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Indiana, hotbed of climate zombies

October 31st, 2010 · 1 Comment

This guest post comes from the thoughtful DWG about a rally and a local Congressman …

Last night, I had the privilege of seeing John Mellencamp perform in his hometown of Bloomington, Indiana. For those unfamiliar with Mellencamp, many of his songs focus on rural and urban decay and the people left in the wake. In the introduction to “Longest Days,” he told the story of a friend that died last year because the health insurance company decided his condition was not severe enough to warrant the treatment recommended by his doctors. His story was interrupted several time by shouts from the Tea Party Klan about “Obamacare.” Since Mellencamp’s message was social (“we have to look out for each other”) rather than political, it was a stark reminder of the callousness and belligerence of Tea Party Republicanism.

The Republican Tea in Indiana is heavily infused with religious fundamentalism. That mixture was recently profiled in the New York Times in a story about climate zombies.

Bloomington is in the 9th congressional district, currently represented by Democrat Baron Hill, who is facing off against climate zombie Todd Young. Young promotes himself as a conservative Christian that opposes everything from pollution regulations to minimum wages to worker safety laws. Jesus apparently taught that corporations were put on earth to dispense blessings and despair in service of the almighty profit margin. Young proclaims that “climate change is a hoax perpetrated by leftist ideologues.”

The New York Times article on climate change denial among religious conservatives focuses on the Tea Party backers of Todd Young during a recent debate with Baron Hill.

A rain of boos showered Mr. Hill, including a hearty growl from Norman Dennison, a 50-year-old electrician and founder of the Corydon Tea Party.

“It’s a flat-out lie,” Mr. Dennison said in an interview after the debate, adding that he had based his view on the preaching of Rush Limbaugh and the teaching of Scripture. “I read my Bible,” Mr. Dennison said. “He made this earth for us to utilize.”

Skepticism and outright denial of global warming are among the articles of faith of the Tea Party movement, here in Indiana and across the country. For some, it is a matter of religious conviction; for others, it is driven by distrust of those they call the elites. And for others still, efforts to address climate change are seen as a conspiracy to impose world government and a sweeping redistribution of wealth. But all are wary of the Obama administration’s plans to regulate carbon dioxide, a ubiquitous gas, which will require the expansion of government authority into nearly every corner of the economy.

“This so-called climate science is just ridiculous,” said Kelly Khuri, founder of the Clark County Tea Party Patriots. “I think it’s all cyclical.”

“Carbon regulation, cap and trade, it’s all just a money-control avenue,” Ms. Khuri added. “Some people say I’m extreme, but they said the John Birch Society was extreme, too.”

Rush Limbaugh as a religious authority and the John Birch Society as a voice of moderation says a good deal about the mentality of Tea Party Republicans. Whatever their blind spots and outrageous ideas, above all else they are useful idiots.

In case you are wondering what Baron Hill said that twisted the knickers of the Tea Party Republicans during the debate, here is the clip:

The science is overwhelming. There is no question that man is contributing to climate change. No question about it. The science is overwhelming. Look, folks: this is God’s green earth and we ought to respect it. We ought to do what is right for our environment. This bill is what’s right for our environment. This is God’s green earth and we ought to protect it. For years, we have tried to pass legislation and the special interests always bought it out. If this is so bad, why did Ronald Reagan himself do the same thing with sulfur when he was President of the United States? Same cap-and-trade bill. No difference. Same bill. This is not what people have portrayed it to be. It’s the special interests again using their money influence to make sure that their interests are protected and not our environment.

The New York Times article discussed some of the special interests funding Tea Party Republicans. They are very useful idiots for fossil fuels companies hoping to delay the transition to clean energy.

Groups that help support Tea Party candidates include climate change skepticism in their core message. Americans for Prosperity, a group founded and largely financed by oil industry interests, has sponsored what it calls a Regulation Reality Tour to stir up opposition to climate change legislation and federal regulation of carbon emissions. Its Tea Party talking points describe a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions as “the largest excise tax in history.”

FreedomWorks, another group supported by the oil industry, helps organize Tea Party rallies and distributes fliers urging opposition to federal climate policy, which it calls a “power grab.”

“Any effort to make electricity and fuel more expensive or to cap or regulate CO2 will only exacerbate an already critical situation and cause tremendous economic damage,” FreedomWorks says on its Web site.

Unfortunately, the New York Times omitted one of the more blatant special-interest disinformation groups. An important oil company creation is the Cornwall Alliance, whose sole purpose is to convince religious conservatives to reject climate science as an article of religious faith. As noted by Lee Fang in a post at the Wonk Room, the Cornwall Alliance was created by the same people behind the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), a well known climate change denial organization funded by oil companies and Scaife family foundations.

For “stream lining” reasons, ISA relaunched as the Cornwall Alliance in 2006. With the new name came a redesigned website, highly produced web videos, and an organized network of churches to distribute climate change denying propaganda to hundreds of pastors around the country. The branding for the Cornwall Alliance is derived from the “Cornwall Declaration,” a 1999 document pushing back against the creation-care movement in the evangelical community. The Declaration “stressed a free-market environmental stewardship and emphasized that individuals and private organizations should be trusted to care for their own property without government intervention.” CFACT President Rothbard has been hailed as the “driving force” behind the Cornwall Declaration public relations effort.

Free-market environmental stewardship has to be one of the most absurd phrases I have ever seen. Chicken conservation by foxes. Salmon conservation by bears.

Despite the well-funded disinformation lapped up by Limbaugh-worshipping Tea Party Republicans in Indiana, reality is sobering. In 2008, Indiana experienced record floods in the southern parts of the state. In 2010, record warmth from summer to fall has also been accompanied by record drought. From the National Weather Service:

As of October 26…65% of Indiana remained in Moderate to Extreme Drought Conditions

The U.S. Drought Monitor released on October 28 indicated 65.4% of Indiana experiencing moderate to extreme drought conditions as of October 26.  Moderate to severe drought conditions existed in most areas along and south of a line from Newport, Indiana to Winchester, Indiana and in portions of north central and northeast Indiana. Abnormally dry conditions prevailed in remaining portions of Indiana except near Lake Michigan.   An extreme drought bubble continued, centered on Jackson County, because of hardship to local livestock producers and agricultural activities.

The Indiana Weekly Crop Progress and Condition Report released on October 25 indicated corn and soybean harvest stood at 96% completion.  Soils remained very dry with 94% of the top soil moisture and 93% of the sub soil moisture rated short to very short.  Only 4% of the pastures states wide were rated good.  Farmers continue to closely monitor water supplies for livestock as many ponds, streams and wells have dried up this fall.  An increasing number of operations were hauling water and hay to livestock.  Winter wheat stands were very uneven.

On October 28, U.S. Geological Survey gaging sites indicated a few small watersheds were at or near daily record low flow.  Gaging stations along the White, East Fork White and Wabash Rivers indicated below normal water flow.  The lowest levels were along the East Fork White, White and Wabash Rivers in southwest Indiana.  In central Indiana, all Indianapolis water supply reservoirs and Monroe Lake ranged from 2 to 4 feet below normal lake levels.

The National Drought Monitor for October 26 indicated at least D0 conditions or abnormally dry conditions existed in nearly all of Indiana, D1 and D2 conditions or moderate to severe drought conditions in more than 60% of Indiana and D3 conditions or extreme drought conditions in 4% of Indiana.

Extreme precipitation events and drought are expected to increase in frequency and severity with climate change. Based on National Center for Atmospheric Research projections, Indiana may not experience the dust-bowl drought conditions likely to develop in the western United States in the coming decades, but will face unpredictable floods and droughts as the water cycle is disrupted with climate change.

The battle between Hill and Young is too close to call at this point. Hill has a lead ofabout 2,500 votes in early voting, but early vote tallies indicate that the bulk of votes have yet to be cast. This is a race where get out the votes will be critical to keeping the district out of the hands of a climate zombie. Volunteer for phone banking for Hill here.

Here is Mellencamp’s song “Longest Days,” whose introduction provoked the Tea Party Republicans in the audience last night.

Here is my favorite song from his new CD “No Better Than This:”

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Tags: climate change · climate delayers · climate zombies · environmental · guest post

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