Friday, October 26, 2018

How Climate Change Could Hurt Southern Republicans in the Midterms

Global warming has been a non-issue for most Republican voters, but that might change in the forthcoming midterm elections. On November 6th we may see the environment emerge as an important issue for some voters in Trump country. People in southern states are coming to terms with the fact that warming seas are causing toxic algal blooms, violent storms and flooding. This is cause for concern for the GOP who fear that their climate deception could be exposed by anyone seriously interested in examining the facts.

People are coming to the realization that planetary warming is a factor in both storms and toxic algae. This in turn exposes the irrationality of Republican resistance to climate science.  What makes it even more interesting is that these hurricanes and algal blooms are striking in the heart of Trump country. North Carolina and the Florida are red states that helped Trump to win the electoral college in 2016 and some of these voters are beginning to have buyers remorse.

For years Republicans have denied the veracity of climate science and supported policy and legislation that exacerbates the problem. In recent years Republicans have demonstrated that they are not interested in science.  While they used to be able to say that individual storms cannot be construed as evidence for climate change, advances in attribution science have divested them of this talking point.

We have seen a number of studies make the clear connection between human activities and climate change including the most recent IPCC study that makes the point that we are on the cusp of tipping points from which we will not be able to recover.  Many Republicans now concede that climate change is real however, they falsely infer that humans are not the primary cause.

Attribution studies may be compelling but major storms and heaps of rotting sea-life along American coastlines make a powerful case. These events are more convincing than the slew of studies ever could be. One of the reasons Republicans have gotten away with denying the veracity of man-made climate change is because it is invisible. While people cannot see the rising levels of atmospheric carbon emissions, they cannot ignore hurricanes, flooding and algal blooms.

From the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic, Americans have witnessed massive sea-life die-offs due to red tide, brown tide, and blue green algal blooms. People on the coast know that rising sea levels are making storm surges worse and causing more flooding. Millions of voters who suffered from recent storms are looking for answers and every algal bloom that kills fish and each storm that destroys life and property shines a spotlight on the GOP's refusal to support mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The Virginian Pilot spoke with some longtime Florida residents and if their views are representative, Republicans are in trouble.  "It is getting worse," 86 year old Betty Hardwick is quoted as saying. "It’s definitely warmer, and that is causing this to stay around so long," another resident said, adding, "We need to do something".

Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott is vying for a Senate seat against Democratic incumbent Senator Bill Nelson. Hurricane Michael may focus voters on Scott's climate denial and these storms may undermine Republicans support in other electoral contests in southern states.

An October 18th Washington Post article by Tracy Jan proclaimed that hurricanes have succeeded where scientists have failed by convincing Republican voters of the veracity of climate change in North Carolina. "I always thought climate change was a bunch of nonsense, but now I really do think it is happening," said Margie White, a 65-year-old Trump supporter from North Carolina.

The article states that while climate change was once a taboo topic there is "a discernible shift...among Republican voters in North Carolina". Hurricanes are prompting farmers fishers and others to believe their eyes over the spin coming from Republicans. "I’m not a scientist. I just know what I see," said Carl Marshburn, a Republican who has operated tour boats along the Cape Fear River for three decades. This shift is reflected in an Elon University survey which showed a significant uptick in the number of North Carolinians who believe that global warming is real. Nearly three times more people in that state have changed their views in the last year.

Changing attitudes may have an impact on the perception of Republican legislators. This includes the 12 congressional representatives from North Carolina who have expressed doubts about global warming or its causes.

Changing attitudes in North Carolina and Florida may signal the start of a long overdue reckoning whereby Republican voters begin to see through the lies of  their political leaders.  Two major hurricanes and algal blooms just ahead of the November midterm election may prove to be problematic for some Republicans.

Republicans have painted themselves into a corner and most won't acknowledge anthropogenic climate change so there is little hope that they can be expected to do anything about it anytime soon. Republicans have been selling a lie to the American people just because it is political expedient to do so. While some may be genuinely ignorant many know that anthropogenic climate change is real and yet they continue to tow the party line.

The truth may be coming home to roost and Republicans may soon be held to account. There is already some indication that people in Florida and North Carolina are moving away from the Republican party line on climate change. Case in point, Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic nominee for the Governor of Florida Andrew Gillum is poised to defeat Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis in the forthcoming gubernatorial election.

Leaders who deal well with with a crisis can derive political benefits, but there are scores of leaders who have fallen by the wayside due to their poor handling of extreme weather events. Presidents like Calvin Coolidge and George W. Bush were hurt by their response to extreme weather events and Mitt Romney's presidential bid was hobbled by Hurricane Sandy.

Just when you thought it could not get worse Trump's vitriol has taken the country to an even darker place. It is in the wake of the assignation attempts against a news network, two former presidents and a former CIA chief, Trump's attacks against his political opponents and the press have intensified.

He refuses to acknowledge that his tirades have contributed to what the FBI is calling acts of domestic terrorism. All the while Republicans have stood by the man who has used his bully pulpit to foment hatred and division. It is in this context that Republicans are asking for voter support.

A growing number of Americans appear to be seeing through the fake news allegations. They realize that the real intent is to demonizes anyone who exposes the lies and malfeasance of the president and his party. If, as many contend the midterms are at least in part a referendum on Trump it may leave many Republicans looking for work on November 6th.

Republican politicians in the south are finding it more difficult to maintain the facade of their lies as an increasing number of voters are looking to explain storms, floods and algal blooms.

Related
Climate Economics: Trump and Republicans Ignore the Math
Trump and Hurricanes are like Oil and Water
The Implications of Trump's Reprehensible Rejection of Climate Science
Trump's Energy Agenda is as Insane as his Presidency
Best Evidence Yet that Climate Tipping Points are Pushing Us Past the Point of No Return
IPCC Study Offers Another Dose of Climate Reality
Attribution Science Connecting Hurricane Florence to Climate Change
US Hurricanes and the GOP's Climate Denial
Trump's Climate Denial Makes Storms and Wildfires Worse
Trump's Climate Denial as Puerto Ricans Continue to Die in the Wake of Hurricane Maria
Trump's Climate Denial the GOP and Fossil Fuels
Hurricane Harvey and Trump's Hypocritical Resistance to Climate Resilience

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