Neoliberalism and Global Warming Denialism

Why does the Right continue to deny the reality of global warming? The common wisdom, especially amongst the Libs, is that global warming denialism is attributable to corporate greed and payoffs to politicians, that denialism is motivated by money. But the numbers don’t bare that out, there are only a handful of members of Congress that get big fossil fuel money and at least one, former Senator Heidi Heitkamp, is not a denier yet during her time in office she was the 2nd highest recipient of oil and gas money. And, how does one account for the high rates of denialism amongst conservative “intellectuals” like George Will and Brett Stephens who have no connection to the fossil fuel industry? Stevens and Will do not deny all science just climate science. Why has denialism become an article of faith for conservatives, for Republicans, for the Right? What is it that makes them refuse to accept, to even willfully ignore, the overwhelming scientific evidence?

This denialism goes much deeper then corporate greed and political payoffs. For just as the Theory of Evolution is a refutation of the notion of a creator, of a creation (“The contest between evolution and Christianity is a duel to the death. If evolution wins, Christianity goes.” William Jennings Bryan), human-caused global warming is a refutation of capitalism’s “all knowing” infallible markets, of its alleged corrective free market. As with any ideologically held belief the basis for denialism is multifaceted involving capital accumulation (market competition), sectarianism, the arrogant self-importance of Dominionism (Genesis 1:28), and yes, money, lots of money. But there is a more foundational, more existential factor that motivates this reactionary, conspiracy-theory laden denialism, and that is, if the capitalist marketplace is all-knowing, if it works as its believers say it does, then it would have corrected for the threat to the planet on its own, through the free market, without governmental intervention. Governmental intervention requires regulations, and to capitalism’s true believers regulations undermine the very notion of free market capitalism. Capitalism’s true believers view regulations as a threat to corporate liberties, to individual liberties, to the American way of life. So, to accept that capitalism itself is destroying the planet one has to acknowledge that capital markets do not self-regulate, that the illusory “invisible hand” does not guide the markets to the benefit of society. And that acknowledgement, that the free market is a fantasy, a delusion, would destroy their whole belief system, their worldview, their raison d’être, their very being. There is also an element of anti-Leftism in the Right’s denialism, they must repudiate, undermine, cancel anything they believe to be Leftist, even scientific truths, they must, beyond all rationality, “own the Libs”.