Due apologies for the lengthy quote, but David Roberts is making important points here that all would do well to embrace as elementary postulates of politics:
One problem is that the people pleading for a depoliticization of science tend to be characterological centrists (CCs). A CC is, by temperament, attached to his/her self-image as an independent thinker, thoughtful and nuanced, seeing both sides of the argument, not part of any team or "side," disgusted by unthinking partisans. CCs are strongly inclined to see political problems in terms of "extremes on both sides" polarizing and dumbing down the debate. The sweet light of reason and virtue, according to CCs, lies between the sides, or rather in new, "post-partisan" options that transcend the tired conventional debates.It's way past time to stop pretending there are "two sides" to climate science standing in delicate, staid equipoise. It's not like that. There is a side that wants to address its reality in some responsible fashion, and a side that brazenly lies in the service of perpetuating the status quo. Full stop.
... Politics, however, isn't like that, "marketplace of ideas" fantasies aside. It's not about determining who's right, or who's cleverest; it's about determining the distribution of society's resources, privileges, and responsibilities. It's about power.
The reality of contemporary American energy politics is awkward for CCs. The fact is that the Republican Party has become, for all intents and purposes, the political arm of the fossil-fuel status quo. The entrenched energy powers-that-be have marshaled the right's current vulgar anti-intellectualism in support of their continued privilege; to put it more bluntly, they have been and still are paying people on the right to lie about science and dupe the conservative base.
I'm not talking about climate sensitivities or hurricane frequency or sea-level projections or other areas of active scientific disputation. I'm talking about whether human beings are driving changes in the climate. That question is simply not in serious dispute in the relevant scientific disciplines. It has been confirmed by multiple lines of evidence, empirical and model-based, over many years. Curry and virtually every other credible climate scientist would no doubt agree. Yet Republicans have now made rejection of that root scientific consensus a litmus test, in keeping with their decades-long assault on America's institutions. Virtually every Republican candidate for Congress has denied the most rudimentary facts about climate change.
Happy talk won't change it, nor will denial, nor will professorial fray-eschewing, nor will "framing." Matt Yglesias elaborates:
A different way of putting it would be à la Trotsky’s quip that you may not be interested in the dialectic, but the dialectic is interested in you. It’s possible to have meaningful dialogue about an issue on a technical “non-political” level if and only if the political system isn’t interested in the question.The political system is deeply interested in carbon-intensive energy, and one of the sides has no qualms about distorting and obscuring the truth. Scientific experts can join the fight or see it lost.