The climate denial of the Covid and the fall of the right – 08/10/2021 – Paul Krugman

Before the right wing decided to take hold of Covid denial, climate change denial already existed. Many of the attitudes that have characterized the right-wing response to the coronavirus pandemic – the refusal to acknowledge the facts, the accusations that scientists are all part of a broad liberal conspiracy, the refusal to face the crisis – have been foreshadowed in the climate debate.

But based on the Republican authorities’ response to Covid-19 – particularly its opposition to life-saving vaccines – it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the paranoid and irrational bias in US politics is not as bad as it is. ‘we imagined it, but very, very worse.

On Monday (9), the United Nations Panel on Climate Change released its latest report. The findings won’t surprise anyone following the issue, but they are still terrifying.

Some major damage caused by climate change is already irreversible, the panel concluded. They are already happening, in fact, and the world is experiencing extreme weather events such as heat waves in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and flooding in Europe, the occurrence of which has been made even more likely by the global temperature rise.

But we can, however, safely predict now how influential conservatives will react to the report, if at all. They will say it’s just a hoax, or that the science is not yet clear, or that any attempt to mitigate climate change could devastate the economy.

That is, they will react the same way they reacted to past warnings – or the same way they reacted to Covid-19. Extreme weather events are unlikely to change anything. After all, Republican governors like Ron DeSantis in Florida and Greg Abbott in Texas continue to oppose measures to control the virus – not only by refusing to act, but also by trying to block mandatory vaccination rules adopted by them. local governments and even by private companies – while the number of hospitalizations in their states is skyrocketing.

However, while there are important similarities between the right-wing’s response to climate change and its response to Covid-19, there are also important differences. The pandemic has led to crossing new frontiers of destructive irresponsibility.

The point is, climate change denial was morally irresponsible and intellectually indefensible, but it at least made sense, at least to narrow minds.

For starters, warnings about climate change have always had long-term consequences, which made it easier for deniers to argue that short-term fluctuations served to disprove the whole concept. “See? It’s cold today. Climate change is a scam! This kind of escape has become more difficult recently, now that we see fires and floods every two years on a scale that has only erupted. ‘once a century, but that has helped to muddy the waters.

And there was also a lot of money behind the denial of climate change. Fossil fuel interests were prepared to spend huge sums of money to create a haze of skepticism in the hopes that postponing climate action would benefit their business results.

Finally, and perhaps less importantly but not irrelevant, free market ideologues did not want to hear about problems the free market cannot solve.

None of these explanations work in the case of the current denial of Covid.

Companies may have protested against lockdowns that have reduced sales, but as far as I know, they are keen to push vaccinations to the max, which would help them get back to business, and a growing number of companies are applying. compulsory vaccination rules.

And even the most radical libertarians generally agree that promoting vaccination, to stop a scourge, is a valid role for the public sector.

And yet, here’s the point: Trying to limit a deadly pandemic, even through vaccines that generate immense benefits and few risks, has become a controversial partisan issue.

How did it happen? I would tell the story this way: The rapid pace of second trimester vaccinations in the United States was great news for the country, but it was also successful for the Joe Biden administration. So influential conservatives – for whom attacking liberals is always a primary focus – began to block vaccination efforts.

This had serious consequences. As I wrote earlier, the modern Republican Party looks more like an authoritarian political sect than a normal political party, hence the obstruction of vaccination – not an attack on vaccines per se, but an opposition. to any effort made to apply it. has become a test of loyalty, the stance an activist should take to prove loyalty to Republicans and Trump.

Presumably, the politicians who made this move had no idea that reality would retaliate so quickly and so strongly – that Florida would soon end up with a hospitalization rate nine times that of New York, and that some cities in Texas are reportedly running out of available intensive care units. beds. But it is almost impossible for them to change course. If Ron DeSantis admits how deadly his mistakes in 19 were, his political ambitions would be ruined.

The denial of Covid has therefore turned out to be even worse than the denial of climate change. We have moved from cynical submission to corporate interests to aggressive and performative irrationality. And the right continues to fall, into a seemingly bottomless abyss.

Originally translated from English by Paulo Migliacci

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