An interesting piece by Harvard historian Naomi Oreskes in TomDispatch this week “Why Climate Deniers Are Their Own Worst Nightmares” (“Seventy-two percent of the Republican Senate caucus, for instance, now qualify as climate deniers.”) Check it out:
As unlikely as it might seem today, in the first half of the twentieth century the Republicans were the party that most strongly supported scientific work, as they recognized the diverse ways in which it could undergird economic activity and national security. The Democrats were more dubious, tending to see science as elitist and worrying that new federal agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health would concentrate resources in elite East Coast universities.
In recent decades, of course, the Republicans have lurched rightward on many topics and now regularly attack scientific findings that threaten their political platforms. In the 1980s, they generally questioned evidence of acid rain; in the 1990s, they went after ozone science; and in this century, they have launched fierce attacks not just on climate science, but in the most personal fashion imaginable on climate scientists.
Still, compared to many of his colleagues, McCain looks like a moderate. They have dismissed climate change as a fraud and a hoax, while conducting McCarthy-esque inquiries into the research of leading climate scientists. Many of them attack climate science because they fear it will be used as an excuse to expand the reach of government.
In a hearing at which I testified last month, Republican members of the Committee on Natural Resources denounced a wide range of scientific investigations related to the enforcement of existing environmental laws as “government science.” And this, they alleged, meant it was, by definition, corrupt, politically driven, and lacking in accountability. The particular science under attack involved work done by, or on behalf of, federal agencies like the National Parks Service, but climate science came in for its share of insults as well.
On the face of it, the charges were absurd: most agency science is subject to far more scrutiny, accountability, and oversight, including multiple levels of peer review, than research done in academic settings. In contrast, research done under the aegis of industry is often subject to no public accountability at all.