Flying GOP Climate Skeptics to London to "Influence" Their Views is a Terrible Idea
The Guardian reports that back in 2009, the UK Foreign Office and a US green group funded an effort to bring climate change deniers in Texas over to England to help "influence" their views and to "move them from a state of denial and inaction to one of acceptance and effective action".
The Guardian explains:
The money was used to fly two Texan state politicians, including the climate sceptic Republican Troy Fraser, to the UK to receive a briefing with climate scientists and government officials. A conference was also held at the Texas Capitol in Austin in which a video of Prince Charles personally addressing Texan politicians on the subject of climate change was shown.Texas governor and magnificent flop of a presidential candidate Rick Perry has found out about the trip, and he is pissed. Through a spokeswoman, he said:
"In Texas, we base our policy decisions on sound science and what is ultimately best for our citizens. Man-made global warming remains but a theory and one where thousands of scientists remain sceptical. It would be irresponsible to put our entire economy at risk based on unproven science. Our state has one of the best success stories in cleaning our air, all while remaining the nation's leading energy producer and job creator. Given these achievements, it would seem those UK tax dollars were misdirected."I'll agree with at least one part of Perry's assessment—those UK tax dollars were very largely misdirected indeed. Not because the effort wasn't well-intentioned, as I'm sure it was.
But climate change skepticism is not the result of an individual or a group of people taking a hard look at the science and coming up with a different conclusion. It is the result of an effort to support pre-existing ideological preferences—like 'big government is bad' or 'liberal elites shouldn't tell us what to do'. It is a culture war issue.
And there's little that I can think of that can more powerfully ignite a culture war than news of European bureaucrats teaming up with an environmental group to try to "influence" conservative climate skeptics.
That sentence alone ready-loads the skeptic community's guns, and gives them a major variety of slights to take umbrage over. Europe-loving liberal elites telling conservatives what to do is one of the most politically powerful narrative myths of our time, and feeding into it isn't going to help anything.
It reminds me, in fact, of the letter-writing campaign the Guardian launched during the 2004 election, where the British newspaper implored its readers to exhort Ohio residents to vote Kerry. We all know how that worked out—the conservative movement saw it as further evidence of their greatest fears, it played right into the overarching narrative, and the backlash galvanized voters in the opposite direction. This certainly isn't a strategy anyone should be using to engage culture war issues, and climate skepticism is no exception.