Progress: Republicans Switch from Denial to Inaction on Climate Change

August 14, 2021

Which is worse?
Denying the problem, or acknowledging the problem and blocking the solution?

Above, Indiana Senator Mike Braun from 2020.

New York Times:

WASHINGTON — After a decade of disputing the existence of climate change, many leading Republicans are shifting their posture amid deadly heat waves, devastating drought and ferocious wildfires that have bludgeoned their districts and unnerved their constituents back home.

Members of Congress who long insisted that the climate is changing due to natural cycles have notably adjusted that view, with many now acknowledging the solid science that emissionsfrom burning oil, gas and coal have raised Earth’s temperature.

But their growing acceptance of the reality of climate change has not translated into support for the one strategy that scientists saidin a major United Nations report this week is imperative to avert an even more harrowing future: stop burning fossil fuels.

Instead, Republicans want to spend billions to prepare communities to cope with extreme weather, but are trying to block efforts by Democrats to cut the emissions that are fueling the disasters in the first place.

Dozens of Republicans in the House and Senate said in recent interviews that quickly switching to wind, solar and other clean energy will damage an economy that has been underpinned by fossil fuels for more than a century.

“I’m not doing anything to raise the cost of living for American families,” said Senator Rick Scott of Florida, where climate-fueled disasters have cost the state more than $100 billion over the past decade according to estimates from the federal government.

Mr. Scott said he wants to address climate change, but “you can’t do it where you’re killing jobs.”

It’s a message supported by polling that shows Republican voters are more concerned with jobs than the environment. A Pew Research Center survey in May found just 10 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning independents were deeply concerned with addressing climate change, while a majority thought President Biden’s ambitious plans to curb climate change would hurt the economy.

With the exception of young Republicans who have been agitatingfor their party to take climate change more seriously, conservative voters as a whole have not shifted much on the issue over the past 10 years. That skepticism may have reached a pinnacle with President Donald J. Trump, who famously derided climate science, loosened emissions rules and expanded oil and gas drilling on public lands.

But as the impacts of global warming becoming more apparent with each weather forecast, the message from Republicans and their allies has shifted. They now argue for investment in research and development, or technological solutions that are years away from viability, such as cleaning the air after oil, gas and coal are burned. Many also favor expanding nuclear energy, which does not produce greenhouse gases but poses other challenges including the lengthy time it takes to build new plants and concerns about disposal of spent fuel and risk of radioactive leaks.

A few Republicans, like Senator Mitt Romney of Utah and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have said they support charging companies for the carbon dioxide they generate, a strategy that economists say would create a powerful incentive to lower emissions. But neither man is championing such a measure with any urgency.

The majority of Republican lawmakers back less aggressive responses popular with their voters, like planting trees to absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or offering tax credits to businesses that capture carbon dioxide after it has been released into the air by power plants or industrial sites.

“What they are opposing is any program to meaningfully reduce emissions,” said David G. Victor, co-director of the Deep Decarbonization Initiative at the University of California, San Diego.

Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana helped craft the $1 trillion infrastructure package that the Senate passed this week, and made sure it included billions of dollars to protect coastal states from sea level rise caused by climate change. But Mr. Cassidy said he won’t support policies to curb the amount of oil that is drilled off the Louisiana coast — the burning of which is contributing to melting ice caps and rising seas.

“We cannot live without fossil fuels or chemicals, period, end of story,” said Mr. Cassidy, who wants to expand exports of liquefied natural gas, which is produced in Louisiana and emits half the carbon dioxide of coal but is a source of methane, a greenhouse gas even more potent in the short term.

And while Senator Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican, allowed that climate change is driving the extreme drought that has devastated crops and decimated livestock in his state this summer, he said the gases produced by burning fossil fuels should be the target, not the fuels themselves.

“We need to be on an anti-carbon mission, not an anti-fuel mission,” said Mr. Cramer, whose state is also a top oil and gas producer.

Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican, said it made no sense for the United States to cut its emissions while other countries like China continue to pollute. But at the same time, he also rejected trade policies that would apply pressure on China and others to curb their emissions.

Still, the fact that Republicans recognize emissions as a problem marks progress, however incremental, said Tom Moyer, the Utah state coordinator for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which is trying to build bipartisan support for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions. “They’re small bites at a solution, but it’s so much more than we could have gotten even a few years ago,” he said. “And hopefully the trend continues.”

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said of climate change last September, “I concur that it is happening and it is a problem. The argument is about how to best address it.”

Senator John Cornyn of oil and gas-rich Texas said in a July interview, “I have no doubt the climate is changing and people contribute to it.” Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama said he thinks weather disasters simply happen, yet “a lot of it, I’m sure, with all the stuff we put in the air, is self-made.”

Even Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who famously once threw a snowball on the Senate floor to claim the planet is not getting hotter, insisted last month that he never called climate change a “hoax,” only that the dire consequences have been overblown. (Mr. Inhofe is the author of a book entitled “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.”)

6 Responses to “Progress: Republicans Switch from Denial to Inaction on Climate Change”

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    The usual disclaimer up front:
    Yes, of course the Republicans are lying psychopaths, including Braun, whose every statement was a blatant lie just as much as Inhofe’s ridiculous denial at the end. And don’t get me started on yet another sphincter blowing gas about China.

    “Which is worse?
    Denying the problem, or acknowledging the problem and blocking the solution?”

    Ask the Democrats; they continue to do both, though less blatantly than the other half of the right wing duopoly Party.

    “What they are opposing is any program to meaningfully reduce emissions,”

    Yes, they are. Just like the Democrats talking about PT2050; the official program of Procrastination-Til-2049½. The only solutions are to declare a global emergency, nationalize fossil, fissile, ICEV, agro-chemical, banking and other corporations to shut them down as fast as they can be replaced by ecological methods. Efficiency, wiser lives, clean safe renewable energy, small-scale low-meat organic permaculture, free public mass transit including a high speed rail network, to replace flying and long distance driving, ecological industry, public banks… The oligarchic duopoly has proved beyond a doubt that as long as they have power they will never allow the needed changes, so we can’t avoid catastrophe without moving rapidly and radically toward political and economic equality, and acknowledging and starting to heal the emotional disturbance at the root of all our problems.

    “Republicans recognize emissions as a problem”

    A clear indication of that root problem is that the only thing either half of The Party recognizes as a problem is how to lie to the public in convincing enough ways to continue the kleptocracy. Solving the existential ecological crisis is as far from their minds as taking strong steps to end the delusion of religion.

    PS. Population is not the problem and not the solution; to say it is is to move us toward a split that includes both despair and genocide.

    • “PS. Population is not the problem and not the solution; to say it is is to move us toward a split that includes both despair and genocide.”

      That shows a profound lack of understanding of nature’s physical limits, which jibes with denials of energy sprawl scale. That’s a common mode of thinking; let’s just build our way out of everything. Never be truly humble and try to live in balance.

      Along with human overpopulation at the scale of two Californias per year (about 80 million), we’re seeing the biggest “green” machines ever invented, overpopulating what used to be scenic vistas, with fools claiming it’s not just a blind continuum of growthism.

      If you ever have an epiphany that the world is actually finite, and people shouldn’t pretend it isn’t, post a note:

  2. Many Republicans are climate change deniers, while many Democrats (and Republican energy workers) are landscape change deniers. They just build, build and build more eyesores in open spaces.

    All of it adds up to more industrial sprawl and a failure to recognize limits to economic growth and overpopulation. Environmentalism has become a mostly useless movement in this context. It used to protect nature from all types of development, now it actively favors the most visible forms ever invented!

    Wind energy note: Many aren’t aware that Poland has planned to stop new onshore wind turbine construction and remove its existing wind turbines by 2035. This was in response to rural people tired of their way of life being spoiled by industrial giants with blinking red lights. The caveat is that Poland will blight the Baltic Sea with offshore wind power, mostly visible from shore. Nature keeps losing to kludgy technology. (see details about the overstated capacity of wind turbines)

  3. J4Zonian Says:

    While apparently there is a setback rule in Poland that essentially outlaws new wind turbine approvals, it’s expected to end soon, if it hasn’t already.

    Most of this comment seems to be lies, trollery, and part of the Koch-Exxon-ALEC-Republican et al disinformation campaign. It cites a draft of the document “Energy Policy of Poland until 2040”; the final version and every other source talks about the expected increase of onshore wind generation.

    But it does seem that in Poland—the 9th biggest coal producer in the world—there’s some anti-wind feeling. I wonder why.
    This calls for some research, maybe on the effects of lead, mercury, CO2 and heat on the brain.

    I’ve got news for False: There’s apparently some anti-wind feeling in W. Virginia.
    And Wyoming. Some people in various places are trying to stop clean safe renewable energy by lying about them and stealing elections. Others are building RE.

    Accounting (in unknown ways or amounts) for the cost of GHG emissions, the price of wind energy in Poland is half that of coal, while wind, solar, & battery prices continue to drop. As that happens, the building of renewable energy will accelerate, whatever a few Polish ARFs want.

    The clean safe renewables revolution goes on, in the world and even in Poland, West Virginia-like backwards place that it is. At the end of 2019, the total installed capacity of onshore wind farms in Poland was 5.9 GW, the amount that had been expected by 2030. “As a result of auctions held at the end of [2018] alone, about 2.2 GW of new wind power was contracted;” if all grandfathered-in turbines are built as expected, total capacity will be 10 GW (11 by 2040). Poland’s delusions about starting up the first of 6 reactors in 2033 will undoubtedly fall victim to falling RE prices, whatever a few Polish ARFs want. There will be a lot more than 11 GW of wind.

    “It marks a drastic turnaround for Poland’s ruling [conservative] Law and Justice party, which went from a blocker of wind farms to booster, amid the plummeting cost of renewables and a public backlash against some of the dirtiest air in the region.

    “Resistance to wind turbines is just a fabrication. Residents are ready for energy transformation.”, says Jarosław Koźlarek, editor of the Transformation of Eastern Wielkopolska blog. “We have a lot of wastelands from coal mines, including heaps, where wind farms could be built.”
    By “fabrication” I think Koźlarek means astroturf organizations’ amplification of the voices of the fossil-fueled rich.

    This has almost nothing to do with population. The rich cause the vast majority of GHGs.

    There is no such thing as a landscape change denier. False is letting his or ideology show.

    • Again, whenever readers of this blog see a critique of spinning white gods, they assume it’s coming from a climate-denier on the Right. Simply not true in my case.

      Someday you may come to realize that “clean energy” is impacting far more acreage than the denser fossil fuels that build it, and it’s just wrong from an environmental standpoint.

      All of the following have drawn environmental protests, but Big Wind laughably and smugly tries to be exempt from aesthetic scrutiny.

      BILLBOARDS (nowhere near the scale of industrial wind turbines)

      ROADS (wind turbine access roads encourage other intrusions in wild areas)

      HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS (aka urban sprawl)

      SKI LIFTS (similar to wind energy’s impacts on mountains, but much smaller)

      CELLULAR TOWERS (even 80-foot ones can spoil a view)

      SMOKESTACKS (resemble wind towers sans blades and are less numerous)

      TRANSMISSION LINES and TOWERS (commonly called PYLONS in Europe)

      RADIO ANTENNAS (gray, skinnier, don’t stand out like wind turbines)

      MOUNTAINTOP OBSERVATORIES (e.g. Hawaii’s 30-meter telescope project)

      MOUNTAINTOP MINING (wind turbines just carve up mountains differently)

      OIL DERRICKS and PLATFORMS (usually less visible at long range than wind towers)

      DAMS (dam removal is considered progress but wind turbines dam the sky)

      The wise approach of reducing Man’s total footprint, not just carbon, remains unpopular on both the Left and Right because people won’t give up their comforts. And some are just bad at math.

  4. Quote: “We cannot live without fossil fuels or chemicals, period, end of story,” said Mr. Cassidy, who wants to expand exports of liquefied natural gas, which is produced in Louisiana and emits half the carbon dioxide of coal but is a source of methane, a greenhouse gas even more potent in the short term.

    Like it or not, that’s a true statement per the laws of physics. People just fail to understand energy density. Fossil fuels have been compared to a black box. You put them in the entrance and economic/population growth comes out the exit. One they peak and fade, “renewables” built will them will follow suit. Wind and solar are extensions of fossil fuels, never replacements. Nuclear may come the closest but it will likely fail at some point because its hardware must be maintained with dense, portable energy.

    Saying that the backbone of modern economies can be replaced with machines built WITH it is like trying to bake endless green cakes with only the cakes as fuel, eventually. It becomes a perpetual motion fantasy and only works now because fossil fuels are still affordable. The peak of shale fracking, likely this decade, could stifle fragile green schemes. Many “wind” farms end up being natural gas plants with spiky white augmentation.

    Here’s a 13 y/o article that the “100% renewables” crowd still doesn’t get:

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