In response to Mark Reynolds, Executive Director of Citizen’s Climate Lobby: “Mark Reynolds: Everything you think you know about Republicans and climate change is wrong” (June 5, 2015 | Brighton-Pittsford Post)
I understand the desire to gain a political consensus on Climate Change in order to take action, but it’s delusional to think the Republic Party is remotely onboard. As we approach the historical COP21 Climate Conference in Paris this December, the US Republican Party is painting itself ever further into a corner on climate denial. Just this week, “Republican Governors Signal Their Intent to Thwart Obama’s Climate Rules,” which is to say five Republican governors are saying no to President Obama’s attempts to address Climate Change.
Climate Change, the mother of all problems, can be addressed in two basic ways--mitigation and adaptation—and the Republican Party (the GOP) fails miserably on both counts. It does nobody or any group attempting to address Climate Change any practical good to bury this political conundrum.
The GOP has so thwarted mitigation efforts (stopping or even slowing down US greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs)) that they have become notorious worldwide. President Obama’s milquetoast efforts (“US: 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2025”) at the Paris conference are a direct result of having to go around a GOP-led Congress. In fact it is considered a ‘fact’ worldwide that Obama’s hands are tied on making any systemic changes on lowering GHGs to a survivable level (2C) because everyone knows Congress will do everything in their power to stop anything the president signs at Paris. The message is clear: Unless Obama can go around the GOP-Congress, don’t even try for a sustainable environment. This is why greens chose to highlight the halt of the XL Keystone as a line in the sand with dirty fossil fuels—Obama doesn’t need Congressional approval to stop it.
On adaptation (or adjusting to the consequences of Climate Change), the GOP has been a major obstruction. The governors of Florida and Wisconsin have banned their staff from connecting the dots between Climate Change and local issues like rising water levels. Even in Rochester, there are already changes taking place because of Climate Change—a 71% increase in heavy rainfall events since 1958 (accompanied by more frequent discharge of untreated sewage into our waterways), more flooding, annual temperature increase of 0.6ºF per decade since 1970, bird population shifts, increase in lake effect snow, increase in plant frost damage, and much more—but little is being done by our authorities because it is so politically unpopular to do so. Rochester, like many communities around this country, is in Climate Silence, and this means we cannot tackle this issue on the local level. The GOP has made it impossible to talk about adapting to Climate Change by raising the bogeyman of tax increases, which effectively shuts off discussion in our current political environment. And so the other political parties, the media, and the public goes quiet on actually saving themselves.
Which has been the strategy of the GOP on Climate Change: “Don’t like the solutions? Don’t admit there’s a problem...” The GOP says they hate tax increases and Big Government. We got it. But because of the nature of Climate Change, which will require a universal response by our governments to protect our public health, our infrastructures, and help communities recover from more extreme events, only our governments can truly address Climate Change. Because the GOP doesn’t like the solution, because the GOP cannot be captain of the ball game, their response is to take their football and go home, thereby condemning us all. The GOP has made the other party be the bearer of bad news, which allows them to carp at every solution unless it agrees with the GOP’s outdated ideology. Ironically, this has the effect of insuring that Big Government will get incredibly bigger. No other entity but our governments can make and enforce laws, set environmental regulations, implement taxes, or bring in the military if extreme disasters completely overwhelm our communities—as occurred with Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. As the consequences of Climate Change become more dire, the ability of the private sector to handle it become more impossible.
If timid Republican office holders are quietly saying they believe in what 97% of the climate scientists are saying, that is not leadership. That is dropping the ball. If these Republicans who allegedly believe in Climate Change don’t stand up and remove the ugly head of climate denial from their party, their Grand Old Party will go the way of the Whigs. If your government leaders or candidates don’t believe in the science of climate, that humans are responsible for this crisis, they are unfit for office. Unfit in the way a surgeon who didn’t go to school is unfit to replace your heart with a new one.
We shouldn’t be prioritizing a carbon fee as the only solution to a problem that includes every aspect of our existence; we should be making sure that the COP21 Paris Conference doesn’t fail. Without a world structure to bind nations to economic and political policies that will actually be able to enforce clean energy options or anything else on a scale and timeframe that will matter, there will be no universal carbon fee. And while giving the proceeds from such a carbon fee to households would be popular, it is far more efficient for government to use that money to help us adapt to the consequences of Climate Change—like disaster relief which is already overtaxing our government. Trying to bridge the political divide on Climate Change by bitch-slapping Democrats about their supposed propensity to grab all revenue they can completely fails to address the needs brought on by the actual physical consequences of the oncoming calamity, a calamity already baked in to our future even if GHG emissions were zeroed out tomorrow.
The answer to this argument is not somewhere in the middle—but completely on one side or another. An argument about whether the earth is flat cannot be decided by compromising with flat-earthers. Climate Change at the core is a problem of biophysics. No matter how much the GOP insists that any solution must contain no change in economic models or government interference, they are wrong. The GOP either loses its climate denial extremists or they continue being the force preventing the rest of us from adapting to Climate Change.
Last fall, we had an election for the mayor of Rochester that did not include any discussion about local leadership on Climate Change. We are now starting the race for Monroe County executive, and there threatens to be once again nary a word about the elephant in the room. The GOP has made Climate Change so political everyone tries to ignore the crisis of our age.
So sorry, but most folks who are beginning to realize their worst suspicions about the Republicans and Climate Change are not wrong.