Republicans Warming Up To Climate Change

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Trump Going in Wrong Direction

by Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

Just when it appeared that Republicans were coming around to the reality of a changing climate and the role we all play in its devastating impact on our world, the party’s presumptive nominee Donald Trump chooses a climate skeptic as his new energy advisor.

Trump named North Dakota’s Republican U.S. House Rep. Kevin Cramer to advise him on energy issues. Cramer has been a strong backer of oil and gas drilling. He has also been a big supporter of coal. When the Bakken oil was flowing, North Dakota saw substantial financial benefit from the unchecked expansion of wells across its northwest corner.  He supports repealing President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which is aimed at reducing America’s use of fossil fuels.

“If in fact he (Obama) wants a more carbon-restrained energy policy, he ought to work with real scientists and work with Congress to come up with a better one,” Cramer said in a interview with Timothy Cama of Washington, D.C.’s The Hill. “The American public wants to see something done on climate change. But we don’t have to throw oil and gas and coal and fossil fuels under the bus to do that.”

Those “real scientists” Cramer is referring to must be the 3 percent who deny climate change is caused by mankind, not the 97 percent who trust the irrefutable data that clearly shows the role we are playing by burning carbon fuels.

Fossil fuels play a key role in providing energy to the country. They are reliable when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. But America, and the world, needs to invest more in clean energy power sources to slow the amount of carbon we spew into the atmosphere.

Cramer also said that Trump might address global warming because  “political populism believes that there needs [to be] some addressing of climate change.” In other words, his advice will be to do the minimal amount needed to placate popular sentiment among some of his supporters and critics. It’s a condescending pat on the head.

Trump, who has been riding a wave of popular support among conservatives and people tired of the dysfunctional politics in Washington, is a firm non-believer in our role in the changing climate.

One of the ways in which he communicates his thoughts on the issue, like many others, is through his constant Tweets. “Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!” he Tweeted. “Any and all weather events are used by the global warming hoaxsters to justify higher taxes to save our planet!” another Trump Tweet said. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” a third Tweet said. However, according to the Washington Post, he later said this one was just a joke.

In a story for the web site Climate Wire, Evan Lehmann reported “the number of conservative voters who believe in climate change has almost doubled in the past two years, according to a new poll that attributes the rise in part to a lessening hostility toward the issue by Republican leaders.”

Back in 2014, only two years ago, just 28 percent of Republican voters said they believed in climate change, but according to the new poll 47 percent now believe it. Yale and George Mason universities conducted the poll.

Researchers attributed the change in attitude to fewer attacks on the science by Republican leaders, news of a record warm 2015, which is now being followed by a record warm 2016, and Pope Francis’ encyclical that clearly stated that mankind played a role in climate change and had a responsibility to address the problems it is causing.

Continuing media coverage of the problems climate change is causing from the bleaching of the world’s coral reefs, to more severe storms, to the flooding of low-lying island nations, to higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, to longer droughts and more intense fire seasons, is also likely playing a role in the changing conservative voters’ attitudes.

“In this presidential race, climate change hasn’t come up on the Republican side at all,” Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication told Climate Wire. “It means that none of the political discourse, the discussion among the Republican Party right now, is addressing climate change at all. That’s actually an improvement in the discourse.”

While addressing climate is a back-burner issue for Republicans, and one they will likely continue to block progressive action on, it ranks high with Democrats. Climate Wire says that liberals see climate change as more important than “race relations, gun control, terrorism and Supreme Court nominations.”

“I think the key number in this report is how it is a motivating issue for liberal Democrats,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) presidential campaign chair Christian Ferry. “I think if these trends continue, Republicans will find themselves out of step with voters who believe climate change is real,” he added.

Climate change for many voters will not be the deciding factor in who they choose at the ballot box in November. But its role in how voters assess their support of a candidate is growing. Trump, however, continues to pander to a base that is clearly among the half of conservative voter who deny our climate is changing.

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