Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Climate Nation: why conservatives can love climate action

Here's a new film that is trying to bridge the abyss of the US culture wars. Focussed on the fringe benefits of climate change mitigation, it speaks in the voices of a CIA director, an army colonel, an airline executive, a Christian minister, a Texan farmer and a wild Alaskan: patriotic, God-loving, gun-toting, meat-eating, small town, red state Republican neoconservatives. It claims to be a "climate change solutions movie that doesn't even care if you believe in climate change". Rather than showing us how climate change is already fuelling conflict in Africa or projecting the extinction of millions of species in coming decades, this effort simply highlights the various advantages of taking actions that also happen to mitigate climate change.

Rather than saying climate action is a painful duty we cannot avoid, this film presents it as an opportunity to save money, reduce pollution, increase national security and reduce military casualties. One approach focuses on push - avoid this stick - and the other on pull - chase this carrot. Perhaps elements of both are necessary and different approaches will speak to different audiences.

Watching the trailer led me to ponder again how divisive this issue is, particularly in the US. Much has been written about the various causes of this: historical, psychological, political, cultural and economic (and I would add, theological). Some are put off by the commonly proposed responses, which clash with their ideological commitments. This film seems to be particularly addressing such people.

However, amongst all the other reasons, I think there is a very personal reason that some people resist the scientific understanding of the issue. For many people, acknowledging the existence and severity of the threat of anthropogenic climate change involves a reassessment of significant parts of our life story. It can mean realising that some of our most cherished experiences and dreams have a terrible cost associated with them. For those who have earned a livelihood from carbon intensive activities, it can threaten the virtue of some major life achievements and raise the question of whether one's life may have done more harm than good. To put it in Christian terms, acknowledging the reality and significance of anthropogenic climate change can require repentance. And that is too high a bar for some, who would rather reject the science than reassess their lives.

That is why it is important that grace precedes repentance. We don't repent in order for God to be gracious to us; we repent because when we were still far off, he has already seen us, run to us and embraced us.
H/T Sylvia Rowley.


byron smith said...

CP: A brief (positive) review.

byron smith said...

Scott Denning: How to speak to conservative climate deniers.

• We all understand the climate well enough. Don't get stuck in the details.
• Climate is going to change a lot over the next generations. Policies are going to be developed to deal with it.
• The political right has been absent without leave in proposing effective solutions. The world needs you, or the solutions we're going to get will be ineffective.

byron smith said...

Here's a Republican who's putting climate change front and centre. He's making 200% more sense than the rest of his party on this issue and the sooner more of his colleagues join him, the sooner the real policy debates can begin.

byron smith said...

HuffPo: A conservative meteorologist gives his top ten reasons for the Republicans to accept reality on climate.