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Republicans are becoming the party of climate supervillains

Posted on 14 September 2015 by dana1981

As Politico recently reported in a news story that seems better suited for bad a Hollywood movie script, Republican Party leaders are actively trying to sabotage the critical international climate negotiations that will happen in Paris at the end of this year.

Top Republican lawmakers are planning a wide-ranging offensive — including outreach to foreign officials by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office — to undermine President Barack Obama’s hopes of reaching an international climate change agreement that would cement his environmental legacy.

Republican Party leaders have often argued that the United States shouldn’t take action to curb its carbon pollution unless China and other countries do as well.

Climate Desk mash-up of Republican leaders calling for China and other countries to cut their carbon pollution.

Now these countries are working to reach an international agreement in which all cut their carbon pollution, and Republican leaders are trying to undermine it. It’s as though they’re just looking for excuses to prevent the United States from reducing its fossil fuel consumption. As Jonathan Chait wrote,

In any case, the old conservative line, with its explicit or implicit promise that international agreement to reduce emissions might justify domestic emissions cuts, has suddenly become inoperative. The speed at which Republicans have changed from insisting other countries would never reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions to warning other countries not to do so — without a peep of protest from within the party or the conservative movement — says everything you need to know about the party’s stance on climate change.

Where have Republican Party climate leaders gone?

It doesn’t have to be this way. Conservative political parties in nearly every country in the world acknowledge that human-caused global warming is real, a problem, and propose to do at least something about it. Australia’s climate-dubious prime minister Tony Abbott was the closest analogue to Republicans, but he’s just been replaced by the science-accepting Malcolm Turnbull.

Many conservative politicians used to accept climate science an risks even in the United States. In 2007, Senator John McCain (who became the Republican Party’s 2008 presidential nominee) co-authored the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act to introduce a carbon cap and trade system. In 2010, Senator Lindsay Graham likewise co-authored a bipartisan cap and trade bill.

Sadly, although a majority of Republican voters support regulating carbon as a pollutant, and a plurality even support President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the party’s leaders have now taken an extreme stance on the issue. Many of the party’s presidential candidates deny that the planet is even warming (e.g. Ted Cruz), or that humans are responsible (e.g. Donald TrumpBen CarsonJeb Bush,Marco RubioJohn Kasich). Among those few who accept the scientific consensus, most oppose all practical efforts to address the problem (e.g. Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina). The two Republican presidential candidates who support taking action to address the problem (Lindsey Graham and George Pataki) arepolling at a combined 0.2%.

Republican Party leaders are trying hard to obstruct President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and have not offered any alternatives. The easiest way to eliminate those government regulations would involve replacing them with a small government, free market alternative carbon pricing system via the type of climate legislation introduced years ago by McCain and Graham. This approach issupported by a consensus of economists, and was introduced by Republican presidents Reagan and Bush to successfully address past environmental problems, but has virtually no support among today’s Republican Party leaders.

Becoming the party of short-sighted supervillains

Lindsay Abrams at Salon recently wrote, “Marco Rubio is trying to distinguish himself as a full-on climate villain.” With these efforts by the party leaders to sabotage all domestic and international climate policy efforts, Rubio will no longer be able to distinguish himself on this front. The Republican Party seems to be crafting itself as the party of climate supervillains, hell-bent on destroying the world. It’s an extremely short-sighted position, because as astrophysicist Neal deGrasse Tyson put it,

That’s the good thing about science: It’s true whether or not you believe in it.

Human-caused climate change and the associated risks and consequences are real, and they’ll only become more apparent to voters as the planet continues to heat up. Becoming the party that makes every effort to obstruct and undermine all national and international attempts to address these tremendous climate threats is a recipe for long-term disaster. At the same time, the Republican Party is alienating growing minority groups who, in a few decades, are poised to become the American majority.

The point being, Republican leaders don’t seem to have any interest in the long-term health of the planet, human society, or even their own political party. They noted the latter problem in a 2013 Growth and Opportunity Project report, in the wake of their unsuccessful performance in the 2012 elections. However, party leaders seem to be largely ignoring the findings of their own report, just as they ignore the findings of the many reports on the scientific realities and threats of climate change.

Republicans should be climate change leaders

Past Republican presidents like Reagan and Bush have implemented successful policies that have solved hazardous environmental problems like acid rain, ozone depletion, and air pollution, with economic benefits far exceeding their costs. Republicans invented free market cap and trade systems as an economically preferable alternative to government regulations of pollutants, to great success.

Today it’s Democratic policymakers who favor these policies and Republican leaders who oppose them. Thus, President Obama and his administration’s Environmental Protection Agency have been forced to act unilaterally, imposing government regulations on carbon pollution. By opposing all climate policies, including small government, free market, economically beneficial solutions, Republican leaders are bringing about the very government regulations that they oppose at their core.

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Comments 1 to 6:

  1. For a historical perspective of the potential global consequences of Republican and Tea Party denial of what the overwhelming majority of scientists are telling us about manmade climate change, see:

    The Next Genocide, Op-ed by Timothy Snyder*, Sunday Review/New York Times, Sep 12, 2015

    *A professor of history at Yale University and the author of “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning.”

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  2. I think it is time to start talking about Crimes Against Humanity, in particular the sections on:

    • (deportation or) forcible transfer of population;
    • other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious bodily or mental injury.
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  3. Chemware,

    I acknowledge that this climate issue involves the deliberate pursuit of unacceptable activities to the detriment of others in today's world. Far too much can be gotten away with because of the ability of deliberately unacceptable people to create regional temporary perceptions of prosperity (popularity of understandably unacceptable ways of living, benefiting and profiting). But there is more to it than that.

    Unlike the actions in today's that are to the detriment of remote people who would have difficulty affecting those who are making their lives less enjoyable than it neds to be, the people of the future have almost no way of 'affecting' the predecessors who benefited from creating future difficulties.

    It would probably be more appropriate to add "Crimes Against the Future of Humanity". And an important related one is "Crimes Against a Future Robust Diversity of Life on this Planet", because being part of a robust diversity of life is the best chance for a lasting future for humanity.

    And it may even be appropriate to bring charges against any leadership group of a nation that tries to justify their unacceptable desired actions by claiming that the costs and consequences that will be imposed on a future generation are excusable if a perception can be created that those future consequences are less than the lost perception of prosperity today if those unacceptable pursuits had to be stopped.

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  4. "The point being, Republican leaders don’t seem to have any interest in the long-term health of the planet, human society, or even their own political party."

    And worst of all, even their own children.

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  5. We may try to judge the difference between intentional stupidity and evil intent.   Some think there is no difference. 

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  6. I'd say rather that the Republican disinformation campaign has gotten so bad and gone on so long that it is no longer just their voters who are deluded... there are now party leaders who have spent their entire lives believing in a completely fictional reimagining of the world around us.

    It isn't that they are 'stupid', 'evil', or don't care... it's that they are so misguided/brainwashed that they really believe fossil fuels do no harm and efforts to curtail them are driven by financial anarchists who want to destroy civilization, rather than by actual concern for the planet's ecosystem.

    In their minds, environmentalists and other 'liberals' are the 'stupid' and 'evil' people who don't care about human society or even their own children. Republicans are heroically attempting to save the world... it's just that the world they are 'saving' doesn't really exist.

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