Republicans are using wildfire smoke to spread LGBTQ+ hate
The trend of far-right figures scapegoating minorities for global crises is not a new one, and should not be ignored.
TW: Today’s newsletter talks about anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and transphobia. If you’d like to start your day with joy instead, here is Arielle’s interview with trans climate activist Mika Tosca about how she finds hope in the struggle.
As Canadian wildfire smoke covered much of the Eastern United States last week, many members of Congress saw an opportunity to talk about things like climate change, air pollution, forest management and firefighter pay.
But other members of Congress saw a different opportunity arise from the wildfire smoke: one to push anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.
“Can someone ask Justin Trudeau what pronouns forest fires use?” Wisconsin Rep. Derrick Van Orden, a Republican, tweeted on Wednesday. “I would like them to stop polluting our air but do not want an HR complaint.”
The same day, Republican Rep. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin, said in an interview with Newsmax that Pride month was distracting from the wildfire response. “We need some answers from Prime Minister Trudeau rather than him diving into Pride month and doing all those woke things that really have no benefit to peoples’ lives,” he said.
HEATED is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
It’s not surprising to watch conservatives attempt to turn a climate issue into an anti-LGBTQ+ talking point. At this point, conservatives would likely turn anything into an LGBTQ+ talking point. This year, Republicans have introduced nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills nationwide, according to the ACLU. For the first time in its 40-year history, the nonprofit Human Rights Campaign declared a national state of emergency for the LGBTQ+ community, in part due to increasingly hateful rhetoric by the GOP.
And yet, there is something particularly insidious about conservatives using the climate crisis to further anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments. After all, the climate crisis is a massive risk for queer people because of stigma and discrimination, as peer-reviewed research published this year in Sociological Inquires explains:
LGBTQ+ individuals experience greater rates of homelessness, mental health challenges, substance abuse, and social and family violence. Structural inequalities like poverty and stigma (homophobia and transphobia) are also prevalent and negatively impact these rates. Climate change will exacerbate these inequalities, making it an LGBTQ+ issue of concern.
Reps. Orden and Tiffany are not only furthering the hateful rhetoric that makes queer people more vulnerable to the climate crisis—they are worsening the climate crisis itself. The lawmakers each reject climate science and push policies to expand fossil fuel extraction. Of course, that’s not unique to them; most of the right-wing lawmakers and pundits pushing homophobia and transphobia today are also committed climate deniers and fossil fuel apologists. It’s almost as if they want the crisis that threatens LGBTQ+ people to worsen.
Reps. Van Orden and Tiffany did not directly blame queer people for environmental degradation from wildfires last week. But the path they are on is clear and well-trodden. The trend of far-right politicians scapegoating minorities for global crises is not a new one, and it should not be ignored here.
We’ll have more on that in a minute, but first…
Hot off the presses
Surprise! The Qatar World Cup was not, in fact, “carbon neutral.” FIFA fed its fans certified horse shit when it claimed that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar would be climate-neutral, a Swiss regular has ruled. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “How could a decade-long, $200 billion construction project featuring mostly air-conditioned buildings and thousands of exploited migrant laborers located in the Saudi Arabia of methane gas not be climate-friendly?” According to the AP, FIFA claimed it would offset the entire emissions impact, and then provided no evidence it actually did. It’s all just further proof that carbon offsets are mostly a scam—and that corporate greenwashing, particularly when it comes to sports, knows no bounds.
Fox News is deploying second-hand smoke deniers to spread misinformation about wildfires. Representatives from The Heartland Institute, a fossil fuel- and tobacco-funded “think tank” known for denying the risks of climate change and secondhand smoke, have been all over Fox News in the last week to deny that wildfires have anything to do with climate change. Heartland director and former lobbyist for tobacco and oil companies Steven Milloy claimed wildfire smoke “doesn’t kill anybody,” “doesn’t make anybody cough, and “has nothing to do with climate” on Wednesday. And Heartland employee Justin Haskins wrote an op-ed for Fox News today making similar climate claims. They are wrong, of course, on many levels. But this is the information your Fox News-watching relatives are getting on wildfires. Propaganda from literal cigarette shills.
The environmental cost of Russia’s war on Ukraine is rising. We’re written before about the terrifying carbon-intensity of war, but climate impact is only one side of the coin when it comes to conflict. My friend and colleague Tim Mak is reporting directly from Ukraine on the Kakhovka dam breach, which the Guardian claims could be Ukraine’s “worst ecological disaster since Chornobyl.” We encourage you to check out both reports.
Why we shouldn’t ignore LGBTQ+ scapegoating for wildfires
Throughout history, periods of massive crisis have pushed fearful people to ignore the actual cause of the crisis, and focus instead on scapegoating marginalized groups. Time and again, this has resulted not just in violence toward the marginalized group, but in worsening of the crisis itself.