Young: To them, climate action represents ‘system threat’ (column)
Special to the Daily
If Ben Carson reads one word of all the information he just got about climate change, he should immediately end his candidacy for the Republican nomination.
Carson, who serenely floats through his presidential campaign on clouds of hard-right truthiness, said the other day he’d seen “no overwhelming science” of man’s involvement in climate change. To that, California Gov. Jerry Brown mailed him a zip drive containing the exhaustive United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the matter.
Brown asked him, a neuro-surgeon, to “please use your considerable intelligence to review this material.”
What a waste of postage. Carson dare not, unlike John McCain, actually educate himself based on what 97 percent of climate scientists say.
In the 2008 presidential race, McCain stated up front that global warming is real and man-caused. Somehow, he got nominated. Similar statements are a means of disqualification today, even with eight more years of accumulated evidence.
For a GOP candidate to acknowledge what most scientists say is impermissible now, apparently. For 2016, the Republican core constituency has assumed the state of knowing only what its adrenal glands tell it.
The interesting thing is that today’s GOP not only covers its ears and hums loudly on the matter of climate change, but also appears resistant to basic, common-sense, long-range policies like energy conservation.
Put aside the climate issue, if you dare. Consider the fact that future generations will be hard-pressed to survive on declining reserves if we stay on a hyper-consumptive course. If President Obama says it’s right to conserve energy, conserving energy must be wrong.
Climate aside: Pollution is pollution. Every initiative to confront climate change means fewer deaths due to grime and toxins sucked into people’s lungs.
Sure, forget the climate, if you dare. Alternative energy is good for the economy. Combine solar and wind power with retrofits for energy conservation and the building of energy-efficient structures, and you have jobs, jobs, jobs.
Oh, and for those who say that ambitious energy-conservation goals are not doable, consider that California is on track for renewable sources to represent 33 percent of its energy consumption by 2020.
What is the resistance to all of this? It’s smart (presumably what Ben Carson is); it’s healthy; it’s good for us economically; and it very well could save the only planet we inhabit.
The denial syndrome was explained in a 1994 analysis pertinent to the desire to crawl into an ideological shell to ward off change. Lead author John Jost, a New York University psychologist, offered the term “system justification” for why reasoned and reasonable measures can be resisted mightily by many.
Australian columnist Lissa Johnson, herself a psychologist, explains that “system justification theory” helps explain the set of irrational rationalizations that “protect people from harsh realities” — like sea level rise, like glacial depletion and corresponding drought, like monster storms related to higher ocean temperatures. Just like that.
The ominousness of a reality we don’t want to imagine represents what these researchers call “system threat” — and that’s simply the notion that change can’t possibly be good for anyone. Facing change with eyes wide open is a means of acknowledging it is real.
And let’s face it: Whether it be the humanity of gays and lesbians or the fact that teens have sex, whether we order them not to, these are realities with which some of us don’t wish to deal smartly.
That applies even to smart people like Ben Carson. When the specter is “system threat,” being willfully dumb can be the smart course of action, depending on the primary.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email him firstname.lastname@example.org.
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