How to Talk to a Conservative about Climate Change
I spend a lot of time posting comments on blogs to convince people that humans are causing global warming and the impacts could be costly. I have noticed that people of conservative/libertarian political orientation are generally unconvinced and often respond quite emotionally. A study by Kahan, et al. (2007) called The Second National Risk and Culture Study: Making Sense of – and Making Progress In – The American Culture War of Fact (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1017189) reveals the reason. Individuals who do not like the solution to a problem will deny that there is a problem. However, if the solution offered is acceptable to those same individuals, the problem becomes real.
Conservatives abhor regulation and increased government spending (higher taxes). Combating global warming entails both so it makes sense that some conservatives will deny there is a problem. If conservatives are shown how climate change impacts their world view, perhaps they might get on board.
Military and intelligence organizations from several countries are already considering the negative effects of climate change. For example, the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) published a study titled The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change. This 124 page document can be downloaded at: http://www.climateactionproject.com/docs/071105_ageofconsequences.pdf Gwynne Dyer in his book Climate Wars also details the geopolitical impact of climate change.
The blurb below is what I thought would resonate with conservatives. My hope is that some of you will be able to help me to crystallize these issues and perhaps add others that you think are needed. Once we fine-tune this blurb, we can all use it when faced with a skeptical conservative.
In a “business as usual” scenario where emissions of GHGs continue to rise, the following consequences are realistic: increased immigration, higher food costs, greater government subsidies (higher taxes), higher insurance rates, increased authoritarian governments, increased terrorism, nuclear proliferation in Arab states, and regional and global wars between countries with nuclear weapons.
- Due to expanding drought, ever-increasing numbers of immigrants enter the U.S. from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean creating political turmoil and dividing the nation. Securing the border will be expensive and will divert military resources from abroad at a time when tensions are running high around the world.
- Due to increasing and wide-spread drought and frequent flooding, crop failures increase the cost for food to the general public and massive government subsidies (charity) must be used to prop up the collapsing agriculture industry thus increasing taxes on the general public.
- Agriculture may end in central California as rivers fail due to the lack of summer snowmelt from the Sierra and Rocky Mountains.
- Fisheries worldwide collapse as oceans acidify, corals bleach and die, and coastal wetlands are destroyed by inundation. Food costs rise and there will be political pressure to subsidize the failing fishing industry – a cost that average citizens will bear.
- Rising sea levels flood our largest ports. Stronger hurricanes batter the coast and heavy floods inundate cities and communities along our major rivers. Insurance rates rise and taxes increase to pay for the recovery and to move ports inland.
- In Latin America, severe climate change will likely lead to fewer democratic governments and more “Chavez-like” ones.
- Authoritarian regimes will become increasingly popular in Europe, especially in Russia, as these types of politicians will exploit people’s misery and direct anger toward the US which caused much of the global warming.
- Fundamentalists Islamic groups will increasingly gain support from desperate people who wish to punish the US for causing their misfortunes. What costs will we bear to combat the terrorism that undoubtedly results?
- Increased regional and global wars are likely. Will the US stand by and watch or will we be plunged into several wars? Areas of concern:
- Nuclear-armed India will be under ever increasing political pressure to shut down the mass emigration from Bangladesh as that country increasingly gets inundated by sea-level rise and increased storm surges from stronger cyclones. As India moves troops toward the east, will Pakistan saber-rattle to the west?
- Iraq, Syria, and Turkey fight over Turkey’s control of the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, further destabilizing the fragile Middle East.
- Arab countries increase their nuclear capabilities to desalinate water and, in doing so, proliferate nuclear weapons to protect their dwindling resources.
- Rivers fed by glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau (Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Salween, Mekong, and Yangtze) will initially flood due to rapid glacial melt but will eventually dwindle thus causing water shortages to billions of people during summer when needed most. This will lead to food shortages and cross-border conflicts between NUCLEAR nations such as China, India, and Pakistan.
- Will India redirect water away from Pakistan to feed its own people? Will Pakistan use nukes to rest this resource back?
- When China faces massive food shortages, will China move on a Siberia made agriculturally more productive from global warming? China needs to feed its billions and Russia must defend its borders. Tensions will be high between these two nuclear superpowers.
Mitigating the impact of climate change will be expensive but it appears that doing nothing at all could be far more costly in terms of food costs and more taxes, increased terrorism against the US, and the lives of our sons and daughters as they are sent to fight in the increasing numbers of conflicts around this warmer world.