Climate change- of course causation matters. But not to Palin. Why?

Her initial answer is basically identical to her response in the Couric interview, and is very similar to the response she gave to Charles Gibson. What’s confusing is at times she seems to briefly acknowledge the reality of anthropogenic change, but then proceeds to walk the answer back to the “it doesn’t matter” position, while other times she refuses to be pinned down at all.

Indulge me in a bit of informed speculation-

Palin is comfortable discussing events with a seeming lack of causality because she lives in a supernaturally-governed universe. “Cycles” in the Earth’s temperature do not need an explicit proximate cause because the ultimate cause of everything on a macro level is “God’s will”. In essence, it’s entirely consistent with Palin’s world view that there is no difference between anthropogenic vs. natural climate change and that her alleged “solution” (“it’s all of our jobs to do to clean things up. And that’s what we’re committed to doing” ) is actually independent of either.

Joe Biden rightly points out (as did Gibson and Couric) that causation is key to achieving a solution. I suggest that the reason that Palin refuses to connect the two after being dinged on this repeatedly is because this simply isn’t the way Palin views reality (and the GOP obviously doesn’t care about its image on climate change enough to force her to change her answer). In this light, her nominal endorsement of action on climate change has nothing to do with her actual acceptance of the reality, but rather is merely an extension of her evangelical Steward of Creation ethos. This is precisely why she cannot explicitly say that fossil fuel emissions cause climate change without retreating to a position along the lines of “it doesn’t really matter anyway, and hey, we should be cleaning up the environment in general.”

It’s not so much that she rejects the logical steps involved (greenhouse gasses warm the planet, burning fossil fuels produces greenhouse gasses, we’ve increased the amount of greenhouses gasses far higher than they have been for at least the last 800 kyr, the warming is occurring)- it’s that for her these steps are completely absent. Anything that happens beyond the micro-level human actions of day to day life (and sometimes even these) is ultimately controlled by God. When pressed on evolution she doesn’t explicitly acknowledge that it is a real phenomenon, and makes a point of saying that she can see the “hand of God in the beautiful creation that is Earth”. It’s the same frame of reference- human beings and animals can reproduce, but anything on a greater scale than that is ultimately controlled by God.

She will no doubt continue to mouth platitudes about environmental responsibility, but I don’t think we’ll see her move to an explicit and consistent acknowledgment of anthropogenic climate change unless the McCain campaign considers it to be a game changing issue. And with the lack of attention climate receives in the election in general, and this being the last probable time before the election that she’ll be asked about it, I think the chances of that are slim to none.

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4 responses to “Climate change- of course causation matters. But not to Palin. Why?

  1. This well could be. However, in addition Governor Palin runs a state whose economy is unlike any other US state,but far more akin to Venezuela and other petro-states. See the good short article by Prof Michael Klare;

    Palin’s Petropolitics.

    “Finally, much like the leaders of other petrostates that depend on oil sales to fill government coffers, Palin is leery of efforts to promote renewable sources of energy and other petroleum alternatives–the exact opposite of running mate John McCain’s proclaimed objective and that of most members of Congress. At a meeting of the National Governors Association in February, Palin argued against providing subsidies for alternative energy sources, claiming that domestic sources of oil and gas–many located in Alaska–can satisfy the nation’s needs for a long time to come. “The conventional resources we have can fill the gap between now and when new technologies become economically competitive and don’t require subsidies,” she asserted. When pressed by a reporter for Oil & Gas Journal she went further, denouncing government support for renewable energy. “I just don’t want things to get out of hand with incentives for renewables, particularly since they imply subsidies, while ignoring fuels we already have on hand.””

    For people in SF Bay Area, Klare will be speaking at Stanford October 8.

  2. I am certainly not one to discount the petroregime similarities.

  3. I think she’s got a bit of a problem with the cause and effect nature of it all … refer this line :-)

  4. TB, I think that this isn’t particularly helpful, as more mundane and more powerful explanations can be seen – such as the desire to attract reflexively skeptical Republican voters who may be uneasy with McCain, and to attract campaign support from fossil fuel producers/users who are looking to head off a cap and trade regime.

    Palin might in part believe some of her garbage, but no parties have a lock on convenient self-deception.

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