Saturday, December 05, 2015

Climate Change Shouldn't Be A Partisan Issue-- But It Is


Why is young fogey Marco Rubio such a willfully ignorant science denier?

Yesterday we talked about the passage of Fred Upton's disastrous anti-climate change bill. How is it possible? There are two ways to look at why America is acting like a nation of ostriches with their heads buried on the sand, although both lead back to special interests putting their own tremendous wealth ahead of the survival of the human race-- predominantly the Koch brothers, who virtually control the Republican Party lock, stock and barrel.

Last year when California Governor Jerry Brown denounced the GOP by saying "virtually no Republican" in Washington accepts climate change science, PolitiFact looked into his outrageous charge-- and found it true. Brown, responding to a question from This Week's host George Stephanopoulos, said "[T]here's virtually no Republican who accepts the science that virtually is unanimous. I mean there is no scientific question. There's just political denial for various reasons, best known to those people who are in denial." So PolitiFact decided to find investigate that since Republican elected officials are more skeptical about climate change than Republican voters are (Republican voters not dependent on Koch-related checks). First up was a senator whose state is starting to feel the effects of rising sea waters pretty dramatically:
Most recently, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., made waves for denying a link between human activity and climate change.

"I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it," Rubio told Jonathan Karl on ABC’s This Week May 11. "And I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy."

That’s in line with other prominent Republicans, such as House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Organizing for Action, a group that backs President Barack Obama, published a lengthy list of climate change deniers in Congress, with evidence to back each one.

Still others, like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have notably changed on the issue, even after co-authoring legislation to address the issue.
The only Republicans they managed to dig up who believe in the science of climate change and are taking it even a little seriously were Michael Grimm (R-NY), currently serving out a prison sentence for corruption, Chris Smith (R-NJ), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and 5 relatively mainstream GOP senators, Bob Corker, John Thune, Susan Collins, Lamar Alexander and Mark Kirk. But when I wrote they were taking it a little seriously... well, this is what Frelinghuysen put it: "With the weather patterns over the past five years. … What causes it? Quite honestly, I don’t know. … Humans have some effect on climate change. There’s so many factors." So 8 out of 278 Republicans (3%) are open to arguments from scientists. And Pennsylvania's Republican ex-Congressman Jim Greenwood told PolitiFact that the number of Republicans standing by climate change science has been shrinking. "There used to be a lot more of us. A lot of us were very green in our voting records. That has changed. I think it's part of the phenomenon of the polarization of the Congress." What a party!

This is a Bill Moyers show from 2012 that helps explain what's happened to the GOP and is very much well worth watching again:

Back to Climate Change and a study CBS News did a couple months ago on where the GOP candidates stand on the issue. Short version: scary.
Climate change, more than many other issues, lays bare a stark divide between the two parties: Democrats warn of the grave threat posed by global warming, stressing the need to reduce carbon emissions to prevent a catastrophe. Republicans, including most of the GOP's 2016 presidential candidates, either don't acknowledge climate change is happening, or they question whether it's caused by human activity.

...At an event sponsored by billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch in August, Cruz denied the existence of climate change.

"If you look to the satellite data in the last 18 years there has been zero recorded warming. Now the global warming alarmists, that's a problem for their theories. Their computer models show massive warming the satellite says it ain't happening. We've discovered that NOAA, the federal government agencies are cooking the books," he said.

In an interview with the Texas Tribune in March, he said, "the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of flat-Earthers," recalling that Galileo was once branded a "denier" for saying the Earth was round when contemporary scientific wisdom held that it was flat.

...Marco Rubio: "I believe climate is changing because there's never been a moment where the climate is not changing," Rubio said in CBS' Face the Nation in April. In an interview with ABC's This Week in May 2014, he said, "Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that's directly and almost solely attributable to manmade activity. I do not agree with that."
And what about Mister Republican 2015? Trumpf doesn't issue press statements; he tweets-- and CBS found some:

Yesterday, Paul Krugman, writing for the NY Times noted that "Future historians-- if there are any future historians-- will almost surely say that the most important thing happening in the world during December 2015 was the climate talks in Paris. True, nothing agreed to in Paris will be enough, by itself, to solve the problem of global warming. But the talks could mark a turning point, the beginning of the kind of international action needed to avert catastrophe. Then again, they might not; we may be doomed. And if we are, you know who will be responsible: the Republican Party... [M]ost of the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination are solidly in the anti-science camp. What people may not realize, however, is how extraordinary the G.O.P.’s wall of denial is, both in the U.S. context and on the global scene... The 2016 election should be seen as a referendum on that extremism."

Yesterday saw the release of a WBUR poll of people living in Massachusetts on, among other things, climate change. It was somewhat disheartening. The results also show most people believe climate change is occurring, and is caused by human activity, and that it can be stopped. OK, so far so good, right? However, they fear policies would be too expensive to implement.

Few are paying much attention to the Climate Change Summit in Paris, which is barely being covered by the mass media. Still 78% say the earth's temperature has been rising and 56% say it's due to human activities while another 21% say it's partially die to human activities. 68% say the effects of global warming will be felt within our lifetimes and of those 57% say the effects are already happening-- and 72% of those interviewed say the consequences for people in Massachusetts will be "very serious" (45%) or "somewhat serious" (27%). 55% say it isn't too late to stop global warming and 26% say it's already too late.

Then the questions start getting into costs:

When asked if "greenhouse gases were significantly reduced, but it raised your monthly energy bill by ten dollars," 58% still favored the remediation but opposition increased significantly to 32%. And that's Massachusetts! I don't know that he had seen this polling but early yesterday, Greg Sargent at the Washington Post asserted that "It’s often said that climate change doesn’t motivate voters, and that’s true."
But a confluence of events-- the implementation of Obama’s Clean Power Plan, plus the likelihood that we’ll have a global climate deal very soon-- mean the contrast on this issue really could matter more in this election than in previous cycles. The stakes surrounding this fundamental difference between the two parties are suddenly a whole lot higher. The question is now no longer an abstract one. It’s about whether the U.S. will participate in a concrete, long-term, global agreement to take sustained action to address a crisis that the scientists tell us could soon be irreversibly headed towards catastrophe.

What’s more, for Democrats, this issue is something of a two-fer. It isn’t just about whether we should act on climate, which now has majority support in polls. It’s also about whether to embrace international engagement as a means to act on it. The GOP nominee will have pledged to reverse the steps we’re now taking in this regard by pulling us out of an international deal that (hopefully) will have already been reached. That stance might not be a winner before a general election audience. Dems can use it (among other things) to hammer the GOP as trapped in the past.

Sure, some pundits will proclaim that Dems risk alienating blue collar whites in Rust Belt states by taking this on. But swing voters are dwindling as a factor. The 2016 election could turn on how successfully the Dem nominee motivates the core voter groups that have been powering Dem wins in recent national elections. Climate action polls very well with these groups.

Also, the issue is kind of important. It may not end up mattering much, or even at all, to next year’s outcome. But the more it gets talked about, the better.
Greg is correct; the more it gets talked about the better. And the Blue America candidates are all talking about it. Alex Law, for example, is running for a congressional seat in the South Jersey district across from Philly. The conservaDem incumbent, Donald Norcross, was proud that his very first vote in Congress was for the Keystone XL Pipeline. And he hasn't gotten any better since then. In fact when he was a state legislator, New Jersey environmental groups considered him the worst Democrat in Trenton. Alex has a very different perspective. This is what he told us yesterday after the vote Thursday on Upton's climate change denying "energy bill":
Moral arguments for green energy aside, sustainable energy also has a compelling economic argument. Sustainable energy means sustainable jobs for the United States in manufacturing, operations, and in research and development. These are jobs that aren't limited to areas 'lucky' enough to have oil; these are jobs that can come home to any district, including mine, in the country. America has a tremendous opportunity to lead the world in new technologies that every country on Earth needs. We must seize this moment to lead the world in this growing market and save our planet from the ever looming threat of climate change. Rather than allowing special interests spending to force our government to prop up big oil and coal (with subsidies and horrible legislation like the Keystone Pipeline), we should invest in sustainable energy. When I get to Congress, this will be one of the most important issues for me, and I plan to sponsor legislation making investment in sustainable energy a priority for the United States.
This morning it's been widely reported that negotiators from the 195 countries at theParis Climate summit agreed on a blueprint deal aimed at reducing global carbon emissions and limiting global warming, a good first step in the multinational effort to keep climate change in check. Several of the Republican candidates running for president have vowed to tear up the agreement when they're elected. You can help Alex get to Congress here at the Blue America ActBlue page or, if you'd prefer, on a special page we've set up for congressional candidates who have endorsed Bernie Sanders for President. NJ-01 is a solid blue district and the people there deserve a real Democrat, not a corrupt, conservative machine hack.

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At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember those margarine ads which featured "It's not NICE to fool Mother Nature!" ? Mother Nature is no fool, and no foolish human is going to successfully work against her. Foolish FOX watchers won't admit to any climate change even while starving and awash in super high tides.

As Kurt Vonnegut proposed as the epitaph of humanity, "They Didn't Like It Here".


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