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Climate change and right-wing populism in the United States

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Abstract

In recent years, the Republican Party in the United States has taken on the characteristics of right-wing populism, especially under President Donald Trump. Like most right-wing populist parties, the party under Trump is hostile to climate mitigation. This is reflected in skepticism or rejection of climate science, opposition to multilateral institutions and agreements, aggressive domestic exploitation of fossil fuels, and depiction of climate advocates and experts as ‘elites’ set on undermining the will of ‘the people’. Among the causes of this populism are sharply growing political polarization, especially on climate and the environment, and a sorting of long-standing worldviews along party lines, leading to the election of a president with a nationalist, backward-looking agenda. This leads to drastic policy swings across administrations, among the states, and to gridlock at a national level. This stalemate will continue until one of the two competing coalitions can establish dominance nationally.

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... On the other hand, various country-specific articles in this special issue demonstrate how climate change has emerged as a popular issue, leading to strong politicization. Fiorino (2022) focuses on the US, making the case that climate change has become one dominant cleavage in US politics and that populist arguments are being made on both sides of the debate. This is also the case for Germany, where the populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has discovered climate change as a politicizing factor (Böcher et al. 2022). ...
... In an attempt to classify climate-related populism in Northern Europe, Vihma et al. (2020, p. 22) distinguish between three idealized types of right-wing populism related to climate change, which they label as climate science denialism, climate policy nationalism, and climate policy conservatism. We take this up arguing that climate science denialism and nationalism can be witnessed in Germany (Böcher et al. 2022;Selk and Kemmerzell 2022), the US (Fiorino 2022), and Brazil (Marquardt et al. 2022). However, in countries like Austria or Poland we rather detect climate policy conservatism (Selk and Kemmerzell 2022), and a similar trend is visible in the Philippines (Marquardt et al. 2022). ...
... Marquardt et al. (2022) focus on strong populist leaders who juxtapose the will of the people against a pluralist party system and who were quite successful in doing so in the US, Brazil, and the Philippines. Fiorino (2022) shows in detail how the institutional setup was challenged by Trump and how he was able to undo many liberal elements within the policy field of climate change. Similarly, Böcher et al.(2022) delineate how the AfD in Germany is using climate politics to undermine parliamentarian routines and conventions. ...
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