Climate science is the latest manifestation of solution aversion: denying a problem because it has a costly solution. The Right does this on climate science, the Left does it on gun control, GMOs, and plenty more. Cass Sunstein explains:
It is often said that people who don’t want to solve the problem of climate change reject the underlying science, and hence don’t think there’s any problem to solve.
But consider a different possibility: Because they reject the proposed solution, they dismiss the science. If this is right, our whole picture of the politics of climate change is off.
Some psychologists wasted grant money on lab experiments to show that people that think the solution to a problem is costly tend to rubbish every aspect of the argument. Any politician will tell you you do not concede anything. Sunstein again:
Campbell and Kay asked the participants whether they agreed with the IPCC. And in both, about 80 percent of Democrats did agree; the policy solutions made no difference.
Republicans, in contrast, were far more likely to agree with the IPCC when the proposed solution didn’t involve regulatory restrictions…
Here, then, is powerful evidence that many people (of course not all) who purport to be skeptical about climate science are motivated by their hostility to costly regulation.
The Left is equally prone to motivated readings. For example, it was found that those on the left are much more concerned about home invasions when gun control can reduce them rather than increase them.
The Left picks and chooses which scientific consensus as it accepts. The overwhelming consensus among researchers is biotech crops are safe for humans and the environment. This is a conclusion that is rejected by the very environmentalist organisations that loudly insist on the policy relevance of the scientific consensus on global warming.
Previously the precautionary principle was used to introduce doubt when there was no doubt. But when climate science turned in their favour, environmentalists wanted public policy to be based on the latest science.
The Right is welcoming of the science of nuclear energy or geo-engineering. The Left rejects it point-blank. Their refusal to consider nuclear energy as a solution to global warming is a classic example of solution aversion. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.