One of the most frustrating things about being a Republican, especially during election season, is the continued skepticism, disbelief, and sometimes outright rejection of climate change by Republican members of Congress and Republican party leaders.
The effects of global warming are pretty sobering. More frequent flooding, more intense hurricanes, more extreme wildfires, drought, and higher sea levels are all caused by us and our gross exploitation of our planet’s resources. In 1896, Svante Arrhenius sounded the global warming alarm by proposing that the combustion of fossil fuels could lead to the warming of the atmosphere. Despite 100 years going by since he made that discovery and 10 years after Al Gore’s elevator platform stunt (a must see) in the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” people are still skeptical.
Since Arrhenius’ proposal, we’ve collected the evidence. NASA concluded that:
“Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”
In their Scientific Consensus, NASA concluded that ninety-seven percent of the scientific community, consisting of 18 scientific associations, international academies of science, and even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, believe that climate change is indeed real and is caused by humans. Yet still, we have members of Congress like Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma who famously tossed a snowball on the Senate floor in an effort to disprove climate change and even published the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel called “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.”
The man who serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works and oversees environmental policy for the United States threw a snowball on the Senate floor to prove that climate change does not exist. This is the leading Republican policy maker on climate change. Scary, right? If you don’t believe me, take a look for yourself.
Typically, if 97% of any scientific community agreed on anything, we would probably believe them. If 97% of the engineering community believed that a bridge was structurally sound, you would probably drive over it, right? When 95% of the medical community states that cigarettes cause cancer, you would probably think twice about smoking or allowing your child to smoke. Yet, despite the insurmountable evidence of climate change’s existence, only 27% of all Republicans believe that earth is warming due to human activity, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center poll.
But why? Why do Republicans reject something that is as obvious as Hillary Clinton’s private email server faux pas?
Republican Reasoning: Religion & Political Economics
Religion has a lot to do with it. When Republicans derive their policies on the basis of Christian ideology, it becomes hard to go against God’s will. The earth was meant for consumption and exploitation, so by all means drill baby drill. But, that’s ideological cherrypicking. During COP21, the historic Paris summit on climate change and the environment, Pope Francis stated:
“Every year the problems are getting worse. We are at the limits. If I may use a strong word I would say that we are at the limits of suicide…I am sure the [Paris delegates] have the good will to do it. And I wish that it will be so, and I pray for this.”
– Pope Francis
The Republican’s response – a resolution in the House and Senate to undermine EPA rules effecting future coal-fired power plants, ignoring their ideological leader and jumping at the chance to undercut President Obama’s pledge.
On social issues like abortion though, the Pope’s word carries significantly more weight. When Pope Francis in his address to Congress said that they had an obligation to, “Protect and defend human life at every stage of its development,” Republicans agreed. In an interview with Marco Rubio after the Pope’s address, he stated:
“On the social teachings, essential issues, like the sanctity of life and things of this nature, those go deep to the theology of this — of the faith. And I do believe — those are binding and I believe strongly in them.”
– Marco Rubio
It’s important to note that in that same address to Congress, Pope Francis pressed lawmakers to act on climate change.
Republicans also deny the existence of climate change on the basis of political economics. When they fundamentally believe in limited government, naturally, they jump to block any attempt to regulate industry. The climate is changing due to burning fossil fuels you say? Down goes any chance to regulate the coal industry and up goes the cries to dissolve the EPA.
When Republicans Act
In 2003, Republicans narrowly passed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, establishing Medicare Part D. Considered one of the biggest overhauls of Medicare since it was enacted, it covered seniors’ prescription drug costs while adding to the deficit. In 2003, the Bush administration was running a large deficit and implementing Medicare Part D purchased the necessary votes to win reelection.
Pressured by the thought of losing the White House to the Democrats motivated the Republicans to act. But, when it comes to saving the environment from utter destruction, any bill protecting it or regulating industry is dead on arrival out of fear of losing political donors or because it challenges their cherrypicked religious beliefs.
The Leaders of the Republican Party
While Senator Inhofe’s thoughts on climate change don’t speak for the entire Republican party, and his views do represent an extreme that most Republicans (hopefully) don’t agree with, arguably the Republicans left in the 2016 Presidential race do.
Establishment hopeful Ted Cruz on many occasions misuses a particular study to reaffirm his belief that climate change isn’t an issue. In January, Cruz stated:
“The satellites that actually measure the temperature, that we’ve launched into the air to measure the temperature, they have recorded no significant warming whatsoever for the last 18 years.”
– Ted Cruz
In actuality, the data that Cruz cites is an outlier from an El Nino weather pattern in 1997, creating a high point in his eyes.
John Kasich has slightly different thoughts:
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) March 11, 2016
As a Kasich supporter, I like what he has to say here. I agree that we should pursue clean coal as a temporary approach while renewables and nuclear are built out and improved. But, then he ends his statement by saying, “We don’t know how much humans actually contribute.” Facepalm and eye roll follow.
And then there’s the Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. I’ve made my opinion of Trump clear in another article, but his stance on climate change can be summed up in a single tweet:
Trump has stated that the China element of his tweet was a joke, but in an interview with Hugh Hewitt, he stated that, “I am not a believer in global warming. I am not a believer in man-made global warming.” On another occasion, he said that climate change, “Is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money.”
So Why Should Republicans Admit that Climate Change Exists?
Both the Republicans leaders and party members have a moral imperative to not only admit that climate change exists, but also that we are are causing it. They need to set aside religion, faulty science, and personal beliefs to finally see that our earth is the one thing on that we cannot take for granted. They need to realize that it is a part of our inheritance. The world that we live in today needs to sustain the lives of tomorrow.
But why would Republicans want to regulate an industry that donates to their political campaigns? Take coal for instance – it’s a dying industry. Since 2010, over 232 of the 523 coal-fired power plants in the US have been retired. Many new power plants that were proposed were subsequently defeated. The fossil fuel industry will die out.
Replacing a Dying Industry with a Booming One
The wind, solar, and renewables industry is increasingly offering hope that we will successfully be able to phase out coal and other fossil fuels. The use of on and off-shore wind energy has drastically increased in the past decade and capacity has broken projection after projection. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that in 2016, the cost to create a new wind farm will finally equate the cost of a new coal plant minus government subsidies.
On the solar side, there’s even more success. Year after year, we are beating projections. In 2002, the solar energy market was estimated to increase by one gigawatt per year by 2010. In 2015, that figure was exceeded by 58x. The cost of solar cells and batteries has drastically decreased while their efficiency has increased.
In the International Energy Agency’s Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2015, they stated that, “By 2020, the amount of global electricity generation coming from renewable energy will be higher than today’s combined electricity demand of China, India and Brazil.”
A New Opportunity Ahead
We will cut out our use of fossil fuels. It is no longer a question of if, but rather a question of how soon. Republicans have a unique opportunity to lead the charge in a new industry that is no longer speculative. The leaders of the Republican party simply need to be brave enough to speak up and admit that climate change is a top priority that needs to be addressed.
Several Republican members of Congress have spoken out, but more need to follow. They need to put our world’s future ahead of their reelection campaigns. If campaign donations are stopping them, they should know that the renewables industry is there to supplement it. They should finally see that we can create a sustainable future for future generations and that they should support and protect the renewables industry as much as they do with the fossil fuels industry. If Republican party leaders don’t change their stance on climate change, we will slowly see our world change before our eyes.
The choice is simple. Either adopt more liberal views on climate change or continue to deny the existence of climate change, watch our world change for the worse, and get voted out of office. It’s time to wake up and realize that the science is right and there’s a unique opportunity ahead.
If you have any comments about Republican’s stance on climate change or the even the Presidential race, feel free to comment below, hit me up on Facebook, or give me a shoutout on Twitter at @patrickcines. If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it!