There is not a single person running for U.S. President as a Republican who believes that we should take action to fight climate change. Not one. To make matters worse, the top three contenders for the Republican nomination — Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio — refuse to even acknowledge that climate change is real. The remaining two GOP candidates — John Kasich and Dr. Ben Carson — don’t believe climate scientists about the scope and severity of the problem.
One of these men will have a 50% chance of becoming the President of the United States this coming November. And depending on which polls you look at, the three frontrunners have a very real shot at actually winning the election.
Cruz and Rubio are the only two candidates who currently serve in office, both in the Senate, and while they are currently both trailing Trump in delegate count, the number of primaries left to be held indicate that either could take the lead and secure the nomination. And since they both hold office, we can check their records to see where they stand on environmental issues.
And things aren’t looking good.
The League of Conservation Voters’ National Environmental Scorecard gave House Republicans an average score of 3 percent, while Senate Republicans got just 5 percent. Republican Presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) both got scores of zero, as they issued what the report calls the “anti-environment vote” every time throughout 2015.
And those scores are just from 2015. Looking back further into their records, we see a pattern of anti-environment, pro-dirty energy votes in their respective histories.
For example, Ted Cruz voted against protecting marine ecosystems, voted in favor of expanded fossil fuel exploration and development on U.S. soil, and he voted against the Gulf of Mexico offshore drilling moratorium put in place after the BP oil spill of 2010 (and repealed quietly shortly after.)
Rubio’s history is similar: He believes that we should grow the oil industry and not the renewable energy industry; He wants to explore ANWR for fossil fuels; He voted against allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions; And he believes in letting the “free market” address environmental issues, not the government.
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has taken things a step further by declaring that climate change is a hoax, and cited snowfall in Southern states during the winter of 2015 as proof.
Republican politicians having anti-environment views is nothing new, but the attitudes of their constituents about the matter are. According to recent reports, Republican voters actually DO care about the environment and they are concerned about climate change. In fact, they have become so fed up with the lack of conversation about climate change taking place from their candidates that they’ve tried to force the issue during campaign rallies.
While Republican voters are statistically more likely to oppose stricter environmental standards (small government is a tenant of the Republican Party and they view regulations as unnecessary,) their overall belief is that the climate is warming and something needs to be done before it is too late.
The Democratic Party has not let the silence from the Republican candidates go unscathed, and this week they released an ad calling out the Republicans for refusing to discuss the issue:
Compounding matters even further, a recent study from the University of Queensland shows that facts and science not only don’t matter to climate change deniers, but when they are presented with evidence to disprove their claims they cling even more tightly to their incorrect beliefs. The study also showed that climate change denial is more closely linked to political ideology than to any other factor, as reported by Think Progress:
…Despite the common conception that climate deniers are predominantly older white men, there actually is not a strong correlation by any other demographic but ideology, the lead author of the paper, psychology professor Michael Hornsey, told the Washington Post. “People higher in skepticism are more likely to be old, white and male – but the effects are so tiny you have to squint to see them. What really popped was people’s ideologies, political values, worldviews.”…
Education, gender, general knowledge, and experience of extreme weather had little effect, the studies showed. Perhaps that’s how Harvard-educated presidential nominee and son of a scientist Ted Cruz can bring himself to hang his hat on a single data point, rather than simply accept that the conclusion reached by the majority of climate scientists is correct.
The big question is how do you get a group of non-believers (and a few believers) to act on a problem that they refuse to admit exists? The answer is very simple: We reframe the problem in terms that everyone can understand.
For Americans, that means putting things in terms of dollars and cents.
For example, for every $1 spent on air pollution abatement, the economy sees a benefit of between $10 and $100. Dollar per dollar, the renewable industry creates three times more jobs than the fossil fuel industry for every $1 invested. For every one subsidy that the renewable energy industry receives, the fossil fuel industry – an industry that already pulls in billions of dollars a year in profits – receives 75 subsidies from the federal government. Wages for green energy jobs average 13% higher than in the fossil fuel industry. And let’s not forget about the constant warnings from some of the largest corporations and industries in the United States warning us that a warming climate will destroy their businesses, kill jobs, and wreck havoc on the overall economy.
What about those regulations that they hate so much? The ones that are supposed to be “job killers”? The EPA’s clean power rule that was put in place last summer would save an estimated 3,000 lives per year by reducing air pollution-related illnesses, and the plan is estimated to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. The agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will save close to 7,500 lives per year. And study after study after study confirms that environmental regulations create a net gain of jobs — oftentimes creating jobs that pay significantly higher wages than those of the dirty energy industry.
If the Republican candidates — or even the Democratic candidates — framed the looming environmental catastrophe in just those terms listed above, we could be looking at a very different conversation in this country. Instead, we continue to have arguments over science that has already been settled, and that continues to prevent any meaningful action from ever taking place. And if the Democratic Party loses control of The White House this November, we’re in for another four years at least of climate inaction and accelerated warming.
Image credit – CBS News