Climate Politics as Manichean Paranoia, by Roger Pielke Jr.

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55 Tufton St

Westminster

London

SW1P 3QL

United Kingdom

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The decision by US President Donald Trump to remove the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change was met with both derision and applause. Such is climate politics in the United States in the 21st century. This talk focuses on climate politics as “Manichean paranoia,” a term used by the late US statesman Zbigniew Brzezinski to describe an worldview in which your opponent is considered to be malign and willfully ignorant, whereas your own side is noble and uniquely enlightened. While the two sides of the contemporary US climate debate disagree on many things, they are firmly united in their Manichean paranoia. I will describe this pathological approach to climate politics and why it matters. There are alternatives, and I’ll recommend five specific actions to improve political debate over climate. Changing climate politics won’t be easy and isn’t possible without a demand for change. The shared commitment to partisan battle between otherwise dueling camps of the climate debate is deeply held, and the siren calls to join the ranks on one side or the other is difficult to resist. However, rethinking climate politics should matter — not just for those who care about climate policy, but more generally for achieving the broadly shared goals of economic growth and the sustainability of liberal democracy.


Roger Pielke, Jr. has been on the faculty of the University of Colorado since 2001. He founded the university’s Center for Science and Technology Policy Research in 2002. He currently is the director of the Sports Governance Center within the Department of Athletics. Since the early 1990s, Roger’s research has focused on various topics at the intersection of science, innovation and politics. Roger holds degrees in mathematics, public policy and political science, all from the University of Colorado. He has been active in the climate debate for more than 2 decades, and has the scars to prove it. Before joining the faculty of the University of Colorado, from 1993-2001 Roger was a Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

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55 Tufton St

Westminster

London

SW1P 3QL

United Kingdom

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