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How a Bunch of Corporate-Backed Buffoons Took Over U.S. Climate Policy

Climate-change deniers remain a clown show--yet they've managed to control US policy on the issue.

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He’s proved the truth of that claim many times, beginning in his pre-climate-change career when he explained to readers of the American Spectator that "there is only one way to stop AIDS. That is to screen the entire population regularly and to quarantine all carriers of the disease for life.” His personal contribution to the genre of climate-change mass-murderer analogies has been to explain that a group of young climate-change activists who tried to take over a stage where he was speaking were “Hitler Youth.”

Or consider Lubos Motl, a Czech theoretical physicist who has never published on climate change but nonetheless keeps up a steady stream of web assaults on scientists he calls “fringe kibitzers who want to become universal dictators” who should “be thinking how to undo your inexcusable behavior so that you will spend as little time in prison as possible.” On the crazed killer front, Motl said that, while he supported many of Norwegian gunman Anders Breivik’s ideas, it was hard to justify gunning down all those children -- still, it did demonstrate that “right-wing people... may even be more efficient while killing -- and the probable reason is that Breivik may have a higher IQ than your garden variety left-wing or Islamic terrorist.”

If your urge is to laugh at this kind of clown show, the joke’s on you -- because it’s worked. I mean, James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who has emerged victorious in every Senate fight on climate change, cites Motl regularly; Monckton has testified four times before the U.S. Congress.

Morano, one of the most skilled political operatives of the age -- he “broke the story” that became the Swiftboat attack on John Kerry -- plays rough: he regularly publishes the email addresses of those he pillories, for instance, so his readers can pile on the abuse. But he plays smart, too. He’s a favorite of Fox News and of Rush Limbaugh, and he and his colleagues have used those platforms to make it anathema for any Republican politician to publicly express a belief in the reality of climate change.

Take Newt Gingrich, for instance.  Only four years ago he was willing to sit on a love seat with Nancy Pelosi and film a commercial for a campaign headed by Al Gore.  In it he explained that he agreed with the California Congresswoman and then-Speaker of the House that the time had come for action on climate. This fall, hounded by Morano, he was forced to recant again and again.  His dalliance with the truth about carbon dioxide hurt him more among the Republican faithful than any other single “failing.”  Even Mitt Romney, who as governor of Massachusetts actually took some action on global warming, has now been reduced to claiming that scientists may tell us “in fifty years” if we have anything to fear.

In other words, a small cadre of fervent climate-change deniers took control of the Republican party on the issue.  This, in turn, has meant control of Congress, and since the president can’t sign a treaty by himself, it’s effectively meant stifling any significant international progress on global warming.  Put another way, the various right wing billionaires and energy companies who have bankrolled this stuff have gotten their money’s worth many times over.

One reason the denialists’ campaign has been so successful, of course, is that they’ve also managed to intimidate the other side. There aren’t many senators who rise with the passion or frequency of James Inhofe but to warn of the dangers of ignoring what’s really happening on our embattled planet.

 
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