Why are some people trying to deny basic facts of climate science? And why is that problem so much worse in the United States than everywhere else?
I have three possible explanations.
1. Stupid Americans Theory
There may be a lack of intellectual firepower involved, at least with some of the deniers.
That’s especially true for those who are fed a steady diet of propaganda and who don’t bother to check the facts.
But I don’t think it explains the fact that many successful politicians in the Republican party are part of this problem. You don’t get to the top in politics by being stupid. Nor do you get to be CEO of Exxon.
And why should the Americans have such a marked advantage in the stupidity contests? Lack of intellectual firepower can’t explain why the problem is so much worse in the United States.
2. Alien Hypnotist Theory
That’s an explanation I have explored in detail in my first global warming science fiction novel, Great News.
Under that theory, those who deny that the Arctic ice is at 40 percent of former averages and that we had three record hot years in a row don’t do so of their own decision. They do so because they are hypnotized by an evil alien overlord.
In that novel, Mount Fuji is actually the spaceship of the aliens. And they cause global warming by hypnotizing humans.
Because it’s good entertainment for them. They fried their own planet in their own runaway global warming history, so they feel amused by seeing humans falling in the same trap.
I don’t actually believe this to be true, but it is much more believable than the amount of stupidity needed in the first explanation.
3. Fossil Fuel Industry Influence
That explanation is: Of course the Republican politicians know that the problem exists. But they need to do what is good for the fossil fuel lobbyists that give them a lot of money.
Having the CEO of Exxon become Secretary of State is an excellent symbol for the fact that United States politics is owned by the highest bidder, and that the highest bidder is the fossil fuel industry.
This theory explains not only why the problem exists in the United States, but it also explains why it is much more serious there than in other parts of the world. As Larry Lessig discusses in detail, money and lobbyists have too much influence on American politics.
The solution can’t be what Lessig wants. He wants to stop the lobbyist influence. That’s impossible. If their influence is too strong, they obviously won’t allow changing that fortunate state of affairs.
There is nothing wrong with politics sold to the highest bidder, as long as the highest bidder buys the right politics.
The nice thing about this explanation is: Once the fossil fuel companies are on board with large and strongly enforced production cuts, the political side of the problem disappears. Imagine a world where Exxon lobbyists join Bill McKibben. Powerful climate legislation would be done in a week or two.
Why would they do that?
The answer is that the fossil fuel companies would make enormous profits from the resulting higher prices. I have written quite a lot about this point on this blog, so I am not going into details here.
I may be wrong, but I think the third possible explanation comes closest to reality.
If true, climate deniers are not actually confused about scientific facts, since they know exactly what is going on and are only pretending not to know.
But they actually are assuming incorrectly that doing so helps the profits of their sponsors.