently, it would have been interesting to have discussed it on the air.

If you look at major climate denier websites it is not a rare thing to see posts from people who are openly anti-evolution. Guys like Spencer and Denning are frequent commenters and nobody even seems to care that these dudes are clearly fine with anti-majority opinions that would earn them an F in junior high biology. Even when you point it out to them nobody cares AT ALL.

And for people that follow creationism closely the arguments all start to sound familiar.
Evolution/AGW is always on the verge of collapse, you know, for decades...

'Libertarians can’t live with the fact that their philosophy guarantees the misery and horrors of climate change'

The unstated premise is that your view on the subject is correct, so people who reject it must have some bad reason for doing so. You might take a look at the work of Tol and Nordhaus, two economists who have specialized in trying to work out the consequences of climate change. Both of them think something should be done (I disagree, for reasons I've discussed on my blog). But their estimates of consequences are very far short of the sort of horror story you imagine.

Or look at the current IPCC report—not the rhetoric but the numbers. My favorite bit is:

"Some low-lying developing countries and small island states are expected to face very high impacts that, in some cases, could have associated damage and adaptation costs of several percentage points of GDP."

Compare "costs of several percentage points of GDP" with the talk of island nations under water, tens or hundreds of millions of climate refugees, and the like.

By David Friedman (not verified) on 16 Apr 2014 #permalink

Your unstated premise is that T&N are correct. They aren't, according to lots of people who have looked into this. Anyway, I'm not sure what your point is.