Why is climate-change preparation like Lord Voldemort?

Global warming is creating a dilemma for conservatives

“Global warming” is a phrase so identified with Democrats and Al Gore that now that the reality is upon us, it’s not only creating extreme weather, but a dilemma for conservatives:

What should they call this phenomenon without sounding like they’ve caved in to liberal ideas? How to build sea walls and draft drought rules for the looming catastrophe, and not appear to insult GOP stalwarts such as Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, who called global warming “the second largest hoax ever played on the American people”?

Governments -- left-leaning or right -- are beginning to swap out thirsty civic plantings for water-saving ones, re-zone future development, cut back on heat-creating paving, and reclaim rainwater and gray water.

As the Associated Press points out, conservative strongholds are laying plans for what they’ve taken to calling “sustainability” and “resilience” without mentioning what’s making it necessary. “In many city planning departments, it has become like Voldemort … It’s the issue that cannot be named.”

A reliable wordsmith to conservatives, Frank Luntz, did come up with a counter-term to “global warming.” Luntz is the man who also crafted “death tax” for “estate tax,” which is levied on the comparatively few who die with more than $5 million. As Republicans intended, “death tax” sounded to voters like a penalty on every dead American, instead of the few one-percenters.

Luntz came up with the more neutral term “climate change,” but its elasticity ended up working to the Democrats’ advantage, in much the same way that the jeer “Obamacare” was embraced by the White House as a terrific brand.

Politicians can also thank the Pentagon for protective camouflage; it’s taking the global consequences of climate change – refugees from rising oceans, wars over water and food – as serious threats to national security. If the Pentagon’s doing it, how can anyone call us wimps for doing the same?

Yet in North Carolina, legislators dealt with threatened coastal damage by banning government agencies from using scientific tools that included climate change data. As a result of the law and adroit lobbying, the policy statement by the state’s Coastal Commission deleted the projection of a 39-inch sea level rise within 90 years, and substituted a 30-year projection and eight-inch rise.

And in Fayetteville, Ark., the city’s “sustainability and resilience” director helped to persuade a Republican-led legislature to approve tax-free bonds for water- and energy-saving projects. Yet according to a conspiracy theorist website, that man's work is really about promoting a United Nations-inspired conspiracy to deny Americans their rights.

Including, maybe, the right to be drowned by that imaginary global warming.

Follow Patt Morrison on Twitter @pattmlatimes


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