Tuesday, December 17, 2019

How the Political Right Uses Fossil Fuels to Galvanize Opposition to Climate Action

It is widely understood that in the main, conservative far-right political movements support fossil fuels and oppose the veracity of climate change and climate action. In the U.S. Republicans have worked with the old energy industry to subvert the facts for many years. Thanks to insidious disinformation campaigns 73 percent of Republican voters have been hoodwinked into believing that climate change is not a serious threat and 70 percent do not believe that humans are the cause. The resistance to climate action does not stop at disinformation. Republicans have actively thwarted the democratic process through redistricting (gerrymandering) and voter suppression. In Oregon Republican lawmakers refused to appear in the state legislature to avoid passing a sweeping climate change bill by the Democratic majority.

No individual has done more harm to global climate action that Donald Trump. He has dismissed climate change as a "hoax" and his administration's resistance to science is unprecedented. This president and his Republican minions actively support the expansion of fossil fuels and wanton deregulation. The Trump administration's raft of anti-environmental policy positions including withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Trump has helped to pave the way for climate denial from far-right politicians in Brazil, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands. They have stoked opposition to climate action to build support for anti-science policy.  The result is the right wing leaderships in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Estonia have all killed their net-zero emissions plans this year.

The key to resistance to science-based climate action can be found in marrying opposition to fossil fuel tax hikes and resistance to climate action. The so called yellow vest protests in France and other parts of Europe illustrate this point. Opposing increases in gas prices serves as both a mustering point of resistance and a segue to oppose climate action. However, this is a manufactured crisis as gas taxes were already high.

In a play on Trump's nationalistic "make America great again" French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to "make our planet great again". French right wing political leaders have seized on Macron's climate leadership to galvanize opposition to climate action. As one slogan put it, "Macron is concerned with the end of the world. We are concerned with the end of the month."

Similar contrarian sentiments can be found in other countries that support climate action including Sweden which is widely recognized as one of the most climate forward nations on the planet. Resistance to gas tax hikes in Sweden are called Bensinupproret. The leader of the movement's 600,000 Facebook members is Peder Blohm Bokenhielm he dismisses climate action as "hysteria". In climate friendly Finland, opposition to climate action is also being used by the right for partisan purposes. Finns Party chairman Jussi Halla-aho also dismisses climate action as "hysteria".

However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore climate science, even for right wing politicians whose policy agendas are commonly rooted in obfuscation and outright deception. The new center-right European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, placed climate policy at the top of her "agenda for Europe," ahead of even economic policy. "I want the European Green Deal to become Europe's hallmark," she explained.

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