Saturday, May 4, 2019

Why Republicans Oppose Democrat's Efforts to Revive the Paris Climate Agreement

House Democrats are trying to keep the Paris Climate agreement alive while Senate Republicans are intent on killing the measure. On Thursday May 2, 2019 the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives formally expressed their opposition to President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate agreement. They did this by voting on the first climate bill to come out of Congress in almost a decade. The motion passed by a margin of 41 votes (231 votes for and 190 votes against). House Democrats supported the bill while almost all Republicans voted against it.

The bill known as H.R. 9 would force the Trump administration to stay in the Paris Climate agreement. It would compel the administration to detail plans on how the country will meet its Paris targets that mandate emissions reductions of between 26 and 28 percent (compared to 2005 levels). It would also prevent Trump from using federal funds to finance the withdrawal.

Democrats are trying to capitalize on the groundswell of support for climate action. For the first time climate change is a key issue with American voters and it may prove to be a major issue in the forthcoming 2020 presidential election. Polls show that support for climate action is growing in the US, however, so is Republican resistance to the facts.

In June 2017, Trump announced that he would withdraw the US from the Paris deal. However, that will not take effect until after the 2020 federal elections. This would give time for a more responsible government to countermand Trump's decision. The global backlash against Trump's decision came from many quarters including government and business.

President Trump and the majority of Republicans deny the veracity of climate change. They have rolled back climate action in the US and killed the Obama administration's climate leadership. To make it possible to assume this factually inaccurate policy stance they are both anti science and anti media. Trump's mendacity and resistance to science is legendary. Both the Department of the Interior and the EPA have systematically undermined science. 

Science returned to Congress when the Democrats took control of the House in 2018.  This is an important first step as science is essential for fact based policy, it is also an important part of uniting a divided country.

"It is time to end denial about this and start listening to the facts. This is about science, science, science," the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said. "We have an imperative to have climate action now."
Despite Pelosi's plea for responsible reality-based legislation, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that Republican senators will kill the bill.

To understand Republicans propensity to resist the facts and propagate lies we need to appreciate the salient role the fossil fuels industry plays in American politics. Big oil has known that they are the leading cause of climate change for decades. To obscure this fact they have developed sophisticated disinformation campaigns alongside strategies of political interference. They use their tremendous clout and financial might to influence public opinion and subvert the political process. They buy both politicians and political outcomes. The vast majority of the support they provide goes to Republicans who in recent years have consistently worked to impede fact based energy policy. The Trump administration has cemented this relationship by staffing senior government positions with hundreds of fossil fuel advocates.

Republicans argue that climate action undermines the economy, however, this is a facetious argument as a plethora of analysis reveals that the cost of action is far less than inaction. 

Despite Republican resistance to the facts, many citizens, states, cities and corporations are increasing climate action.

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