Despite the clear scientific consensus, Climate change denial is being kept alive by conservatives. In the United States, this is evident in the major gulf separating Republicans and Democrats. Such divisions are also present in Canada and Australia. At the Canadian Conservative convention in March, delegates refused to support a policy shift that would have acknowledged climate change. Even when conservative leaders try to pivot away from climate change denial, the rank and file refuse to follow. So what is it about conservatives in the U.S., Canada, and Australia that makes them such passionate deniers of reality? The one thing that conservatives in these three countries have in common is their overarching support for oil, gas, and coal. The fossil fuel industry has used its tremendous financial resources to spew disinformation, buy politicians and gain control over conservative policy platforms. Thus, the current highly polarized state of affairs is the culmination of a long-term strategy to control conservative politicians.
After years of amplifying disinformation from the dirty energy industry, it is difficult for conservative politicians to pivot away from the lies even when it offers a strong political advantage. Canadian Conservative leader Erin O’Toole found this out when his party recently ignored his warning that failure to embrace climate change could result in another electoral defeat. When conservative Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison tried to suggest that his government accepts the link between bush fires and climate change, many in his caucus disagreed. In the United States, there is no evidence that the GOP will back away from their resistance to climate action any time soon. As Max Boot, the former Wall Street Journal editor said in 2018, Republicans “are captives of their own rigid ideology.”
Some religious groups have also ignored the facts and opposed climate action. As reviewed in a 19-minute film from Virginia’s Religion, Race and Democracy Lab, Christian Evangelicals have been a leading source of disinformation. The film titled “God $ Green: An Unholy Alliance” explores how evangelicals, coalesced with Republicans, and the fossil fuel industry to be the guardians of climate denial. The film calls out the “religious polarization, political propaganda, corporate deal-making, and environmental injustice based on systemic racism.” The title is excerpted from a statement by Bob Inglis, one of a rare breed of Republicans who support climate action. He lost his seat in the House of Representatives due to what he called an “unholy alliance” between religion and corporate capitalism. His comment is a thinly veiled reference to the Christian evangelicals and the fossil fuel industry, which he blames for his defeat.
Just as Donald Trump is the ball and chain that is preventing Republicans from adopting a more winnable policy platform, the fossil fuel industry and Christian evangelicals are also preventing the GOP from even considering embracing the facts about climate change. When you radicalize a group of people with disinformation, it is not so easy to get them to accept reality. In what is known as the “backfire effect,” people whose inaccurate views are confronted by facts commonly double down and become even more intransigent in the defense of their misconceptions.
This unholy alliance has spun a false narrative that has succeeded in delaying climate action. Climate change denial is now indelibly stamped into the conservative brand. History will not be kind to the fossil fuel industry and Christian evangelicals, nor are voters likely to forget the political parties and politicians that championed deception. Their lies will be exposed and the truth will be known, the only question is how long can they keep up this gravity-defying ruse.