Riley Moore, the West Virginia state treasurer, is fed up with people worrying about climate change. “The climate has changed around the world since the creation of the Earth,” he told The New York Times. “Whether these greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to global warming, I’m not sure I necessarily agree with that.”
It was said of the Bourbons, who once reigned over France, that they had learned nothing and forgotten nothing. When it comes to the environment, Republican politicians have learned nothing and forgotten everything.
The Cut Inflation Act signed by Joe Biden on Tuesday actually has a lot more to do with fighting global warming than with inflation. This is a landmark achievement: the first major legislation ever passed to tackle climate change.
It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 42% compared to 2005 levels. It provides funds and tax breaks to encourage solar, wind and nuclear energy, as well as incentives for electric vehicles and energy conservation. The Rhodium Group, which researches climate issues, calls it “a game changer for decarbonizing the United States.”
Can you guess how many Republican members of Congress voted for it? Zero. Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota scoffed at the Democrats’ approach: “They just have a million ways to slow fossil fuel development. And I think we know at this point that’s their religion. and that is their belief.”
His theology, on the other hand, treats climate concerns as the work of the devil. An important element of the GOP brand is an ostentatious indifference to the fate of the natural world. But there was nothing inevitable about it.
It was a Republican President, Richard Nixon, who created the Federal Environmental Protection Agency. He also signed the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act.
It was a Republican President, Ronald Reagan, who signed up to an international treaty to preserve the ozone layer. It was a Republican president, George HW Bush, who swore to himself to be “the president of the environment” and signed a new Clean Air Act, which largely solved the problem of acid rain.
But the biggest problem today is man-made climate change, and it’s a much worse problem because for decades Republican presidents and lawmakers have blocked all attempts to address it — and, in many cases, have denied its existence.
George W. Bush pulled out of the Kyoto climate accord and refused to act on carbon dioxide. Donald Trump, who scoffed at the idea that the planet was getting warmer, abandoned Barack Obama’s program to cut emissions from power plants and abandoned the Paris climate accord.
Not so long ago, in 2003, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona nearly won the enactment of a cap-and-trade bill aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. . But in 2019, the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund reported that 150 Republicans in Congress “do not believe in the scientific consensus that human activity is causing Earth’s climate change.” That’s 60% of GOP members.
They are in perfect harmony with Republican voters. According to a 2021 Gallup survey, two-thirds don’t believe human activity is causing climate change – and 23% deny that global warming will ever happen.
It’s a wonder that anyone can contemplate the onset of higher global temperatures, heat waves, droughts, wildfires and floods, and then deny the reality of climate change. But immediate self-interest, propaganda and ideological fanaticism have made it impossible for most Republicans to come to grips with this terrible reality.
Their blindness is voluntary. If you accept that climate change is happening, harmful and man-made, you must accept that we must take collective action to mitigate it. That, the Conservatives never wanted to do.
They have reasonable skepticism about the government’s ability to solve the problems. But their attitude is reminiscent of what Mark Twain said about a cat that sits on a hot stove: it will never sit on a hot stove again – and it will never sit on a cold stove again.
Some problems can only be solved by government action, and climate change is a prime example. The reasonable conservative approach, as Republicans once understood, is to harness market power and corporate ingenuity to make these remedies as effective as possible. But today’s GOP has no room for reasonable conservatives.
Americans a generation or two from now will remember that with this legislation, we finally did something to curb climate change. But they will also remember those who chose to do nothing.
Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To learn more about Steve Chapman and read articles by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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