Essay by Eric Worrall
The New Yorker claims big oil money started the US partisan climate policy split. But there is a better explanation.
How Did Fighting Climate Change Become a Partisan Issue?
Twenty years ago, Senator John McCain tried to spearhead an effort. What has happened to Republicans since then?
By Elizabeth Kolbert
August 14, 2022
As a problem, climate change is as bipartisan as it gets: it will have equally devastating effects in red states as in blue. Last week, even as Kentucky’s two Republican senators—Rand Paul and the Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell—were voting against the I.R.A., rescuers in their state were searching for the victims of catastrophic floods caused by climate-change-supercharged rain. Meanwhile, most of Texas, whose two G.O.P. senators—Ted Cruz and John Cornyn—also voted against the bill, was suffering under “extreme” or “exceptional” drought.
How did caring about a drowned or desiccated future come to be a partisan issue? Perhaps the simplest answer is money. A report put out two years ago by the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis noted, “In the 2000s, several bipartisan climate bills were circulating in the Senate.” Then, in 2010, the Supreme Court, in the Citizens United decision, ruled that corporations and wealthy donors could, effectively, pour unlimited amounts of cash into electioneering. Fossil-fuel companies quickly figured out how to funnel money through front groups, which used it to reward the industry’s friends and to punish its enemies. After Citizens United, according to the report, “bipartisan activity on comprehensive climate legislation collapsed.”
Even money, though, seems an insufficient explanation. The G.O.P.’s opposition to action on climate change has transcended crass calculation to become an article of faith. …
…Read more: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/08/22/how-did-fighting-climate-change-become-a-partisan-issue
Money is most definitely an “insufficient explanation”, because for a long time there has been a great deal of money flowing from renewable actors to politicians, at least since President Carter installed solar panels on the White House in 1979. Supporting climate action is not exactly the political route to poverty. Nancy Pelosi’s son Paul, who allegedly has significant interests in Asian Lithium mines, is currently facing accusations of making money by leveraging his mother’s political position.
So what is the real explanation for the split between Democrats and Republicans over climate policy?
My personal favourite explanation is that Lord Monckton caused the split, by convincing Republicans that the climate movement is a Trojan Horse for communists and world government proponents. Monckton impressed the Republicans so much, they asked him to appear before the Congressional Energy and Environment Subcommittee in 2009.
Monckton was special advisor to Margaret Thatcher‘s UK Conservative Government between 1982 – 1986, and had a ringside seat during the period Thatcher raised the climate movement into an international priority, by speaking about the alleged climate threat on the world stage. Some have speculated Thatcher advanced the climate cause because she needed a political weapon to beat militant coal unions into submission, but few remember Thatcher was a qualified scientist. Thatcher’s graduate Chemistry dissertation was on X-Ray crystallography. She may have been genuinely concerned about CO2 emissions and global warming.
According to Monckton, the climate movement Thatcher championed subsequently morphed into a new home for anti-capitalists and the radical left.
I don’t know what influence Gorbachev had over the apparent transformation of the green movement, but as Soviet leader, Gorbachev was no friend of Capitalism. Gorbachev rejected Capitalism, even after it was obvious Deng Xiaoping’s limited but genuine Capitalist reforms were successfully reviving the Chinese Communist economy.
There are plenty of open anti-capitalists in today’s green movement.
Famous author Terry Pratchett once explained “in the bathtub of history, the truth is harder to hold than the soap, and much more difficult to find“. Any explanation of that complex time is riddled with assumptions, gaps and interpretations, including mine.
I’d love to read reader’s theories of how the split happened. I was very young when some of these events occurred, so I didn’t learn about most of these events until long after they happened. Maybe some of you were present in person when Lord Monckton presented his views to US Republicans.