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As I have said before, the GOP position on climate is unstable, both intellectually and politically. You can’t credibly deny the science at this point, but if you accept it, “do nothing about it” is an incoherent response. They’ve only gotten away with it for this long because the media and the public don’t care enough to press them on it.
Climate hawks are always predicting that now, finally, is the time when that position will start to crumble. I’ve predicted it myself, and been wrong, or at least premature.
Nonetheless, it really does feel like something is starting to happen. The GOP’s incoherent climate shuck-and-jive is under pressure and the cracks are starting to show.
The conservative base is convinced that climate change is a U.N. plot for world government. Meanwhile, mainstream elites in the U.S. and virtually every other country in the world, along with every major scientific institution on the planet, say climate change is a real problem. This puts some Republicans in a bit of a pickle.
There are many Republicans in the House of Representatives, and some in the Senate, who have no reason to care about anything but what the base wants. They are elected with sufficiently large and safe majorities that their only real worry is attack from their right. And of course there are lots of conservative commentators, pundits, and gasbags who make a living appealing to the base and have no incentive whatsoever to challenge it.
There are some in the conservative fold, however, who need either the votes or the support of people outside the right-wing bubble. And to people outside the bubble, “climate change is a hoax” has started to look like a crazy conspiracy theory.
However, no conservative is allowed to endorse taxes or pollution regulations of any kind, ever. Opposition to “big government” is far more fundamental to the coalition than anything to do with climate change, one way or the other.
So Republicans reaching outside the bubble need a way of appearing not to deny the science, but not quite accepting it either, while absolutely denying anything should be done about it. It’s not pretty to watch.
Let’s look at a few fun examples.