Climate denial is a sinister movement that denies the science of climate change that has infiltrated deep within American politics and is still thriving today. The widespread oppression of science in America is a rarity in modern history — with the exceptions of Germany and Russia during the 1930s — and has never been seen before in a democracy to this extent.

The tragic outcome of political climate denial in the United States was that greenhouse gas emissions were never properly addressed by Congress even though the U.S. is the largest economy in the world, allowing the climate crisis to develop in the first place. If the U.S. couldn’t manage to do its fair share, how can other countries?

The climate crisis is a global crisis and the world is running out of time to stay within the global warming limits of the Paris Agreement. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned of the extreme weather consequences of global warming in the Paris targets. Also, every several years, the latest scientific consensus on climate change is summarized by the IPCC, written by the world’s leading climate scientists for governments to develop climate policies.

The section “Summary for Policymakers” (SPM) of the Synthesis Report is especially scrutinized and approved by government appointees to ensure all nations accept the report’s conclusions. The latest SPM (AR6) from the IPCC leads off with: “Human activities, principally through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global warming…

Surely then, most American politicians must agree with the IPCC conclusions since their own government approved the SPM. Wrong. Republicans in the United States brazenly attack the IPCC reports, including the SPM, contradicting their national government even when the American representative to the IPCC was chosen by a Republican administration.

Republicans don’t like climate science for non-scientific reasons and have become a dangerous party of climate deniers — dangerous because they are out of touch with reality and make policy decisions based on propaganda of the energy-industrial complex (fossil fuel and related industries), rather than evidence-based science.

Too many elected officials in the U.S. live in another world where human-made global warming does not exist. They also question, without basis, the scientific consensus on climate change or they just ignore the science. This alternate reality is built on alternate facts and alternate science (i.e., fake). We have been too tolerant for too long of this deviant behaviour by elected officials; the time to vote these politicians out of office is long overdue.

The Republican Party, also known as the GOP (officially, the “Grand Old Party,” but in parody, the “Grand Oil Party” or “Gas and Oil Party”), has been an organization of climate denial since President George H.W. Bush. During the new millennium, under President George W. Bush, there was a literal reign of terror by the GOP political elite against climate science at congressional hearings, where scientists were persecuted and prosecuted.

Climate denial reached new heights in Washington under the administration of Donald Trump, who was criticized by world leaders for withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. (President Joe Biden reversed this decision.) The environment and energy portfolios of Trump’s administration appeared to be puppets under the control of the “oiligarchs” — the powerful among the energy-industrial complex. As an American election looms later this year, the thought of another Trump presidency sends shivers down the spines of many in the scientific community.

We have been too tolerant for too long of deviant behaviour by elected officials who ignore climate change science, writes @GeraldKutney #ClimateCrisis #ClimateBrawl #AmericanPolitics #cdnpoli

How did this happen in the most powerful democracy in the world? The root cause of climate denial will not be found with the politicians, who were themselves duped by gaslighting. An anti-climate science infodemic easily spread through conservative ranks where climate legislation was regarded as an attack on their ideology, including their belief in the sanctity of free markets and small governments.

The source of the disinformation was the energy-industrial complex, which had launched one of the largest propaganda campaigns in history against the science of climate change. This corporate juggernaut chose shareholders over society, profits over people, and propaganda over science, and Republicans were duped more than most.

Was this massive campaign to gaslight Americans successful for the energy-industrial complex? You can judge for yourself. The number of climate deniers in the U.S. was more than 100 million, in my recent estimation. This group of anti-science supporters, mainly Republicans, does not acknowledge the scientific consensus on climate change and does not accept the SPM statement of the IPCC: “Human activities, principally through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global warming…”

So long as their alternate reality remains unchallenged (and, so far, too few have dared), Republican politicians will continue to obstruct climate legislation in Congress. The job of Congress is to legislate how best to tackle the climate crisis — not to deny the science or the scientific consensus. Until Republicans can at least accept the science of climate change, there is no political will to act on their part and climate change hearings are nothing but a political circus.

More scientific evidence will not change hard-core climate deniers, who loudly promote propaganda in service of the energy-industrial complex, as well as allegedly protecting those conservative values intertwined with it. Instead, hard-core climate deniers with high profiles must be marginalized — by discrediting them, their messages and their sources — before there can be any chance of bipartisan climate policy development.

Gerald Kutney has recently written a critically acclaimed, peer-reviewed book, Climate Denial in American Politics: #ClimateBrawl, published by Routledge, which was a major source for this column.

Keep reading

That's just the thing. Conservatives do not believe in free markets and small governments. That is, they believe only when it suits them.

Conservatives and petro-progressives both embrace neoliberalism.
"Under neoliberalism, the role of government is to create and enforce markets and prop them up when they fail." Shovelling public money into corporate pockets.
Neoliberalism prescribes radical intervention to support markets. An extreme form of capitalism wherein "government pursues policies for the benefit of markets not people". Neoliberalism puts government at the service of the market. Under neoliberalism, the main purpose of govt is to enable markets. Neoliberalism compels govts to support the market at all costs. Hands off corporate power except when the financial wizards mess up and the market fails.

Virtually all mainstream political parties have embraced neoliberal policies.
"Its essence is captured in former U.S. President Ronald Reagan's famous maxim: 'Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.'"
Not what they say, of course, when the market goes south. In 2008 and 2020, industry and big corporations vociferously demanded government support.
For neoliberals, government for the people is the problem. Government for corporations is the solution.
Neoliberals stand for massive intervention in the economy. Funnelling billions of public dollars into industry, corporations, and shareholders' pockets. A massive transfer of wealth upwards from ordinary people to the rich.

Neoliberal think tanks, business pundits, and oil barons pay lip service to the free market.
Corporate welfare, blatant subsidies, taxpayer-funded cleanup, and propping up industries and markets when they fail — that's neoliberalism, not free-market capitalism.
The oil industry, auto makers, and Bombardier never met a subsidy they didn't like — as long as it was for them. Neoliberals support corporate welfare, except for industries they oppose, e.g., renewables.

Is any industry more dependent on subsidies, visible and invisible, than O&G? (Well, OK, nuclear).
Is any government more interventionist than the Alberta government? Exhibit A: Smith's moratorium and restrictions on renewables.

Neoliberals believe in neither the free market nor small government. Their business model depends on externalizing costs: sticking someone else with the bill. Stealing from their grandchildren. Let future generations pay for their extravagance, pollution, waste, environmental mayhem, and climate change disaster.
Neoliberals pillage and plunder the public good for private profit.
The gospel of thieves.

Very true but add neoliberalism as an advocate of inequality and its threat to democracy. The UK and USA being the best 2 examples. And as Albertans know their Premier has no interest in addressing climate change, only increasing the volume of CO2

It's a mistake to suppose that climate change denial is limited to the right side of the spectrum.

Climate change denial comes in two flavours: explicit à la Friends of Science and Republicans/Conservatives or implicit à la federal Liberals and provincial NDP. Both take us over the climate cliff.
Implicit denial — paying lip service to the science — is more insidious, duplicitous, and dangerous, by the very fact that it is disguised. The public — and progressives in particular — fail to recognize the deception, and that breeds complacency. The public is persuaded that we can have our cake and eat it too. Both expand oilsands production and meet our climate targets.

Petro-progressives like Trudeau, Notley, and Horgan claim to accept the climate change science, but still push pipelines, approve LNG projects, promote oilsands expansion, subsidize fossil fuels, and let Corporate Canada and the Big Banks dictate the climate agenda.

"For all of [Naomi] Klein's blistering critiques of right-wing conservatives, it's the liberal moderates who elicit in her a particular frustration. Last year, she wrote that the Biden administration had to be 'dragged kicking and screaming into passing the Inflation Reduction Act — flawed as it is.' The I.R.A. is the biggest climate legislation in American history, garnering comparisons to the Green New Deal, but in an email to me, Klein maintained it isn't enough: 'We can't afford to celebrate half measures in an emergency.' This has been a consistent talking point in her work: that incrementalism is not just insufficient but often damaging. In 'Doppelganger,' she declares that the political chaos of the last several years is partly the fault of centrists who sound the alarm about problems like climate change but then fail to act accordingly. 'One form of denialism feeds the other,' she writes. 'The outright denialism in the Mirror World is made thinkable by the baseline war on words and meaning in more liberal parts of our culture.'"
"When Your 'Doppelganger' Becomes a Conspiracy Theorist" (NYT, Aug. 30, 2023)

The petro-progressive provincial NDP and federal Liberals are not in a tug-of-war with Conservatives over climate. They are dance partners. The NDP and Liberals promote fossil-fuel expansion and take science-based options off the table. This allows the "conservatives" to shift even further right, doubling down on denial and fossil fuel intransigence. But it's Notley and Trudeau who shift the Overton window. It's Notley and Trudeau who take science-based climate policy off the table.
The climate plans of the NDP and Liberals are premised on fossil-fuel expansion. It's the NDP and Liberals who ignore the science and undermine the climate movement.

Which is worse?
The Liberals and provincial NDP have proved far more effective than the Conservatives in delivering on Big Oil's and Corporate Canada's agenda. Trudeau & Co. have persuaded many otherwise progressive Canadians that we can both act on climate and double down on fossil fuels.

The new denialism. Just as delusional as the old kind but more insidious. And far more dangerous.
"The New Climate Denialism: Time for an Intervention" (The Narwhal, Sep 26, 2016)

Speaking of insidious though, again I point out that your attribution of malice aforethought to these people, these political leaders, while COMPLETELY IGNORING the entire context they are faced with, (i.e. an ever more fractious and difficult democracy enthralled by divisive online algorithms) actually places YOU in the same camp as the context-free conservatives.
And one of the genuine faults of the admittedly mealy-mouthed left is propagating "bothsidesism," i.e. both sides are the same, which is ALSO simply NOT true.

What attribution of malice? I see none.
Unless you believe that the O&G industry's agenda to obstruct climate action at incalculable cost to future generations is evidence of malice.
If so, what shall we say of politicians, pundits, academics, public relations agencies, lobbyists, think tanks, and workers who willingly serve the O&G industry's nefarious agenda?
Is deliberately sabotaging your grandchildren's future an act of malice.
Is selling future generations downriver an act of malice?
Is defying the best available science an act of malice?
You tell me.

Petro-progressive leaders are betting that the world will fail to take real action on climate change. The only scenario in which oilsands expansion makes sense. Our "climate" leaders — Trudeau, Notley, and Horgan — are banking on failure. Their path to climate progress runs through a massive spike in fossil-fuel combustion and emissions. Complete disconnect from the science.

What "context" were Notley, Horgan, and Trudeau faced with? Specifics, please.
In reality, no one and nothing compelled Notley and Trudeau to pander to the O&G industry. Their choice. Entirely voluntary.
Electorally, Trudeau has next to no seats in Alberta and Saskatchewan to gain, secure, or defend. Liberal victories are won in Atlantic Canada, Central Canada, and B.C.'s lower Mainland — not on the Prairies.

The AB NDP's shift to the right was a political blunder. In 2019, the NDP had no chance against a united conservative party.
Most pipeline boosters would not vote NDP if Notley built a billion pipelines. Pandering to fossil fuel dinosaurs just fed the right-wing frenzy. A pipeline project became the rallying flag for Albertans, whose sense of grievance against Ottawa burns eternal. Fuelling the right-wing rage machine. Pipeline supporters will vote for the real thing. Notley's pipeline hysterics only inflamed Albertans against the NDP and alienated her own supporters.

When I criticize the Liberals and provincial NDP on climate, I stand in good company. I stand at the back of a long line of progressive critics on the LEFT. Unless you believe that the federal NDP, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Jerry DeMarco, Climate Action Tracker, Naomi and Seth Klein, Observer's columnist Barry Saxifrage, Greta Thunberg, and UN Secretary General António Guterres are "context-free conservatives".

Criticism of centrist parties (Liberal/NDP) can come from BOTH sides of the spectrum. Left and right. Not just the Conservatives.
None of my comments suggest an affinity for or sympathy with right-wing views. Just because someone criticizes your beloved Liberals does not mean that they support the Conservatives.
Logic fail.

Contrary to your suggestion, I did not suggest that both sides are the same. I carefully explained the dynamic between them. Both sides are committed to fossil-fuel expansion and climate action failure.
For reasons outlined above, the petro-progressive plan to fail on climate parties is more insidious, more difficult to combat, and it leads progressives astray.

Your endless apologies for Liberal climate failure and baseless attacks are wearing thin.

Very true but add neoliberalism as an advocate of inequality and its threat to democracy. The UK and USA being the best 2 examples. And as Albertans know their Premier has no interest in addressing climate change, only increasing the volume of CO2

And as Albertans know their Premier has no interest in addressing climate change, only increasing the volume of CO2. Complacent progressives just let the Canadian Conservatives with lies but especially gaslighting us as they are doing with the carbon tax