On Thinning Ice: Republicans seek to Pivot on Climate

January 17, 2020

Larger and larger numbers of Americans are Concerned or Alarmed about climate change. (see post on this page)
The Republican Party now preparing to get ready to pretend to look like they give a damn.

Bloomberg:

House Republican lawmakers held a closed-door strategy session over their approach to climate change on Thursday, as they face intensifying pressure from younger voters to address the environmental threat.

The huddle was spurred by a recognition among some Republican leaders that the party has ceded the debate to Democrats.

“There’s been a lot of credibility given to some really crazy and dangerous and irresponsible ideas, and we’ve got to make sure that we are working to inform and educate the public about the dangers of some of these policies,” Representative Garret Graves of Louisiana, the top Republican on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, said in an interview.

Graves addressed his colleagues at the session, along with Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The meeting came amid polling showing young Americans want politicians to tackle climate change and warnings from GOP strategists that if Republicans don’t address the issue, they could alienate an entire generation of voters.

It remains to be seen if Republicans can make any change in a party where many of its politicians — including President Donald Trump — have denied that there are human factors behind climate change.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy convened the special policy conference discussion, the first held this year. It is set to be followed by similar gatherings to discuss privacy, technology and other issues that call out for deeper caucus-wide conversations. The session could help inform a later Republican climate proposal built around advancing green innovation, carbon-capture technology and nuclear power.

McCarthy said Republicans are identifying “realistic policies” that can build on U.S. progress in lowering emissions “without decimating our own communities and dismantling our economic system as we know it.”

Democrats are preparing to advance climate change legislation in the House this spring, potentially forcing some Republicans to take tough votes on the issue before the November elections. The move seeks to exploit Republican discord on the topic, amid growing public alarm over global warming and as ambitious proposals for addressing it, such as the Green New Deal, shift the debate over what should be done.

So far, congressional Republicans have promoted accelerating innovation and green technology — and the meeting was intended to help them convince the public that their proposals would do more to curb greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Graves said Republicans can offer solutions to climate change that not only do a better job reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally but do so without abandoning traditional conservative values of limited government, low taxes and free markets.

Republicans say that policies put forth by Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates that would throttle fossil fuel development in the U.S. wouldn’t propel economically viable low- and zero-emission technology.

McCarthy said Republicans are identifying “realistic policies” that can build on U.S. progress in lowering emissions “without decimating our own communities and dismantling our economic system as we know it.”

Democrats are preparing to advance climate change legislation in the House this spring, potentially forcing some Republicans to take tough votes on the issue before the November elections. The move seeks to exploit Republican discord on the topic, amid growing public alarm over global warming and as ambitious proposals for addressing it, such as the Green New Deal, shift the debate over what should be done.

So far, congressional Republicans have promoted accelerating innovation and green technology — and the meeting was intended to help them convince the public that their proposals would do more to curb greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Graves said Republicans can offer solutions to climate change that not only do a better job reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally but do so without abandoning traditional conservative values of limited government, low taxes and free markets.

Republicans say that policies put forth by Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates that would throttle fossil fuel development in the U.S. wouldn’t propel economically viable low- and zero-emission technology.

13 Responses to “On Thinning Ice: Republicans seek to Pivot on Climate”

  1. Keith McClary Says:

    This has been the party line of Canadian conservatives. It amounts to giving subsidies and tax breaks for “innovative” corporate projects selected by a government bureaucracy – a central planning, picking winners approach. There does not seem to be much assessment of how much emissions are reduced.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      Exactly what in the heck is wrong with government planning and picking winners per se?

      That is what governments are *supposed* to do and that is what successful governments *actually* do: Help the general welfare and improve society by making intelligent decisions and prudent investments.

      • Keith McClary Says:

        The irony is that these are self-styled free market conservatives. The carbon tax is favored by (non-politician) free market economists – they say “just put a price on carbon and the invisible hand will solve everything without state intervention”. But our Canadian “Conservatives” campaign against the “job killing carbon tax”. Their preferred “innovations” are things like carbon capture and storage to bury the Tar Sands emissions. They are not so keen on supporting electric cars, wind, solar or home insulation.

        I expect the US Republicans’ “realistic policies” will be similar.

        • ecoquant Says:

          @Keith McClary,

          I expect the US Republicans’ “realistic policies” will be similar.

          They may be. But the trouble is there are technologies whose benefit vs cost profiles are so compelling, and which improve with time, that the Old Religion they espoused before coming into power will come back and haunt them into the grave.

          Sure, you can (pretend to?) save jobs in the short run. But if the products these jobs are producing are too expensive for the marketplace because competitors use cheaper sources of energy or more automation, the jobs aren’t sustainable. And, what, are they then going to blame “the Commies”?

          If it weren’t for the human atrocities he and the sycophantic Repubs will commit, there is a long term political rationale for allowing those four more years of dominance, in return for a national revulsion and perhaps 20 years of enlightened governance.

          But, on the other hand, with the political situation, the national moods in the USA and Canada, and the limitations of The Judicials, it’s becoming apparent to me that the crisis of climate disruption is not a problem the representative democracies of the West are equipped to solve. Indeed, there may be no political solution, given that it is based upon broad-based consensus.

          I wish it were not true, since the preferences of large populations will be ignored, but I think how climate disruption is going to be solved is when the wealthy and corporations who price the risk realize it is a threat and move in extra-governmental ways to solve the problem. No doubt, some will oppose, but to the degree long term business success needs to be based upon both reality and having healthy markets to consume, most companies will come up short if fossil fuels are pursued with impunity.

          So, those at risk will move to intervene, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if class action suits against fossil fuel companies are filed on the basis that their products had unadvertised but predictable and known harms which fossil fuel companies repressed. And the harm to supply chains and markets these products caused is tangible and quantifiable, and the fossil fuel companies will be asked to pay up, after appropriate amounts of adjudication.

          • J4Zonian Says:

            To allow Republicans or corporate duopolists any more time ruling would be a terrible strategy. Even if climate catastrophe weren’t looming, and didn’t have to be solved immediately for civilization and most life on Earth to have a chance of survival, they’re destroying the institutions of democracy, science, and education, and warping culture, possibly beyond repair. If we want to make it through the eco-psychological crisis we have to fix the inequality and fascism crisis now.

          • ecoquant Says:

            @J4Zonian,

            As far as democratic representation and rule of law goes, you are perfectly correct. A Northeastern University student from Iran was removed from the United States this morning and will not be able to return. This was prohibited by a federal court order, and a hearing was to be held this morning in federal court on the student’s disposition.

            The judge simply said that there’s nothing they can do about this at the present time.

            As far as mitigation of climate disruption goes, surely it looks like the democratic options are better. However, given the mood of the United States favoring economic growth over anything, when the Democrats get into office, I’m not optimistic the changes needed to turn emissions around will be coming as quickly as they need to come.

            This is why, in addition to pushing for these, we need to seriously address climate adaption, including putting in policies to encourage people in high risk coastal zones to retreat from there, even (or especially) if they have million dollar homes.

          • J4Zonian Says:

            @ ecoquant

            Democrats have no answer except watered-down more-of-the-same: market religion, hand-wringing, denial. Progressives otoh, have many excellent answers: declaration of an emergency; a massive, immediate comprehensive climate mobilization aka Green New Deal; transit, high speed rail, taxing mbillionaires; lots more.

            People who take the crisis seriously have other ideas: nationalizing and shutting down the fossil fuel, agro-chemical, ICEV, banking and other industries; mandating clean safe renewable energy; lots more.

            We need sweeping changes in government in the US and elsewhere; electing “Democrats” won’t do; we have to elect enough progressives to vote in things neither half of the corporate duopoly wants. It will take tens of thousands of determined activists, direct action targeting Congress, agencies, judges, corporations and their officers, maybe the White House, churches, media headquarters, and anywhere the collaborators hide.

            “Encourage people…”? How bout praying? Maybe that will be enough.

          • ecoquant Says:

            @J4Zonian,

            I agree the measures you describe are needed. I don’t know how to do it politically, though. My measure would be to say for the USA no more fossil fuel extraction or imports 10 years from now, with a cap on the total set to what it is today, and a linear function defining the cap with zero 10 years off.

            I think the escalation in prices would be enough to wean people off, even without Carbon pricing.

      • ecoquant Says:

        I like the comment former President Jimmy Carter made to 45 when 45 asked him about China: Carter said China is so far ahead of us and is so agile because compared to the United States they spend next to nothing on defense.

        Note as well that, in an announcement from the National Science Foundation and the AAAS this week, by several objective measures, the United States is no longer the world leader in Science.

      • Canman Says:

        Here’s an example of where they picked a winner:

        • J4Zonian Says:

          Unsourced graph, starts exactly at the point where it starts to look good for him or her, stops almost a decade ago in what looks like the beginning of a long decline. Nice crop o cherry.

          5 countries have grids that are mostly nuke: France, Hungary, Ukraine, Freedonia, and Slovakia. 3 are barely over 50%. France is the only exception at 72%, and its nuclear program and recent attempt to build a nuke are both in shambles. It’s planning to scale back on nukes as it replaces them with cheaper renewables, as have Belgium, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, South Africa, the US, and other countries. Programs in the US, UK, S. Korea… are in bankruptcy or riven by scandal and corruption.

          At least 65 countries have grids that are mostly renewable, 39 of them with more RE than France has NE, and 22 of them at or near 100% RE. When governments choose winners, they overwhelmingly choose clean safe renewable energy.

          • Canman Says:

            That graph is from Wikipedia and I doubt that anyone serious, would dispute its accuracy. There’s no country with a similar size that can show a renewable band like that. High renewable countries are usually special hydro or geothermal situations. The renewable category almost always includes biomass, which is especially dirty.

            Yes, France is moving away from nuclear and their CO2 emissions are going up, because they’re going to need fossil fuel (most likely gas) to back up intermittent wind and solar.

  2. ecoquant Says:

    It’s good to see Prof Jacobson weigh in.

    As Dr Glen Peters of CICERO recently observed, because we are so damn late doing anything to mitigate climate disruption globally, we have put ourselves in the position where economic growth is now the enemy of mitigation.

    Neither the +1.5C target nor the +2.0C target are presently achievable without either curtailing economic growth substantially, or first overshooting and then deploying incredibly expensive negative emissions machinery (which we do not at present know how to scale) to draw down climate greenhouse gases to acceptable levels. Overshooting, however, will initiate certain irreversible consequences.


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