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Will the American Right Kill Us All?

The Republican Right and its Tea Party allies have prevented the U.S. government from responding aggressively to the global warming emergency.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/ nunosilvaphotography


It is a touchstone of the American Right that the Framers drafted the U.S. Constitution in 1787 to tightly constrain the federal government and to promote states’ rights – and that this supposed “originalism” is inviolable regardless of the perceived needs of the nation or the dangers implicit in this so-called “strict construction.”

For various reasons – from the mainstream media’s timidity to the disdain some progressives feel for the Constitution’s compromises on slavery – this right-wing Founding Narrative rarely gets challenged, even though it is a demonstrable fiction. But this lazy tolerance of  the Right’s made-up historynow is becoming an existential threat to mankind.

That is because the scientific consensus continues to solidify that human activity is causing global temperatures to increase dangerously, possibly causing a catastrophic rise of three feet in sea levels by the end of the century. Yet, right-wing obstructionism, which deems federal environmental activism unconstitutional, has hobbled any effort to enact a timely response to the emergency.

The scope of the impending environmental disaster is fast becoming incontestable among scientists.

“It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010,” a draft report from the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said, according to the New York Times. “There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level and changed some climate extremes in the second half of the 20th century.”

The consequences are expected to grow much worse in the coming decades, with many climate scientists seeing the probability of temperatures rising more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit if the present trend continues, the Times reported.

“Warming the entire planet by 5 degrees Fahrenheit would add a stupendous amount of energy to the climate system,” the Times wrote. “Scientists say the increase would be greater over land and might exceed 10 degrees at the poles. They add that such an increase would lead to widespread melting of land ice, extreme heat waves, difficulty growing food and massive changes in plant and animal life, probably including a wave of extinctions.”

The possibility of a three-foot rise in sea levels would threaten some of the world’s major cities, possibly displacing hundreds of millions of people. The mix of mass dislocations from flooding and the loss of traditional agricultural lands to drought could exacerbate geopolitical tensions and spark warfare among desperate countries facing steep declines in standards of living or even mass starvation.

Given the prevalence of nuclear weapons in the hands of rival nations where the impact of global warming might be particularly severe – from China, India and Pakistan to Great Britain, Israel and the United States – the threat to human existence is made even more acute.

Politicizing Science

Aggressive action by the U.S. government, in particular, is required to avert this impending catastrophe, but today’s Right has politicized the near scientific certainty about global warming and the human role in its acceleration.

From the Tea Party to the “libertarians,” oil money from fossil-fuel energy tycoons, such as Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. has fueled “populist” propaganda challenging the case for global warming, first by funding “scientists” who quibble with the research or who assert that the warming will be modest and manageable.

Beyond that, America’s political Right has added climate change to its list of perceived “statist” conspiracy theories, claiming that the scientific consensus is just a plot by Al Gore and “liberals” to find another excuse for overriding the supposed constitutional principles of a tightly constrained federal government.