Ideology And Climate Change

Most of Australia appears to be on fire. The extent of the devastation is hard to comprehend–as this is written, 24 people have been killed, 15.6 million acres burned (so far), hundreds if not thousands of homes destroyed, and an estimated billion animals killed.

Yet, as Vox reports, government officials in Australia continue to downplay the link between climate change and the wildfires– Prime Minister Scott Morrison insists that the country doesn’t need to do more to limit its greenhouse gas emissions. The government is apparently willing to shirk its duty to protect the population and the environment in order to protect the country’s powerful mining sector.

There’s a strong scientific consensus that links climate change to the number and severity of the wildfires.In its 2018 “State of the Climate” report,  the Australian Bureau of Meteorology warned that climate change had already ushered in a long-term warming trend and was also responsible for changes in rainfall that increase the risks of wildfires.

It isn’t only Australia. The effects of climate change are appearing everywhere. In Indonesia, the capital city of Jakarta is sinking so quickly that officials are working to move it to another island. Pictures of Venice are heartbreaking. Other examples abound.

Here in the United States, the Trump administration is responding by rolling back numerous environmental measures that had been put in place both to combat pollution and address climate change. It sometimes seems as if the administration is trying to poison the air and water and actually accelerate climate change.

Sane people faced with an existential threat don’t behave this way. What explains it?

The Roosevelt Institute attributes this inexplicably destructive behavior to neoliberal ideology.

In Transcending Neoliberalism: How the Free-Market Myth Has Prevented Climate Action, Roosevelt Fellow Mark Paul and Anders Fremstad of Colorado State University present a coherent account of how neoliberalism has contributed to inaction. To do so, they explore three tenets of neoliberal ideology that have stymied action to address the climate crisis:

Decentralize democracy: A feature of the neoliberal order in the US has been the systematic decentralization of government. Neoliberals have promoted federalism to address “government failure” and subject the state to market forces, exacerbating the race to the bottom in climate policy.

Defund public investment: Neoliberals dismantled the Keynesian consensus that the state has a major role to play in providing public goods, stabilizing the macroeconomy, and solving coordination problems. In the neoliberal order, government investments are rejected as expensive and wasteful, crowding out productive private investments.

Deregulate the economy: Neoliberalism has launched a concentrated attack on government’s ability to regulate the economy. Ignoring the ability of regulations to positively shape markets, neoliberals dismiss government intervention as “red tape” that merely increases the cost of doing business.

Those tenets of neoliberalism have been mainstays of Republican policy at least since Reagan. To them, however, you have to add the rabid anti-intellectualism of the Trump administration–an anti-intellectualism married to an obsessive determination to undo anything Barack Obama accomplished. Trump has persistently worked to drive scientists out of government agencies, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that those agencies’ effectiveness depend upon sound scientific evidence.

As the New York Times, among others, has reported,

In just three years, the Trump administration has diminished the role of science in federal policymaking while halting or disrupting research projects nationwide, marking a transformation of the federal government whose effects, experts say, could reverberate for years.

Political appointees have shut down government studies, reduced the influence of scientists over regulatory decisions and in some cases pressured researchers not to speak publicly. The administration has particularly challenged scientific findings related to the environment and public health opposed by industries such as oil drilling and coal mining. It has also impeded research around human-caused climate change, which President Trump has dismissed despite a global scientific consensus.

What is it that Neil DeGrasse Tyson always says? Reality doesn’t care whether you believe it or not.

If climate change makes the Earth uninhabitable–a result that is looking more and more likely– the cause will be stubborn ignorance and the willful elevation of ideology over evidence.


  1. In just three years Trump has aided and abetted Climate Change and Global Warming to cause devastation in many corners of the earth, nowhere is it more obvious than right here. Those governments who have in past years had the wisdom and respect to look to the United States for leadership cannot separate Trump from this government’s Constitutional foundation any more than the current Republican party can. This current drastic weather making its way across this country – AGAIN – will be accepted as status quo by them because it is financially beneficial for them to do so. It is not political, it is not ideology, it is MONEY.

    “What is it that Neil DeGrasse Tyson always says? Reality doesn’t care whether you believe it or not.”

  2. The denial of climate change is directly linked to the attacks on Barack Obama’s pledge and efforts to address climate change during his terms in office. As I’ve mentioned before, the right wing, extremist, libertarian billionaires and multi-millionaires hired “consultants”, “experts” and outright professional liars to create a network of science denial about EVERYTHING having to do with regulations that would effect businesses. The Kochtupus and all the others spent millions of dollars on these attack campaigns, created hundreds of political candidates to mouth the words of their concerted and organized disinformation campaign, a campaign that said it was all about “freedom” – perhaps the most misused word in America and, perhaps, the English language.

    Rupert Murdoch merely followed the money. His propaganda machine has been in effect for decades, beginning in Australia. Now we see how wonderfully right wing extremism works in a country 1/10 the population of the United States. Oh, and the center of the Australian continent is not burning. Only the places where people and animals live in abundance. So, the right wing lunatics say, “What’s to worry? Who cares about a few station houses or some pesky koalas? We’ve gotta have our freedom.”

    To repeat, this attack on the “hoax” of climate change began in earnest when the rich boys and girls saw the brown man in the White House, and panicked. Since they also invested hundreds of millions of dollars into “think” tanks and university chairs to promote “freedom”, they simply couldn’t tolerate a loss of that investment for their own wealth creation machine, aka the Republican party.

    Now the world is in the soup. Tornadoes in January, anyone? Thanks to, literally, a handful of ultra-rich, well organized libertarian ideologues, our “freedoms” are being destroyed by the actual events predicted by those scientists that the ultra-rich have been attacking since 2009. What those bastards mean by freedom is, as our current president seems to share, freedom from the law, freedom from having to pay for anything that helps and supports anything but themselves and freedom from social constraint by any means.

    Well done, people. By staying on top of issues and keeping yourself educated about what your country and society mean and do on your behalf, you’ve allowed the few who give not a single damn about your broken car, your broken home, your broken sewer pipes, the broken pipelines spilling oil into your drinking water, the endless wars that siphon money away from your kids’ schools, or anything else that might actually make your life worth living.

    Oh. Wait. You weren’t paying attention, and now you will be unable to afford your doctors or have anything upon which to live when you’re too old to work for those billionaires. Not to worry, just keep voting for Republicans and blame all your problems on the brown guy.

  3. How do we reel in climate change objectives by countries that have never looked at it, like China. We have factories and vehicles that put out lower emissions than ever before in this country. China puts out more and more emissions.
    Many products we buy are from a country that has so much smog the people getting caught in traffic jams are becoming ill. Didn’t we even have travel advisories for some cities. Reality is unless we reel in China much of what we do here is for naught.
    In the US The truth is many companies got their taxes lowered and now incentives to get them lowered thru climate change policy seems less effective.
    Many incentives are withdrawn and policies in regards to reducing further emissions in the US have been taken away because of the huge tax cuts already given to stimulate the economy.
    NASA made 2 claims. The increase in gases can cause climate change and climate change is more influenced by the orbit of the sun. Then It will return to cooler times next decade no matter what we do? Just asking.
    Will we see huge changes or small ones over the next few years?
    It apppears Australia needs Smokey the Bear. Smokey the Bears motto “only you can prevent forrest fires remains partially true as nearly 123 people were charged in Australia for starting fires. So politicians then downplay the conditions created by climate change.

  4. Responsibility is the hardest thing in the world to take and freedom is the easiest to forfeit. We clearly have gotten everything we asked for, because mostly, we asked to be left alone.

  5. There have been warnings about the threat of climate change for decades. DECADES! Like the warnings of over population, the climate change warnings were ignored by all except the scientists. Even today, the weathermen and women will not utter those words “Global Warming” while doing the weather reports.
    Yesterday, January 11, 2020, the temperature in Indianapolis, Indiana was 60 degrees. What a sorry mess we continue to make of ourselves and our world.

  6. Getting the public on board on climate change is tough when our educational system is so weak. It is certainly “real” for folks on the coasts and some other spots clearly hit hard by storms, floods and/or fires. Unfortunately, a majority of these areas are Blue.

    The trick to to convince the rest that climate change is a threat to them now and is/will be hitting their health and/or pocketbooks. As an example, the county next to mine is raising property taxes to pay for upgrading county buildings due to the trend in heavier rainfalls and related increases in flooding.

  7. This morning I heard on TV that we have been breaking heat records all winter and will break another one today – 87 degrees – here in southwest Florida. I also heard that Borden’s (remember Elsie the Cow?) has joined Dean’s Foods (major dairy businesses) with a Chapter 11 filing. The newscaster said people are drinking less milk than they have in the past.

    It immediately occurred to me that less people drinking milk should be offset by population growth, or that Trump should play his soybean card and put dairy interests on welfare (especially since the big dairy state of Wisconsin voted for him last time and is up for grabs this fall).

    That would solve the problem, i.e., cut taxes on the rich and corporate class (like Boeing, who paid no taxes on 11 billion dollars in profits last year while building 737s that killed hundreds), put soybean and dairy interests on welfare as we have done generally via tax breaks and lack of regulation of corporate America, and then blame the resulting gigantic deficits both long and short term on Medicare, Social Security etc., all while their lobbyists and other sycophants are spreading proposed ALEC legislation over 50 state legislatures. Result? No money for fixing hoaxes such as alleged climate change. No money for single payer healthcare (or any kind of healthcare – just leave it to “the market.”) A minimum wage of $7.25 which just celebrated its tenth anniversary since it was last adjusted, a wage which, if we had factored in inflation and productivity gains since 1968, would be $22 today. This 51 year-old theft of wages which went to the bottom lines of corporations is in large part responsible for an obscene Dow which for the first time crashed 29,000 last week, a meaningless statistic to perhaps 90 percent of us. So, as I often write elsewhere, Boom for Whom, Don?

    I could go on and on, as my fellow contributors well know, but will instead here adopt the excellent insights and conclusions of Vern today in order to avoid repetition. Kudos, Vern!

    I drove through that smog in the first week of November. At first, I thought it was smoke from forest fires. But it smelled different, and its feel was different. The smog smelled like a witch’s brew of used motor oil, Clorox, coal dust, and a high school chemistry lab. At times during a 200 mile drive that smog brought traffic to a stop. The skyline of downtown Atlanta was nearly invisible from burning eyes stuck in traffic on I-75. There are photos online of the smogged-out Atlanta skyline.

    The smog was a finer particulate than smoke and was easily inhaled. It did not leave a noticeable scum on surfaces. It was sepia colored mostly, but in one mountain area a huge township-sized cloud of it traveling parallel to the freeway was nearly black.

    At the Florida state line, I stopped for the night and asked workers at the hotel where that smog came from. According to them and a bit of Google research, the smog is an almost instantaneous result of Georgia factories, mines, farmers, trucking industry, and chemical labs shutting down their scrubbers and other environmental protection equipment as soon as the Trump administration indicated it would not only ignore environmental infractions but encouraged them.

    I only know of that happening in Georgia, but I suspect it has happened in other states.

  9. Hey, Larry, less scrubbing equals a greater bottom line available to payment of dividends as well as greater capital gains opportunities, and now even the court have finally decided that the chief fiduciary duty of corporate boards is to enhance “shareholder value.” See any problems for the rest of us, and ultimately, shareholders themselves?

  10. The fundamental issue is an economic system that naturally results in sociopaths being in charge.

  11. An email last month from a friend in Perth, Australia:

    In a nutshell …

    The bushfires are concentrated in the southeast of the country — New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

    Parts of those states have been experiencing drought for the past 5 to 7 years straight.
    Last year was the hottest, driest year since record-keeping began.
    Meteorologists, scientists and farmers have been predicting and warning of catastrophic conditions for several years.

    Most of Australia’s population is concentrated in the major cities dotted around the coast — Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, Brisbane. In the cities, they actually employ people to be firefighters. However, in the bush, in the rural areas, most of the fires are volunteers — farmers, bankers, real estate agents, fishermen, publicans — who, when they get the call, down their tools, their pens, their beer glasses, etc and rush off to protect their neighbours’ properties. Under normal circumstances, they are able to bring things under control in a reasonable amount of time, but in these conditions they were woefully unprepared for what lay ahead.

    Some fires are started by dry lightning strikes, others by sparks from farm machinery or welding, others by back-burning gone wrong, unexpected wind shifts, campfires left unattended, the careless flick of a cigarette butt, and even arson — sometimes perpetrated by young volunteer firefighters who are bored, looking for a bit of action and heroic admiration. It happens.

    In any case, since mid-December, spot fires have been popping up all over the place, sometimes merging together to make mega fires, the mega fires burning with such ferocity that they create their own weather systems. In one situation, two volunteers were killed when a molten tornado picked up their 10-ton firetruck and flipped it onto the men.

    The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, copped a lot of flak for spending Christmas holidays in Hawaii with his family while back home the country was burning. His holiday happy snaps were not well received and, in an effort to salvage this PR nightmare, he eventually cut his trip short and returned to Canberra with his tail between his legs. He tried to make nice by visiting some of the affected towns, but the people were having none of it. They turned their backs on him as he approached and refused to shake his hand when he offered it. Not too many positive photo ops there. Trouble was, the people hadn’t forgotten that he’s a non-believer in “climate change”, and that his administration might yet allow an Indian company (Adani) to open a new coal mine on the east coast near the Great Barrier Reef, and that Australia wants to use its carbon credits to avoid taking real action on renewables. Not to mention that he initially tried to pass the buck by saying that fighting fires was not the federal government’s responsibility; it was a matter for the individual states! But I digress.
    At this moment …

    The fires have destroyed millions of hectares of beautiful bushland, national parks and communities.
    The fire front itself is many, many kilometres long, in difficult terrain.
    At least 27 people have lost their lives.
    Over 2,000 homes have been destroyed.
    The stock losses (cattle and sheep) have been ruinous. And without breeding stock, it will take decades to recover.

    The cost to native wildlife and native habitat cannot yet be calculated. The animals who do manage to survive the inferno have nothing to eat for miles and miles around. Predictions are that some native species will be made extinct.

    Even now, many people who are unable to flee by road are being forced right down to the beaches, where Navy ships have been sent to evacuate survivors to further down the coast.
    Small towns and small businesses that rely on tourism will perish.

    And here’s another fun fact. There is only one sealed road that crosses the Nullarbor from Perth to Adelaide and it’s been closed down due to bushfires, so there are families and truckies who are stuck out there in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the road to be re-opened so they can get back home after their school holidays or drive on to deliver their goods. It’s hard for you to imagine, isn’t it? It’s like me telling you that there’s only one sealed road between LA and Houston! And I’m not talking about a four-lane freeway. I’m just talking about a road that is bitumen instead of gravel!

  12. John,
    Re: China’s address of the pollution problem…..

    Consider that during the time in which China’s GNP has quadrupled, the growth of pollutants in its air and water has hardly budged. During that time, China has installed three times the amount of pollution control equipment as any other country in the world. International pollution equipment manufacturers and installers, especially companies from Finland, have made fortunes selling their anti-pollution products and services to China. China’s problem is that it waited too long to start a full-court press installing that equipment. It has a huge catch-up problem.

    We make a political mistake presuming that China is not pushing hard to quell its pollution. In terms of rate of installation, China far exceeds the speed of any nation in history. Thinking of China as a measuring stick, and the Trump administration aside, the best environmentalists in the US are likely to become too complacent in regard to US pollution control.

  13. The bottom line is yet another war between religion and knowledge.

    The religion is the worship of power which has been equated to wealth. Not real wealth, the goods and services produced by our labor, but the token we have invented for it, cash. Not surprisingly those who go to work everyday or stay at home to raise the next generation who will go to work everyday, produce all of it but much of it gets stolen from them between the fact of their labor and the necessity of exchanging it for other goods and service that they need to raise their families. Some of that goes to helping those who for any number of good and bad reasons don’t go to work every day. The majority goes to those who collect it through their ability to manipulate those creating it. A large part of their ability to manipulate comes from social/entertainment media advertising/fake news/propaganda/brainwashing wealth controls. Some propaganda is dedicated to obscuring their theft by blaming those who don’t go to work everyday for the majority of the wealth redistribution in fact going “up”.

    The knowledge is science which has become due to its every growing complexity a narrow specialty known only to a few by choice. (Another popular obfuscation scheme is to blame the science experts for wealth redistribution “up” as instead going “down”.}

    There is no cure for the war and there will be no winners. Like with most wars everyone loses but some immediately and others over time. The worshippers of false gods will feel superior in their hearts for their faithfulness to even false gods, those pursuing knowledge will feel superior in their brains for achievement.

    Everyone losing will feel like winners until the war comes to their house but by then it’s way, way too late to stop.

    The winner will be inanimate earth finally achieving a stable sustainable eternity supporting a smaller human population with a long term though substantially different future.

  14. David F; thank you for the information directly from Australia. Watching the fires I was remembering reading “Thorn Birds”, again a few months ago, and the terrible droughts, heat and dry storms which sometimes started brush fires. I have wondered if basic conditions were the same there; the PM spoke up to say he had made some mistakes regarding the ground fire fighting, the fact that general weather conditions are much the same today could have caused his errors in judgement. Thank you again for sharing this information.

  15. So with all the pressure Trump is putting on China to change in numerous ways, how is his campaign to get Xi Jin Ping to fight climate change working out? He single handedly introduced a new phenomenon to the world – death by (climate) science denial. Like the moron he has always been, he thinks it will not affect his family, which we assume he cares about. In the person of Qassem Suleimani, we see a demonstration of how much he loves to kill and how he thinks he is allowed to do so without offering an explanation. Any chance we are on his hit list? Has this country ever birthed a more wretched human being?

    In the realm of “how low can you go”, I’ m betting he will soon exceed his recently established record. Has he been fitted for a straitjacket?

  16. Neoliberalism did start with Reagan, but every POTUS, including Clinton and Obama, embraced it. The Chicago School of Economics with Milton Friedman manufactured the blueprint and helped carry it out. Remember Arthur Laffer and his curve? It was a fraud. Remember “trickle-down” economics? Also a fraud.

    Who has changed the course?

    The energy companies knew about climate change in the 1970-80’s but buried the reports. Why?


    After being laid up in the hospital recently, I watched the “news on the TV” and it’s abysmally lacking and has been since the 1970s. I honestly don’t know how anyone in the field of news sleeps at night. They’re just entertainers.

    If the education and communication fields are so lacking, how can we possibly make informed decisions as a nation?

    We live in a post-truth world.

    We need to add all the externality costs to the fossil fuel industry and then start asking oil executives and politicians tough questions nightly on the news. Chances of that happening?


    Projecting out into our future, watch the movie, Elysium. The ultrarich live on a luxurious space station while everyone else is doomed to Earth’s ruins. Reality or fiction? 😉

  17. Remember the old days when scientists determined that there was a problem and politicians figured out how we were going to deal with it? Now, after collecting money from all interested parties, politicians determine if something is a problem, make it into a partisan mess, and the scientists try to figure out how we will deal with it.

  18. Al and Neil are both right. And there is no Planet B…yet…as I think Pete said a few years back.

  19. If anyone doubts whether the Indianapolis metro area is affected by climate change, they should visit my garden. Thirty years ago, I would start harvesting peas in mid-June and they would last until July 4th. Now I start harvesting about Memorial day and they are finished by mid-June. My raspberries used to ripen last week of June and finish second week of July. Now they start second week of June and finish last week of June.

  20. There will be no planet “B,” this planet would be dead before anyone could manufacture a vehicle to get to a habitable system, but even if it wasn’t, the time would take to get there would be generational. More than likely, a war would break out on the ship, a mutiny or some other ideological BS.

    I mentioned before, there will be no Star Trek Kumbiya moment, because mankind will burn down his own house. One thing you can see, one thing that is obvious, it’s all related to “Greed.”

    Greed has led to climate change, it’s led to the opioid addiction problem, it’s led to the proliferation of guns and related violence, it’s led to an epidemic of corporate espionage, it’s led to ungodly CEO salaries and golden parachutes. It’s led to these huge corporations using manufactured loopholes to pay 0 taxes. And corporate greed was responsible for the slave trade, genocide, war, waste, all with a clean conscience.

    You can’t blame religion for that, or, you can’t blame Christ for that. Men have manipulated religion the same way they’ve manipulated government, during the dark ages, after the final collapse of the Roman Empire, religion filled the void. Over 1000 years of misery and darkness. 1000 years of plagues, 1000 years of burning people at the stake, constant holy wars and Crusades, the use of a burning hell to scare people into compliance, the use of Limbo to extort money out of grieving parents, the use of purgatory to extort money from the dead’s loved ones, the rapture used as the carrot in front of the horse, comply with extortion, you’ll be vacuumed up to heaven.
    All of these are man-made dogma, none of it promoted by Christ, even the church admits limbo was a mistake, but did they return all of that money that they’ve extorted for a millennia? Nope!

    This is something that mankind has done. Concerning religion, With Christianity it started in earnest around 325 AD during the Nicene counsel. Like I mentioned before, Emperor Constantine was a pagan, he never was converted to Christianity. So he just transferred his pagan beliefs to the church, because he had bribed almost everyone to go along with the program. So obviously those early church leaders didn’t believe their own teachings and beliefs. But this was actually prophesied, and many were made aware of those prophecies. Thanks to those who died getting Scripture translated from the dead Latin, into various spoken languages. Convicted and murdered by church run governments, the church revealed exactly what and who they were, they were not a representation of God’s kingdom on earth, they were not a representative of Jesus Christ.

    In Job the 26th chapter, it says that the earth is over empty space and hangs on nothing During those times, either, Atlas was holding up the earth, or four elephants or even a giant tortoise. Later on, the enlightened thought the earth was encased in a crystal shell that was imprinted with the stars. Job mentioned this around 1600 years before Christ. That was before the church., Way before.

    Mankind will use any method, to subvert and suppress his fellow man. Greed will lead to men to their ruin.

    There was a certain tribe in Africa, they figured out a way to use greed by monkeys to catch them. They made clay jars big enough to put a certain type of desirable fruit in. The monkeys would come along, smell the fruit, reach inside and grab it, but they couldn’t pull the fruit out because the fruit and its hand were too big. The hunters would just walk up to the monkey, it would be trying to pull his hand out and run away, but would not let go of the fruit. They would Bop it in the head and eat its brains. All because it wouldn’t let go of that fruit. Mankind is exactly the same way.

    In 1969 the Cuyahoga River in Ohio was on fire! Literally burning. In Chicago, the Chicago River was on fire, it burned down a bridge house, the rivers in Chicago could be walked on, the amount of animal carcasses and sewage made it so unpleasant, people would avoid that area. Now people are swimming and fishing in the Chicago River, because people banded together for the greater good, Nixon started the EPA, and with that, the “Clean Water Act. ” It’s not like the imbeciles in Washington do not recognize what’s happening, they’re just too stupid to pull their hand out of the clay jar.

  21. For John and others – I have never understood the argument “China is a polluted mess, so we don’t have to do anything” – I hear echos of the old mothers’ admonishment “so if your friends want to jump off a cliff (destroy the climate), you think you should too?” Larry is right, things got so bad in China that they are frantically trying to make their cities livable.

    As for the anti-intellectual, anti-science policy, this too goes back with neoliberalism to Reagan. I remember reading in the news section of Science about suppression of reports by the Reagan and Bush II administrations. Trump just escalated this by several orders of magnitude.

    While I love Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”, I do wish that more people would believe in it. One other troubling problem is the media. I winced when I heard an NPR reporter state that Australia’s PM Morrison was a “climate skeptic”. I am a skeptic; Morrison is a lying climate denier and should be labeled as such.

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