Why do conservatives so strongly oppose the idea of climate change

I just watched a great movie Chasing Ice. It was ostensibly about climate change. (That aside, it’s a beautiful film - watch it!). There were a number of news clips of Beck, Hannity, etc fervently denying climate change claiming it is a hoax.
I understand that many conservatives belive their leaders and parrot their beliefs as I’m sure conservatives do occasionally.

But my question is really aimed at the leaders, what do they get out promoting climate change is a hoax?

I admit that this question is framed from the viewpoint that CC is a fact. But given that this is GQ I think the facts speak for themselves - the debate is over.

Moved to Great Debates, since the motivations of those who promote the idea that climate change is a hoax are debatable (not climate change itself).

General Questions Moderator

The people who contribute big $$ to their campaigns are oil companies and other polluters, who don’t want to pay to clean up their product or be forced to stop selling it.

Or more simply: money.

Because it triggers the liberals. The same reason some of them support nuclear power, they think it triggers liberals.

The modern GOP is like a crazy ex girlfriend in many ways. If they know you like something, they have to hate it and they have to let everyone know how much they hate it.

There is a lot of money being paid by the fossil fuel industry to criticize climate change, but the average GOP voter never sees a dime of that. So for 99% of people who reject climate change, it isn’t economic. It is cultural (liberals believe X, so I believe the opposite of X).

Also a lot of conservatives consider things like renewable energy to be ‘faggy’, which goes against their masculine self images.

I think it’s even simpler. The one percent of the people at the top of the Republican party do all the thinking for the Republican party. They oppose climate change because they’re making money off of polluting.

The other ninety-nine percent do what they’re told. It’s not that they decided that they don’t believe in climate change because they hate liberals. They were told they don’t believe in climate change and that they hate liberals. And they were told they were really smart and free thinking.

Thats a fair point.

The average GOP voters strongly supports making life easier for the rich and harder for the bottom 99% on an economic front. They oppose labor laws, unions, environmental laws, universal health care, minimum wages, college subsidies, etc. But they love supply side tax cuts, raising the retirement age and deregulation.

99% of GOP voters will only see their lives get worse due to this, but they still believe it. So yeah, I could see ‘trickle down thinking’ occurring in the GOP. The rich decide what is in their best interest, they give that info to the right wing echo chamber and then the right wing echo chamber presents it to the GOP base in emotionally appealing terms.

Also don’t forget some fundamentals believe that they will all be “saved” from this earth, so if the earths gets broke they aren’t worried.

The one-word answer: money. At least, the perception that there’s more money to be made in maintaining the status quo of fossil fuel energy rather than embarking on the risks of clean energy initiatives. And of course fossil fuels themselves constitute a multi-trillion dollar global industry.

The climate scientist Kerry Emanuel wrote an excellent essay on the general subject years ago in which he touches on the issue of conservatives and climate change:
Especially in the United States, the political debate about global climate change became polarized along the conservative-liberal axis some decades ago. Although we take this for granted now, it is not entirely obvious why the chips fell the way they did. One can easily imagine conservatives embracing the notion of climate change in support of actions they might like to see anyway. Conservatives have usually been strong supporters of nuclear power, and few can be happy about our current dependence on foreign oil. The United States is renowned for its technological innovation and should be at an advantage in making money from any global sea change in energy-producing technology: consider the prospect of selling new means of powering vehicles and electrical generation to China’s rapidly expanding economy. But none of this has happened.

… There are other obstacles to taking a sensible approach to the climate problem. We have preciously few representatives in Congress with a background or interest in science, and some of them display an active contempt for the subject. As long as we continue to elect scientific illiterates like James Inhofe, who believes global warming to be a hoax, we will lack the ability to engage in intelligent debate. Scientists are most effective when they provide sound, impartial advice, but their reputation for impartiality is severely compromised by the shocking lack of political diversity among American academics, who suffer from the kind of group-think that develops in cloistered cultures. Until this profound and well documented intellectual homogeneity changes, scientists will be suspected of constituting a leftist think tank.

Because conservatives believe in small government, whatever the cost, and tackling climate change goes against that instinct.

There’s rather a lot of evidence of cognitive differences between the average liberal and the average conservative. I over-simplify (or caricaturize) this slightly by calling the former “cerebral” (or intellectual) and the latter “amygdalar” (or visceral). We’ve discussed this before; and the nature of, and evidence for, these differences are easily Googled.

Amygdalar thinking may be just as essential as cerebral. When a sudden flee-or-flight decision is needed, it may be better to react instinctively than to dither and dawdle. But when science and common sense contradict each other, different types react differently.

Because the mindset that leads you to political conservatism - things are pretty good the way they are, and I am scared of radical change - also leads you to be fearful of other radical proposals, like the notion that we need to make fundamental changes to our individual and collective impact on the environment.

Some research has been done to compare the attitudes of conservative parties in different countries, and the Republican Party in the US seems to be an outlier in its strict denial of climate change (at least in the Western cultural sphere); I’ll cite part of the conclusion of one study done by Sondre Batstrand at the University of Bergen:

No word of a lie, one group I used to know specifically argued that unless the earth was screwed, it wouldn’t be the right setting for the end days, so anything that environmentalists were proposing to limit climate change, was postponing the return of Jesus.

Yes science is usually settled in a couple decades, then it is no longer debatable.

Historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway present a well researched and documented case for their theory in Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.

Their essential premise, summarized in Wikipedia:

Conservatives, by definition, are against change.

Proposals for dealing with climate change run up against 1) conservative belief that what’s good for business is good for the country*, and 2) perception that some left-wing motivation on the issue is tied to reducing American power in the world and equalizing its status with other nations.

There’s also a dogged insistence that the science is somehow “cooked” by ideologues. I continue to marvel that (for instance) the Wall St. Journal easily sees through antivaccine crankery and its promotion by unqualified outliers in the scientific world, but eagerly embraces anti-climate change quackery which depends on similar pseudoscience and unqualified “experts”.

*this ignores opportunities in the business world for making $$ through developing/utilizing “clean” energy sources.

Science is always debatable. But usually, after a few decades, all the debates start going the same way.

I think this explains why conservatives vote the way they do … and climate change is just a proxy for this attitude … just dropped me to my knees laughing when The Donald said “The sky looks clean to me, I don’t see the problem” … this works with conservatives because we can’t see the problem with our own eyes in the infra-red no matter how opaque it gets with CO[sub]2[/sub] …

Conservative voters are also very sensitive to perceived job losses … and it’s very easy to find examples of this, environmentalists get the factory to cut back on mercury pollution by having the factory close down swing and graveyard shifts … half the jobs are lost and there’s no others to be had … with enough mercury in your brain, all this makes perfect sense …

I’m not saying all conservatives are suffering for heavy metal poisoning, but I’m not saying they aren’t either … we took lead out of gasoline 30 years ago, conservative voters tend to be over 30 … “proof by graph” as it were …

The Trump supporters I’ve talked to want their job today … the mill-wright busing tables for minimum wage, the skidder stocking shelves at Walmart, the coal-miner selling sweet corn along the highway … raping the environment pays well … and climate change is a hand-wave for them … better scorched Earth tomorrow than poverty today …

Ultra short-sighted …

I suspected it might be something like this. I have a friend who despite being conservative is a relatively smart and normal person. I mentioned once something about the fact some people belive Climate Change is a hoax and looked shocked. Oh but it is, he replied, just look at the evidence! I didn’t take the time ask what his “evidence” was but now I wish I would have.

So I guess the money motive makes some sense to the leaders but I still find it hard to believe the rank and file are so gullible in this regard.