Why is Climate Change “Liberal”?

Although it’s a fact we’re acquainted with, now, and that’s gained acceptance as a result, start from first principles and try to work it out:

Why is fighting climate change a “liberal” position?

It makes sense if you take economic, corporate Republicans in isolation. Climate change requires regulation, and austerity measures from corporations, and therefore cuts into profits. But, as we’ve seen from some conservatives, like Rick Warren, good faith custodianship of God’s creation really ought to be an article of faith.

The social- and economic-conservative alliance has never really made sense, except as a marriage of convenience. Do we count this as another way the rich induce the poor into voting against their interest?


Relatedly, listen to this interview with Sarah Palin (or, ugh, try to). Listen for this line, describing the deficit: “It’s immoral, it’s unethical, it’s unfair to future generations to continue down the road we’re going.” Start at 3:57 —

Couldn’t the same be said, really, of climate change? Why won’t people like Palin make that leap?



  1. Yes. Next question?

  2. It’s a ‘liberal position’ because the Left has taken a relatively new scientific theory, pounced on it and then demanded regulations that aren’t well thought-out as a fix. It’s the stereotypical, stomp-on-the-gas-pedal approach to policy that the Left is known for.

    I could also ask why conservation is a ‘conservative policy’. Both sides have their environmental agendas.

    1. Actually, we should ask why conservation isn’t a right-wing policy. It’s somewhat telling.

      1. I could not disagree more on that statement. Conservatives are conserving far more land than liberals. They are donating far more money to conservation efforts. They are doing more politically. I would also argue that liberal-lead efforts to push for biodiesel hurt conservation programs even more.

      2. You guys do great work “conserving” ANWR

        1. Right – and of course that’s the only land being preserved in the U.S.

          Dig a little deeper than the NY Times Ames.

        2. How about Upstate NY and the Marcellus shale? Only downstate liberals are fighting (thus far successfully) to conserve the City’s water supply and the Hudson’s natural beauty.

          1. What are liberals doing to support the CRP program? How much habitat is being lost to increased soybean production? Ducks Umlimited has conserved over 12 million acres in North America. Quail Unlimited is investing millions in restoration.

            Liberals are very good at the political side of environmental policy but not so much at the actual funding and doing.

            1. Whereas politically, conservatives are typically against conservation, at least when there’s a buck to be made.

              1. I’ll take action on the Right verses lip service on the Left all day long.

  3. Hahahaha. “Relatively new scientific theory”?

    1. Maybe I should re-phrase that. There has been scientific examination of climate change for quite some time – but as a mater of public policy concern this is a relatively new phenomenon. I mean, I don’t remember ever hearing anything about climate change until at least the last decade. Before that it was acid rain and then the hole in the ozone layer.

      1. So the essence of conservative policy is do nothing until it’s too late?

        1. For some the opinion is to do nothing. For the rest of us the opinion is to not start legislating until we have a better idea of how to fix it.

          1. Well, how good an idea is good enough, then? We already know in geenral terms what need to be done: CO2 reductions, renewable energy sources, better energy efficiency. Those are things we can do, in many places are doing right now, and which even make sense without the climate change aspects – infrastructure improvements, less dependency on foreign energy sources, better conditions for the environment, job growth in future technologies.

            1. So how are conservatives preventing more Prius cars from being on the road? How are they preventing companies from investing in solar or wind power?

              1. Supporting Cap & Trade would be a good start, instead of letting it die in the Senate. And maybe stop the consistent campaign against the EPA.

                Beyond that, where are the focused research grants? Or the incentives for businesses and investors to get involved in these things? Since the GOP is so big on tax breaks, why not give some specifically to companies investing in green technology?

                I haven’t seen any of that, though. Is anyone in the GOP even thinking about these things? Presenting some long-term visions? Not to my knowledge.

                1. I think a lot of conservatives are woried cap & trade is going to do more harm to businesses than good to the environment.

                  I’m fine with tax breaks for green initiatives – is the Right opposing this?

                  1. It seems to me they’re tacitly opposing it by simply doing nothing. With the GOP in control of the House now, maybe it’s time they started talking a bit about what they intend to do about the greater, long-term issues.

                    1. You could say that with any issue. The absence of action is not necessarily a lack of support. In this case though I just don’t think it’s a high priority unless it’s characterized as an end to oil dependency. THAT is the angle I believe the Left should be taking.

  4. @ Mike,
    First, back when we were kids in the 19070’s, Congress was actually acutely aware of “green house gas” issues. Congress even had its science policy office (before Newt dissolved it) look at the potential opportunities and needs – in 1984. So no, this isn’t a new scientific theory (since the first major papers were published in the scientific literature in the late 1960’s) nor is it a new political issue either.

    Second, many on the left have characterized both cap and trade and alternative energy development as methods to end oil dependency by the U.S. When we do, folks on your side of the aisle trot out the “all those technologies are unreliable and can’t power all the delivery truck in our economy” canard, and debate usually ends. If the right is serious about ending oil dependency (and based on the actions of the current Congress, as well as its Majority- Republican predecessors I have my doubts), then they can collectively shut up about those issues, and let things go forward driven by market and government incentive forces.


    I think a lot of conservatives are woried cap & trade is going to do more harm to businesses than good to the environment.

    now that you’ve raised the specter of “regulatory/government uncertainty” that you seem to throw around a lot as to why business do or don’t things, answer me this: how is the climate of “uncertainty” on cap and trade in a Democratic Administration any different then the “uncertainty” that we seen in the change of or policies from any other Administration? Was there no “uncertainty” when Clinton ceded to Bush? Bush to Clinton? Reagan to Bush? Carter to Reagan? I doubt it. And business made decisions, hired workers, posted profits, invested in machinery, etc.

    In fact I’ll go so far as to say that the uncertainty card you and others keep playing is designed to let business completely off the hook for all its decisions (good and bad) and also prevent government from ever being seen to accomplish anything. Working inside the federal morass (where many dedicated liberals do, FWIW, spearhead many truly conservative actions where nature is concerned) I can tell you that we don’t sit around all day dreaming up ways to keep business (like your employer) from hiring folks or expanding or doing anything else. We do work hard to meet the mandates Congress has given us, and we do work hard to put checks in place on business practices that make fiduciary sense but are lousy for the community at large (like OSHA regs). So how about we drop the “cap and trade is more tax uncertainty” red herring – you and I both know that if cap and trade comes to pass, business will just pass the cost to consumers anyway, as they do with most other taxes.

    1. Phillip, I never mentioned uncertaintly. I thik a lot of conservatives are CERTAIN that cap & trade will do more harm than good. Me personally, I’m on the fence and I see both sides of the argument.

      1. A minor quibble: Nobody is certain that cap & trade will do more harm than good. Lots of people are convinced that this is the case, but conviction just ain’t certainty. Hell, it’s not even justification.

  5. It’s just a symptom of the fact that denialism in general appears to be a conservative trait. Not just climate change, but evolution, Obama’s birthplace, Saddam’s WMDs, etc. I can’t think of any example of denialism that is particularly believed by liberals.

    1. – power of the free market
      – ability of the poor to lift themselves out of poverty on their own
      – ability of minorities to succeed without government intervention
      – etc, etc

      1. Actually, no, none of those things is an example of denialism. Fir example, Democrats and Repulicans may disagree in the role or the ability of the free market to solve certain problems, but it not generally held by Democrats that the free market *doesn’t exist*.

        1. I think many liberals view the free market as ineffectual and without worth.

          And are you contending that standard liberal thought believes that minorities or the poor can succeed without the help of the government?

          1. The point is there’s a difference between the opinion that vulnerable groups can succeed without assistance and the fact that Obama was born in Hawaii. The former is complex and open for discussion, the latter is simple, and not. Denying the former is a difference in opinion, denying the latter is denialism.

            1. What about 9/11?

              What about the reasons why we invaded Iraq?

  6. power of the free market
    – ability of the poor to lift themselves out of poverty on their own
    – ability of minorities to succeed without government intervention
    – etc, etc

    Liberals believe in the power of the free market, but we also look at what history tells us – unfettered, unregulated free markets are disaster for workers, the environment and ultimately the markets, because short term profit taking causes firms to invest in the lowest possible wages, worst working conditions, greatest pollution, and ultimately things that lead to long-term collapse and economic hardship. Likewise, we do believe in the power of the poor to pull themselves up, but we see countless historical episodes where that was not in the interests of market forces, and so government had to intervene. And as to minorities, while discrimination has now been made firmly illegal, I grew up around businessmen and politicians who were openly racist, and refused to hire or promote based on race, because they knew the culture around them would tolerate their views. Market forces CAN’T answer that sort of societal disharmony, and so once again government must of necessity correct the wrong.

    What about 9/11?

    What about the reasons why we invaded Iraq?

    Not sure what you are getting at here – liberal politicians voted with President Bush for years in both of these matters. Many liberal outside the Washington bubble questioned our rationalle for the latter – and with good reason it turns out. The initial reason for invading Iraq was the belief that Hussein possessed WMD; that he had passed those WMD to Al Qaeda; and that he was prepared to help use those WMD against American targets. At the time the U.N. Weapons inspectors, including American government officials, said that wasn’t true, and we now know that the allegations were fabricated by exiled Iraqi opposition members who freely admit they lied to the U.S. to advance their agenda. The freedom and democracy agenda was only put on the table after the invasion was done, and I don’t recall it being socialized by the WH until after the President made his Mission Accomplished carrier landing.

    And what point do we get to drop 9/11 as a driver of all American actions?

    1. What I am talking about is 9/11 Truthers (many of whom are liberals) and those that believe the Iraq War was engineered to get access to their oil.

      1. The 9/11 Truthers are crazy, no doubt about that. But unlike e.g. Obama Birthers in the GOP, they don’t make up any significant part of the Democratic party.

        As far as the reasons for Iraq, I don’t really buy the oil argument, if for no other reason than, well, just look what the war did to the oil price. But I don’t see it as denialism as much as a disbelief that a government can really be so incompetent as to start a war for pretty much no good reason at all. So then you look around and figure out, “hey, it must be about the oil.” It’s really just a desire to impose some reasonable order on reality.

        Some of us know better than that, of course.

        1. “9/11 Truthers…don’t make up any significant part of the Democratic party.”

          According to Rasmussen in 2007, “…Thirty-five percent of Democrats believe [Bush] did know [about the attacks] in advance.”


          In 2009 a DailyKos/Research poll showed that twenty-eight percent of Republicans don’t believe that President Obama was born in the U.S.

          1. And the statistical difference between 28% and 35% is actually tiny. So, can we safely establish that BOTH Parties have a luney arm? Yes, ok, good. Now can we get back to something else please – the truthers and the birthers are both wrong, and thus intellectually tiring.

            1. I agree 100% Phillip – which is why I brought this up to refute Narciblog’s and Lanfranc’s point. Denialism and craziness is not the exclusive domain of the Right.

          2. That is indeed quite a lot more Truthers than I expected, although I’d guess some of them are of the “ignored warning signs” rather than the “allowed the attacks to happen” variety.

            That said, these days it’s actually 51% GOP birthers, although that’s among primary voters who probably tend towards the more radical.


            1. The question asked to Truthers was specifically if ‘Bush allowed it to happen’. If you add in more gray areas you get a higher number. It’s the same for the Birthers.

              1. How do you add a gray area to whether the President was born in the US? Either he was or he wasn’t.

                1. Well you quoted 51%. I’ll even give you 58%. According to Daily Kos it breaks down like this:

                  “Twenty-eight percent don’t believe that President Obama was born in the U.S. and another 30 percent aren’t sure.”

                  If you look at 9/11 and Truthers it goes like this:

                  “Thirty-five percent (35%) of Democrats believe he did know and 26% are not sure.”

                  So if we add in the uncertainty (gray area) we get 58% for Republican Birthers and 61% for Democrat Truthers.

                  1. Well, if you add the uncertainty from the poll I quoted, it’s actually 72% GOP birthers.

                    1. Even if it’s 99% – I think I’ve successfully refuted the claim that, “Obama Birthers…don’t make up any significant part of the Democratic party.”

                    2. Er…successfully refuted the claim that, 9/11 Truthers don’t make up any significant part of the Democratic party.”

                    3. Granted. But so what’s the conclusion here? Up to 3/4 or more of primary election voters from either party are… shall we say reality-challenged? That’s not a conclusion I like.

                    4. But it’s the truth. To put it in perspective, I’m quite sure the average voter in 1944 would never have believed that FDR was unfaithful to Eleanor.

                      My clusmy point is that maybe we should quit worrying about trivial silliness on both sides and focus on the issues.

  7. Funny, I wasn’t actually thinking of the hoi polloi when I made my comment. Last election, there was exactly one Republican Presidential candidate that was not a creationist (I forget which). Lots of Republican office holders (Inhofe) and talking heads (Limbaugh, Coulter, Levin, Hannity) are climate change denialists.

    None of the Democratic Presidential nominees were 911 Troofers. I don’t know of any prominent elected official that is.

    I can’t find any statistics on how many Republicans/conservatives are 9/11 Troofers, but it’s always seemed to me to cross political boundaries. Probably more among the libertarian crowd than Republicans, I’ll admit. Ironically, here’s one article by one of the craaaaaaziest Troofers taking Democrats to task for not being Troofers.

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