Dave Brat, the Tea Party giant-slayer who defeated House Speaker Eric Cantor in the Virginia congressional primary election Tuesday, isn’t really worried about climate change, because the United States is rich.
Also, scientists were wrong about a coming ice age, he says. And rich countries have cleaner environments – because they’re rich.
“It’s a fact,” he says. Case closed.
I’ll let the good professor explain his theory in his own words, recorded at a Mechanicsville, Va. Tea Party event last month:
“The left thinks that being rich is just bad in and of itself. It’s absolutely false. Every rich country – what happens to your environment as you become richer? It becomes cleaner, right? That’s fact. Of course we care for the environment… but we’re not bad people…Over time, rich countries solve their problems. We get it right. It’s not all perfect, but we get it right.”
So much crazy, it’s hard to know where to begin.
With his upset victory over Cantor, the smug, ambitious seven-term incumbent who wanted John Boehner’s job, Brat propelled himself, and his more, shall we say, colorful views into the national spotlight.
As is commonplace among come-from-nowhere Tea Party stars – I’m thinking Rand Paul, for example, or Michele Bachmann – Brat’s opinions on major issues aren’t based in science, are contradicted by recent history and don’t even make much sense.
It’s pretty easy to take apart Brat’s suggestion that, in the slow-motion destruction of our global environment, it’s mo’ money, no problem for rich countries.
Just the premise alone walks right by the proven facts that the problem’s proven cause – pumping carbon dioxide and other toxic fumes into the atmosphere – is caused by mining, extracting, processing and burning fossil fuels that power our cars, our homes and our iPads.
You know – things rich people in rich countries tend to have.
Brat’s stunning assertion that environments become cleaner the richer a country becomes, however, is just plain nuts.
China, one of the fastest-developing nations in the world, has a serious pollution problem (photo right), and even its attempts at clean energy, like the massive Three Gorges River dam, have caused more headaches than they have solved. Here at home, the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline is a double-threat: if it’s approved, the Canada-to-the-Gulf pipeline not only poses an oil-spill risk to the American heartland, it will also produce even more of the hydrocarbons that are ruining our environment.
Moreover, the free market, which head-in-the-sand conservatives insist will create climate-change solutions in pursuit of a profit, has anything but a vested interest in addressing the crisis, at least on a large scale.
The renewable energy industry has barely made a dent in our energy needs because digging coal or pumping oil out of the ground is a whole lot cheaper, and way more profitable, than producing windmills and solar panels. And a Chevy Suburban SUV – the kind that drive around political candidates – don’t run on the hot air ones like Brat they produce in massive volume.
You don’t need to look any further than the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico five years ago; a series of investigations concluded that BP and Halliburton cut corners in its pursuit of the next big gusher. Those shortcuts cost 11 men their lives and created the biggest environmental disaster in the nation’s history, and the effects are still being felt by the people who still live there.
In the reality-based universe I prefer to inhabit, Brat’s crazy mash-up of greed-driven cheer-leading and American exceptionalism on the environment would be laughed offstage, particularly since scientific evidence that the earth is permanently changing for the worse is getting harder to deny.
Additionally, judging by his early media appearances, I’d say the economics professor isn’t ready for prime time. Having put Cantor’s political head in his trophy case, he’ll likely get more scrutiny than he can handle.
Yet we’re living in a political environment where facts don’t matter, at least on one side; in the video of Brat’s Tea Party meeting, several of the attendees agreed with him that rich countries are different than the rest.
From where I sit, however, the only pollution problem Brat can solve is if he loses and goes back to oblivion. That way, his nutty views and Tea Party boosterism can stop fouling our airwaves.