Let’s establish one thing off the bat: there is almost complete consensus among scientists who study climate (climatologists) that the earth is undergoing climate change on a massive scale and that human activity over the last 200 years is a major cause. There is overwhelming agreement that within the next decades humanity and all life on earth will face catastrophic changes such as global warming and sea level rise.
All science is inherently uncertain: scientific knowledge advances by questioning what was previously thought true. But the arguments among climatologists on this issue are on the margins, over just how much and how fast human society will have to change to stave off the worst projected disasters.
There must be large numbers of educated Republicans who actually accept that climate change is real, that humans are causing it, and that life is going to get really hard for their children and grandchildren.
Nevertheless we have one of our two major parties in this country seemingly committed to the proposition that it’s all a hoax, a plot to take away our freedoms. This is basically the line that the Koch brothers have taken for years. Their bottomless pockets and relentlessness have done much to move the GOP in this direction. Donald Trump saw a winning issue and went with it, but if there’s one thing we know about him, it’s that it’s not about truth. The only thing Trump thinks is true is whatever he just said. He stays with climate change denial because it helps him keep his base.
The base: disproportionately less educated white males who get all their news from Fox and Rush Limbaugh, spouting the Koch line every day. They can’t be well-informed about climate change. They exist in the orbit of the right-wing media. If Rush said it, it must be true, even as coastal Louisiana, Texas and Florida succumb to rising seas. It’s just a cycle: this too will pass.
But there are many educated Republicans, including the vast majority of elected Republican officials. These are people who do have at least a basic understanding of science, and who routinely trust scientists to inform them of scientific consensus on issues ranging from medical care to space flight to hurricane forecasting.
It simply strains credulity to think that all these educated people buy the hoax theory. Some are certainly like Trump in using it to stir up the base, but nobody is quite like Trump in his utter disregard for truth. So there must be large numbers of educated Republicans who actually accept that climate change is real, that humans are causing it, and that life is going to get really hard for their children and grandchildren. And that must include large numbers (a majority?) of Republican elected officials—our “leaders.”
Yet they say nothing, or worse, continue to perpetuate the hoax story. They thereby help to paralyze the most powerful country in the world at just the time when it should be leading the world’s response to a threat to all life on the planet.
What would you call such people, who know a mortal threat but say nothing?