The GOP is the world’s only major climate-denialist party. But why?


It’s not that Republicans voters reject climate action — as we saw, majorities support it! In fact, it’s only a faction of Republicans who oppose putting limits on carbon emissions.

The phenomenon visible here is what skews the polarization numbers cited earlier in this post: The most committed and ideologically extreme 40 percent (or so) of the GOP is very strongly committed to climate denial and small-government purism.

In a parliamentary democracy, Tea Party Republicans would probably have their own far-right splinter party, working in coalition with a center-right party that took climate change seriously; that’s roughly the situation in EU countries. But in America’s goofy presidential system, there are only two parties that matter. So the Tea Party took over one of them.

And this is where the US differs from other developed democracies: Not that many more of its people, or even more of its conservatives, are opposed to action on climate change, but rather the far-right faction that is opposed has leveraged its intensity and generous funding to completely occlude the center-right on this issue (as on many others).

Put more simply: There are lots of Republicans who take climate change seriously and want to do something about it, but they have virtually no representation among elected Republicans at the national level. The climate-denialist tail is wagging the GOP dog.