Recently sworn-in Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin rarely mentioned environmental issues during his campaign, and as folks have pointed out, while Youngkin may have tried to present himself as a moderate Republican and kept his distance from Trump, the moment he took power, he acted just like the six-times-bankrupt, failed insurrection leader, social media exile, and one-term former president.
Youngkin is (illegally) trying to go around the state’s legislature to force Virginia to leave a regional climate agreement, and chose Trump’s former EPA administrator and former coal lobbyist (though those two titles are kind of redundant) Andrew Wheeler to be in charge of the state’s natural resources. Though Youngkin presented himself as simple (millionaire) businessman fed up with divisive political bickering, he surfed to victory on a wave of general vote-against-the-president’s-party backlash and discontent around school closures due to covid, all while exploiting transphobia and a good helping of anti-anti-racism (also known as "racism").
Which is just to say that we’re more surprised anyone bought his faux-moderate-ism than we are that he immediately did his best impression of Trump, who he had held at arm’s length during the campaign while also playing footsie with him under the table.
Though it was never exactly subtle, the convergence of climate denial with conservative culture war disinformation writ large is only ramping up.
Take Wednesday’s National Post op-ed by Jordan Peterson, for example. In his announcement that he’s resigning from his tenured position as a clinical psychology professor at the University of Toronto, Peterson mostly complains about how Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts (that he oh-so-cleverly reorders to use the acronym “DIE”) have made it all but impossible for him to do his job. This is ironic, as the DEI worldview he decries, and its humane treatment of drug addiction as a medical issue and not a failure of personal integrity, is likely the only reason he wasn’t already fired for having a drug addiction so intense it required Peterson travel to Russia to be put in a medically-induced coma.
So it’s precisely because of progressive policy that Peterson has the privilege to blame his reputation as a virulent bigot for his resignation, instead of being fired over his addiction to drugs.
That, and, he writes, because BIPOC hires are creating “a generation of researchers utterly unqualified for the job.” Since apparently only white men can be qualified candidates, he’s quitting his job teaching. Before a bunch of paragraphs favorably quoting Vladimir Putin’s condemnation of woke-ness, Peterson mentions that “if you think DIE is bad” (because actively undoing the harms of discrimination is upsetting) “wait until you get a load of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) scores.”
These measures, meant to guide investor decisions by offering transparency on how a company’s decision-making process works, and the extent to which it does or doesn’t pollute the environment, and cause social harm, both of which are major risks for long-term profits.
But to Peterson, who "rose" to prominence for refusing to respect his students’ pronouns, ESG is even worse than “DIE,” though he apparently couldn’t figure out a way to reorder the acronym to disparage it. (Or, our GES is he tried and nothing was SEG-sy enough to meet his standard of EGScellence…)
Anyway, though it’s not exactly new, Peterson has been increasingly incorporating climate disinformation into his grift, taking advantage of the right’s pseudo-media ecosystem that was built on Koch and other billionaire funding and building on its well-established petromasculinity in order to cultivate an audience of rabid anti-environmentalists.
To do so, they’ve been funding anti-anti-racists and whipping up state-level trans panics, making it clear that whether or not straight, white climate activists think they have common cause with the LGBTQ+ community, worry about showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter movement is politically shrewd, the opposition certainly isn’t scared to be intersectional about social issues.
Even, ironically, as they attack it or co-opt them.