Republican presidents were once advocates of environmental protection, but in recent years they have devolved into obstructionist purveyors of disinformation. Republicans are mired in the bombast of the old energy economy, their anti-science rhetoric forms the backbone of their climate denial. In stark contrast to the GOP’s denial, Democrats welcome science and champion climate action. In a recent town hall, Democratic presidential contenders staked out strong leadership positions on the climate crisis.
Under Donald Trump, the Republican party is more recalcitrant than ever. Trump flouts science and he has called the climate crisis a “Chinese hoax”. His contempt for facts has had far-reaching consequences including compromising the health of Americans. The Trump administration has leveled a barrage of seemingly unrelenting attacks on climate action while systematically dismantling environmental protections.
While some Republicans argue that climate action is too expensive this argument relies on broken logic. In addition to the loss of priceless attributes associated with biodiversity, a side-by-side comparison reveals the clear benefits of climate action over inaction. Although the Trump administration has conspicuously avoided factoring the costs or reviewing the math, most economists agree that the price of combating climate change is far less than the costs of doing nothing. This is particularly true when you factor in the economic benefits of climate action.
Trump did not invent opposition to science any more than he invented racism. However, he did embolden racists and fortify climate denial. Trump may benefit from systemic corruption but he is not the cause. This situation predated him and will likely outlive him. The GOP has been the leading purveyor of climate denial for years before Trump threw his hat into the ring. The Republican strategy has focused on delaying climate action by casting doubt on the facts. First, they disputed the accuracy of the observation that the world is warming, then they switched to questioning the role that humans play in driving this warming. After delaying climate action for decades, their next pivot will argue that it is too late to do anything about it.
While Democrats have adopted science-based climate action plans, the GOP is sticking to their old narrative. In the last presidential elections of 2016 Republican presidential contenders were united in their opposition to climate action. Climate action was a no-show during the 2016 Republican presidential debates. This was true from the first to the sixth debates as well as the CNBC Republican debate. In fact, the only time climate was mentioned was to express opposition. In the fourth Republican debate on business, the opposition to climate action was a dominant theme.
All those who sought the Republican party nomination for the 2016 presidential election emphatically argued against climate action. It would appear they learned from the experience of Utah governor Jon Huntsman whose presidential campaign came to an end after he expressed support for science and the veracity of global warming. He was the only Republican presidential candidate in 2012 to do so.
To understand why the GOP is opposed to climate action you need to follow the money trail. This trail reveals that Republicans have been bought by the fossil fuel industry. They oppose climate action because they are beholden. It is not only politicians who have been unduly influenced. The oil and gas industry has used its extraordinary economic clout to wield influence by promoting false public narratives through a vast array of devious disinformation efforts.
There is an unholy alliance between the fossil fuel industry and the GOP. Climate denial will not be defeated as long as old energy interests are allowed to game the system.