As a rule, Republicans don’t believe that the world is in a climate emergency. That the beliefs of Republicans are more deeply rooted in political opportunism rather than science is made obvious by the fact that they have to ignore unprecedented heat waves, record drought, and incendiary forest fires to maintain their politically convenient charade.
Nothing exemplifies this disturbing ostrich-like behavior better than the reaction given to news reports about the extraordinary deaths of thousands of cattle in Kansas recently after a June heatwave sent temperatures soaring above 104°.
According to an article in The Daily Beast:
“Republicans have seized on the deaths of thousands of cattle in a Kansas heat wave as the latest proof of a baseless conspiracy theory that saboteurs ranging from the mega-wealthy to the government are out to destroy the national food supply.”
“That hoax has been circulating on the right for months, but received new energy after thousands of cattle in Kansas died in a June heatwave in which temperatures topped 104 degrees. A viral video that showed what appeared to be hundreds of dead cattle was cited by as proof that someone—the Biden administration, liberal billionaires, or an unnamed elite cabal—was behind the deaths.”
If any Republicans had bothered checking with farmers and ranchers, a simple explanation for the mass bovine deaths — one that doesn’t involve QAnon-level paranoia — was easily available.
“’This was a true weather event — it was isolated to a specific region in southwestern Kansas,’ said A.J. Tarpoff, a cattle veterinarian with Kansas State University. ‘Yes, temperatures rose, but the more important reason why it was injurious was that we had a huge spike in humidity … and at the same time wind speeds actually dropped substantially, which is rare for western Kansas,’” according to NPR.
Robby Starbuck, a Republican candidate for the Tennessee House, claims that he has sources — sources that he refuses to name — that tell him that there is no way that those Kansas cows could have been sent to heavenly pastures by the heat alone.
“They did not die of extreme heat,” Starbuck tweeted. “I talked to multiple ranchers since I saw this video (one from Kansas) and they all say this needs to be investigated ASAP to get to the bottom of this because there’s no way heat caused 10,000+ cattle to drop dead. This is not normal.”
Starbuck wasn’t alone in his delusional speculation. On the social media platform Telegram, a safe space for the far-right, the “Big Lie” proponent Jovan Hutton Pulitzer forwarded a post blaming Microsoft founder Bill Gates for the massive cow-icide.
On the same platform, Proud Boys (and VICE) founder Gavin McInnes wondered whether the bovine weather catastrophe wasn’t really part of a vast conspiracy to “make us so hungry” that Americans would take to the streets and allow the federal government to declare a state of emergency and institute martial law.
Conservative comedian Steven Crowder was somewhat more general in his skepticism about official explanations for the disaster that befell the Kansas cud-chewers.
Is anyone else a little suspicious about 2K cows just suddenly dropping dead in Kansas due to heat stress?
— Steven Crowder (@scrowder) June 21, 2022
According to The Daily Beast:
“In April, conservatives seized on a series of fires and other incidents at food-processing plants to suggest that a mysterious group of arsonists is set on undermining the food supply. In reality, however, several of the incidents were years-old, while others didn’t actually occur near the food plants.”
These bizarre theories about a plot to destabilize America’s food supply have been growing since supply chain problems at the beginning of the COVID pandemic left supermarket shelves bare for a brief period.
The paranoid fantasies about a cattle cataclysm have even been expressed on the floor of Congress, as lame-duck Congressman Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) said in a speech that people have “every right to be skeptical” about what the government is telling us about dead cows and baby formula shortages. He referenced a “seemly unexplainable series of food industry accidents” that the media has ignored in his estimation.
“Does no one care that children are starving you and your colleagues feast at Le Diplomate?” Cawthorn asked his fellow lawmakers, citing a popular Washington DC eatery.
The mental contortions that these Republicans must go through to avoid the simple explanation that human contributions to greenhouse gasses have helped cause average temperatures to rise — as scientists have been predicting for decades — contributing to the heat waves that these poor innocent cows simply couldn’t handle in the open sun of their fields.
Perhaps it’s time to elect some scientifically-literate Democrats to office so that Congress can finally enact the Green New Deal that can help turn our climate emergency around. The Republicans are too rooted in either sheer stupidity or cynical political gamesmanship to do anything to make a difference for our now-bleak climate future.
Original reporting by Will Sommer at The Daily Beast.