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“Making Themselves Irrelevant”: Conservatives Are Out Of Touch With The World

The climate change conference in Paris is the closest the world has ever come to reaching an agreement that covers 90 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, but conservatives in the United States are focused on other matters. For example, President Barack Obama’s indifference to time limits. Addressing the world leaders assembled in Paris on Monday, he went over his allotted time by 11 minutes, ignoring multiple buzzers along the way. It caught the attention of the Washington Free Beacon, The Blaze, and the Drudge Report.

Why the focus on relatively minor developments? Conservatives are hitting on the point that they think this conference is a waste of America’s time.

You can get a taste of what else conservatives have been paying attention to at the conference from Drudge’s feed:

According to conservative columnist Charles Hurt, another of Obama’s infractions came at his press conference on the conference’s second day, held just before he returned home to Washington, where he looked “so old and gaunt, he makes Keith Richards look like Justin Bieber.” Hurt continued: “Part of the looniness of it all stemmed from the giant scam he and other world leaders are trying to put over on advanced countries, punishing them for their industriousness by redistributing billions and billions of dollars from hardworking American taxpayers and handing it over to tin-pot dictators in disheveled Third World countries.”

Some conservatives, though, insist there is a bigger conspiracy going on. They claim Obama has hatched a plot to make the U.S. inferior to the rest of the world. “President Obama’s opening remarks at the Paris climate agreement were effectively an apology for industrial progress,” was Heritage Action Nicolas Lori’s interpretation of Obama’s line that he recognizes America’s role in creating the climate change conundrum and the country’s responsibility to address it.

The other strain of conservative thinking is that this deal is undemocratic. Fox Business host Stuart Varney made the argument that reaching a climate change agreement somehow goes “around the will of the people.” “Not since Woodrow Wilson’s failed campaign to impose the League of Nations on America has a president been so contemptuous of the will of the people,” wrote Jeffrey Folks at American Thinker. They ignore the fine print of the Paris agreement: It rests primarily on countries setting their own targets and establishing their own plans for how to meet those goals.

If all else fails, conservatives have also reminded us that this whole climate issue is probably some hoax. Breitbart listed 12 reasons why the conference is a waste of time—arguing both that there is no global warming to worry about and that, if there is, the agreement wouldn’t make a difference anyway. Another reason to ignore Paris, according to Breitbart: Climate scientists are “talentless low-lives.”

If a Republican wins the presidency in 2016, then there’s nothing to worry about if you’re someone who doesn’t think climate change is real. Several GOP candidates have pledged that they wouldn’t go to a meeting like Paris, despite all of America’s major allies sending their top leaders.

Jeb Bush wouldn’t waste his time, and Donald Trump thinks even sending a vice president “might be too high a position.” Chris Christie said Obama is “focused on the wrong climate change.” “The climate change that we need is the climate change in this country,” he said, suggesting that issues such as race and religion should take priority. Marco Rubio insisted the climate “has always been changing” and there is no consensus on “what percentage of that is due to man’s activity.” Not to be outdone, Ted Cruz is hosting a hearing next week disputing climate change science.

“I watched much of his press conference, and his passion comes when he’s talking about climate change,” Carly Fiorina said of Obama on a conservative radio show. “He has no passion when he’s talking about defeating our real enemy, which is ISIS.”

Moreover, both the House and Senate voted to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s power plant regulations. The House vote fell in the middle of the Paris talks this week, in an attempt to cast doubt on the U.S.’s commitment to its own domestic proposals that are so key to the agreement. Obama, of course, will veto it.

Conservatives in the U.S. may be turning their backs on the Paris talks. That doesn’t make the conference irrelevant, however. On the contrary, as the rest of the world moves toward a deal—one that is critical to the future of civilization—it’s Republicans who are making themselves irrelevant.

 

By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, December 4, 2015

December 6, 2015 Posted by | Climate Science, Congress, Conservatives, Conspiracy Theories | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Congratulations Republicans!”: On Climate Change, Republicans Are Truly Exceptional

Speaking at the climate conference in Paris today, President Obama noted a way in which America is different from all other nations. Around the world, he said, concern about climate change “spans political parties.” Said Obama:

“I mean, you travel around Europe and you talk to leaders of governments and the opposition, and they are arguing about a whole bunch of things. One thing they’re not arguing about is whether the science of climate change is real and whether or not we’re going to have to do something about it.”

Nowhere else among the world’s major nations (and maybe the minor nations, too, though I don’t claim to be familiar with all 200 of them) is there a political party representing half the electorate which is adamantly opposed to doing anything to address climate change. So congratulations, Republicans: you have made America truly exceptional.

It’s important to note, however, that there is diversity of opinion within the GOP on this issue — to a point. At one end you have the denialists, who believe that climate change is not occurring at all. The people who believe this also tend to believe that the fact that it still snows in the winter constitutes proof that climate change isn’t happening, which shows the intellectual rigor they bring to this question. This group includes not only the notorious Sen. James Inhofe and a gaggle of less prominent congressional knuckleheads, but also presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee.

At the other end you have a few lonely Republican voices saying that climate change is a real problem that we should do something to address. Included in their number are two of the presidential candidates, Lindsey Graham and George Pataki. But the broad majority of the party’s elected officials fall into what we might call the uncertainty caucus. When you ask them whether climate change is happening, they say, “Maybe, sure, who knows?” Is it caused by human activity? “It’s possible, could be, how can we say for sure?” What should government do about it? “Absolutely nothing.” So while they might not sound as deranged as the denialists, their policy prescription is the same.

And while their argument in the past has always been that we can’t confront climate change because moving away from fossil fuels would destroy the economy, they’ve shifted their focus in recent weeks. Now when you ask the GOP presidential candidates about the issue, the response you’ll get is more likely to be, “How can we worry about climate change when ISIS is about to kill us all!!!” This is how the candidates have responded not just to President Obama’s belief in the seriousness of climate change, but to his mere attendance at the Paris conference, as if he should have instead stayed home to spend his time filling Americans with fear of terrorism.

“This is the president once again living in his fantasy world rather than the world as it actually is,” said Chris Christie with his characteristic contempt. “He really believes that folks are worried about climate change when what they really care about now is the Islamic State and Syria and terrorism.” Marco Rubio brought his perspective: “Let me just say no matter how you feel about the issue of the environment and climate and changes to climate, there’s no way any reasonable person could conclude that the most immediate threat we face to our security is what the climate is going to look like in 25 or 30 years.”

It’s easy to believe that terrorism is a greater threat to Americans than climate change, because everyone can conjure up a vivid and terrifying image of what terrorism looks like. And though there’s always the possibility that a future terrorist attack could kill large numbers of Americans, the actual number of Americans killed here at home by jihadi terrorists since 9/11 stands at 26, which, as I keep saying, also happens to be exactly the number of Americans killed this year alone by lightning strikes.

The deaths caused by climate change, on the other hand, are complicated to estimate with precision, don’t show up in YouTube videos, and don’t have the kind of dramatic violence that gets presidential candidates thumping their lecterns. But those deaths are real nonetheless. According to a 2012 report commissioned by the governments of 20 nations, climate change kills 400,000 people a year worldwide, mostly through hunger and the spread of communicable diseases. The World Health Organization estimates: “Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.”

You might say, well, that’s obviously terrible, but it really isn’t about national security. But the Department of Defense, not exactly a place where you find a lot of tree-hugging hippies, would beg to differ. Here’s how they described a recent report they produced on the topic:

The report reinforces the fact that global climate change will have wide-ranging implications for U.S. national security interests over the foreseeable future because it will aggravate existing problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions that threaten domestic stability in a number of countries.

The report finds that climate change is a security risk because it degrades living conditions, human security, and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations. Communities and states that are already fragile and have limited resources are significantly more vulnerable to disruption and far less likely to respond effectively and be resilient to new challenges.

In other words, climate change will produce the contexts in which threats to U.S. national security will fester and grow, which is just one of the reasons that the Republican policy position — do nothing — is so dangerous.

But here’s an interesting thing about that position: not only have they failed to persuade the American public that they’re right, they haven’t even persuaded their own voters. According to a new New York Times/CBS poll, not only does two-thirds of the public overall support the U.S. joining an international treaty to reduce carbon emissions — something that almost every Republican elected official vehemently opposes — but a healthy 42 percent of Republican voters support it as well, with 52 percent opposed. And a majority of Republicans said they’d support a policy to limit carbon emissions from power plants. That’s what President Obama’s Clean Power Plan does, and Republicans in Congress are desperately trying to kill it.

The rightward drift of the GOP during the Obama years is a complex story, with many different causes and effects. There are issues on which the party’s voters have gone right along with its leaders, producing a mass consensus that mirrors the elite consensus. But on climate change, it appears that the politicians’ ability to persuade their voters has been incomplete at best. Not that that means the politicians are going to change any time soon.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, December 1, 2015

December 4, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Climate Science, Paris Climate Conference | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“America Is Not A Planet, So Let Us Pollute”: For The GOP, Climate Know-Nothingism Is Out. Climate Do-Nothingism Is In

There are many reasons why a Republican politician might oppose action on climate change. Addressing the problem requires government regulation, which many Republicans think is inherently bad. People they despise think we ought to address the problem, which makes it unpalatable. The Obama administration has taken a number of moves to address the problem, and everything Obama does is wrong by definition. Yet at the same time, there’s a vast scientific consensus that global warming is happening and we should act on it, and most Americans agree — even significant numbers of Republicans.

So if you’re a GOP candidate, what do you do?

Judging by last night’s debate and what the candidates have said lately, what you don’t do is say that it’s all a hoax. You don’t even have to take the widely ridiculed “I’m not a scientist” line in order to argue that we have no idea whether it’s happening or not. Instead, the emerging Republican position appears to be a kind of passive acceptance of climate change — less “This is a real problem” than “Sure, it’s probably happening, whatever” — accompanied by an insistence that we absolutely, positively can’t do anything about it, at least not anything that requires government action.

In the debate, moderator Jake Tapper presented the climate change question by noting that George Shultz, who served as secretary of state under Ronald Reagan, says we should take out an “insurance policy” by acting to address climate change the way we did decades ago on ozone depletion. “Secretary Shultz asks, why not take out an insurance policy and approach climate change the Reagan way?” You can see this question as either a clever way to force the candidates to address the issue outside of a partisan frame, or a ridiculous attempt to shoehorn Reagan in there instead of just dealing with the facts. Either way, the candidates weren’t biting.

To Tapper’s question, Marco Rubio answered, “Because we’re not going to destroy our economy the way the left-wing government that we are under now wants to do.” After explaining that any attempt to reduce emissions would practically leave all Americans wearing sackcloths as they stood morosely in bread lines waiting for scraps of food, Rubio brought in a second element that has become common to the Republican argument, that there’s no point in America reducing its emissions because “America is not a planet.”

Though that’s technically true, it ignores the fact that we can’t get other countries to agree to a collective effort if we make no effort of our own, not to mention the fact that it’s the kind of logic that would have me dump all my garbage in the street on the theory that my house is just one part of my neighborhood and I can’t control whether everybody else is keeping the neighborhood clean. Chris Christie then argued that his state had reduced its emissions without the government taking any steps because New Jersey uses nuclear power, and Scott Walker jumped in to say EPA rules on greenhouse gases would destroy thousands of jobs.

Because Tapper was eager to move on to other issues, nobody got a chance to toss in the final element of the current Republican argument on climate change: “innovation.” For that we can turn to an interview Carly Fiorina gave earlier this week. “The answer is innovation. And the only way to innovate is for this nation to have industry strong enough that they can innovate,” she said, after contemptuously dismissing the idea that nations could band together to confront climate change. “We need to become the global energy powerhouse of the 21st century, for so many reasons. To create jobs, to make the bad guys less bad, and so we have industries — including the coal industry — that’s powerful enough to be able to innovate.”

You may be thinking that the coal industry being insufficiently powerful isn’t high on the list of the reasons we haven’t solved the climate change problem yet. But the handy thing about “innovation” is that it sounds like the person advocating it is forward-looking and optimistic. And there will certainly be a part for innovation to play in addressing climate change; the problem is that it’s impossible to know exactly what that role will be. In the meantime, we can’t just wait around for some spectacular new invention to come along.

That’s why, if somebody advocates “innovation” as the solution to climate change, they ought to be asked two questions. First, what do you think government should  do to spur this innovation? If their answer is to make a huge investment in clean energy research and technologies, then that’s something (and it’s also what the Obama administration has done). If their answer is “Get out of industry’s way,” then you can be pretty sure it’s just a cover for “Let them pollute, like they already want to.” Not to mention that allowing industry to pollute lets them off the hook without any need for innovation at all; force them to meet emissions targets, and out of necessity they’ll find innovative ways to do it.

The second question the advocate of innovation ought to be asked is, “What do we do in the meantime while we’re waiting for this innovation you promise?” If by way of answering they talk about all the terrible things regulation will do, that means their real answer is, “Nothing.”

Which is the end point of the entire argument Republicans are making on climate change (except for those lonely few who actually propose to confront the problem). That applies to the remaining conspiracy theorists who think it’s a hoax, the ones like Ben Carson who falsely believe that scientists aren’t sure whether humans contribute to it, or the ones who acknowledge that climate change is a problem but only want to talk about how terrible government regulation is. The answer they all have is the same.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, September 17, 2015

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Climate Science, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Cruz Balks At Questions On Flooding, Climate”: References To Science Are Inappropriate When Ted Cruz Doesn’t Like The Data

Storms in Texas last week caused deadly flooding, and conditions in some areas grew even worse over the weekend. NBC News has confirmed that at least 24 people have died in Texas in the floods, and the death toll climbs when victims in Oklahoma and Mexico are added to the tally.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), like many officials in the Lone Star State, has worked on securing federal disaster relief for the affected areas. What the far-right senator has not been willing to do, however, is answer questions about the environmental conditions that may be contributing to the floods themselves.

CNN reported the other day that Cruz finds himself “in a bind on climate change.”

The Republican presidential contender has held two press conferences over the past two days to address the flooding and the government’s response. At each one, he was asked about the impact of climate change on natural disasters like the Texas flooding, and at each one, he dodged the question.

“In a time of tragedy, I think it’s wrong to try to politicize a natural disaster – and so there’s plenty of time to talk about other issues,” he said in response to a question on his views on climate change during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

It’s a curious response. For one thing, it’s not entirely clear how Cruz defines “politicize” – to talk about environmental conditions contributing to an environmental disaster is “political”? Are we to believe references to science are inappropriate when Ted Cruz doesn’t like the data?

For another, Cruz’s rhetoric makes it sound as if he’d welcome a discussion about the climate crisis and its devastating, real-world effects – just not now. There’s “plenty of time” for this conversation, he said.

But the point is, Cruz has it backwards. As the crisis intensifies, and the disasters become more frequent and severe, there isn’t “plenty of time” for conversations that climate deniers always want to push away.

Over at ThinkProgress, Emily Atkin argued yesterday that “let’s not politicize this” carries with it a distinct “I’m not a scientist” vibe.

[It’s] a way to avoid talking about the science that says human-made carbon emissions are warming the earth and screwing with natural weather patterns. Cruz, for his part, says he does not accept that science.

In the meantime, climate scientists across the country have been speaking out about the climate implications of the Texas floods. And on Friday, ThinkProgress asked several of those scientists to weigh in on Cruz’s comments.

The overwhelming response: Talking about climate change after a weather tragedy is not political. In fact, it’s necessary.

Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University, for example, said, “The science isn’t political. It’s the solutions that are political.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 1, 2015

June 2, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change Deniers, Climate Science, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Threat Multipliers”: Republicans Always Listen to the Pentagon—Except When It Says Climate Change Is Real

Faced with mounting scientific evidence that humans are causing climate change, Republicans are having an increasingly hard time denying the facts. Those denials became even more laughable Tuesday, when one of the party’s favorite agencies, the Department of Defense, told Congress that climate change is hurting military operations.

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, a Department of Defense representative laid out how climate change is exposing its infrastructure in coastal and Arctic regions to rising sea levels and extreme weather, and that it’s even impacting decisions like which types of weapons the Pentagon buys. This is only the latest in a series of recent warnings from the military, which raised the issue as far back as George W. Bush’s second term. In March, the Pentagon warned, in its Quadrennial Defense Review, that the effects of climate change “are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensionsconditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.” In other words, increased drought and water shortages are likely to trigger fighting over limited resources. The military has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas footprint 34 percent by 2020and it’s already well on its way to that goal.

When the DOD says it needs something, Republicans usually listen. Perhaps the military can convince conservatives that climate change is real enough to obstruct national security?

So far, the GOP remains unconvinced. When the House of Representatives passed the Pentagon’s budget in June, it included an amendment, passed mostly along partly lines, barring the department from implementing its climate change initiatives. On Monday, The Hill reported that Republican Senator John Barasso called the military’s efforts to combat climate change “wasteful and irresponsible at best, especially as our friends and allies struggle with violent, deadly crises that have real implications for our security.”

The Pentagon’s first task in convincing the GOP to care may be debunking the idea that the U.S. must wait for perfect science before taking action (particularly when the scientific certainty on human-caused climate change is equal to the certainty that cigarettes harm health). And as the editors at Bloomberg View recently pointed out, the military doesn’t wait for perfect certainty before assessing a threat. Waiting, generally, is a poor strategy.

 

By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, July 23, 2014

July 24, 2014 Posted by | Climate Science, Greenhouse Gases, Pentagon, Republicans | , , , , | Leave a comment

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