This article is written from a Democratic point of view.
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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Under apparent pressure from Democrats’ sharpened focus on climate change as a top-line issue, their proposed expansive “Green New Deal” to address the matter, and likely the early early impacts of climate change themselves on worsening weather, Republicans increasingly have had to address an issue that not long ago, often dismissed out-of-hand.
Speaking before an audience in Canada recently, former president Barack Obama noted how a Republican senator not long ago actually held up a snowball on the floor of the Senate and said, “Look there’s no global warming because it’s cold outside.”
It’s becoming increasingly impossible for such denialism to continue to hold weight when people clearly are beginning to see the effects of climate change for themselves.
“Just listen to Mother Nature, and the climate-related extreme weather events have quadrupled in recent years,” said former vice president Al Gore, the Nobel Prize-winning climate activist. “Here in the U.S. alone in less than nine years we’ve had 17 once-in-a-thousand-year events, and they keep on coming, and they keep on getting worse. So, the old strategy of trying to fool people into disbelieving the evidence in front of their own eyes is failing.”
Republicans seem to have had to switch gears quickly. With the Democrats directly challenging them on the climate issue and putting forward an ambitious and government-intensive program dubbed the “Green New Deal,” backed by many of the party’s leading presidential hopefuls, Republicans no longer can ignore the problem by effectively throwing up their hands, saying, “No one really knows for sure if climate change is real.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently took to the Senate floor to directly challenge Republicans to acknowledge the reality of climate change, and to participate in enacting effective solutions.
Schumer and more than 20 of his Senate Democratic colleagues followed that up with a letter to the business-friendly US Chamber of Commerce which has a history of paying big money to lobby against comprehensive climate change measures for fear of the additional burden it would place on its corporate membership.
“It is time that we put aside our differences and start working to take real actions on climate change because the American people and American businesses can no longer afford inaction,” the senators wrote. “We believe the time has come for the Chamber to act on behalf of its members who support and stand to benefit from a transition to a clean energy economy.”
The letter hasn’t prompted any consensus. Rather, Republicans have had to essentially admit climate change is real but simultaneously run a furious campaign against the “Green New Deal,” which is a massive resolution to get the United States off of fossil fuels and toward clean energy to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Republicans are ominously warning that, okay, climate change is real, but the Green New Deal will just be too much, and somehow wreck the US economy.
“The truth is this proposal is a raw deal for America, especially our rural communities,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said on the Senate floor. “As many of you know, every month I give out a squeal award, which draws attention to outrageous examples of wasteful and reckless spending of taxpayer money. With $93 trillion — ‘t,’ with a ‘t’ — trillion dollar price tag, which is roughly $10 trillion more than the entire recorded spending of the United States government since 1789.”
Republicans make it sound even scarier by somehow breaking that down to pin $65,000 annually on every US household to pay for it.
Instead, Republicans want Americans to reject what they also dub the “nightmare” Green New Deal and instead pin all of their hope on some gauzy promise it will all go away if only Americans trust the “innovation” of unrestrained industry, as seen in this Republican video:
For Republicans like Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming this “innovation” means hoping for results from several largely yet-unproven technologies which may or may not pan out until sometime in the future–as well as an excuse to try to bring back nuclear power.
“Promising new technologies like advanced nuclear power, carbon capture, and carbon utilization hold the key to significant emissions reductions,” said Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “We can lower our emissions without crashing our economy.”
Barrasso sees climate change as an excuse to particularly push nuclear power, touting the fact that in January, Donald Trump signed Barrasso’s legislation, the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act.
It looks like another Republican plan to prop up another industry.
And there’s the fact that the whole Republican knock on the Green New Deal–this supposedly “nightmare” $93 trillion price tag–is just made up.
It was quickly debunked by the non-partisan fact checkers, PolitiFact, which called the $93 trillion figure “flabby,” and noting that the Green New Deal has not received a cost score from the “gold-standard” and non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
And then Republicans just don’t match the Democrats’ obvious energy and commitment to the climate change issue, according to Republican John Kasich, a former Ohio governor and congressman.
“When [Trump] has 13 government agencies and even the military preparing for something that involves bad impacts of climate change, I mean, it’s silly. And I’ll tell you a little message to the Republicans,” Kasich said. “The Democrats, you may not like what they have, okay, but they have energy. I was down at the South by Southwest Festival. They’ve got energy. Where is the Republican energy? It seems to be against rather than for. Ideas are what changes the world and I see an absence of them from my former colleagues.”