Republican presidential candidates fielded only one question on climate change during the September 16th debate which lasted three hours. Together their responses to the climate question lasted about three minutes.
They all indicated that the US government should not do anything to combat climate change because it won’t make a difference.
This is a slightly more nuanced position than flat out denial which is at odds with 97 percent of scientists. While the majority of white conservatives are comfortable with denial many other constituencies are not. It is important to note that twice as many nonwhite Americans think climate change should be a priority than whites.
So as to avoid alienating nonwhites (they cannot hope to win a general election with only older white male voters) Republicans have adopted a position that climate change may be real but we really can’t do anything about it. This is the new backbone of their resistance to renewable energy and support for fossil fuels.
This little bit of political spin was fabricated by the Cato Institute. This argument ignores the reality that to combat climate change all nations of the earth must play a role, this most certainly must include the wealthiest nation on the planet. As the “leader of the free world” the US can set the tone with its actions and cause others to follow.
Nor does their argument factor the economic analyses from Citibank, LSE, PwC and many others that show the cost of inaction far exceeds the cost of action. In addition to saving money, transitioning away from fossil fuels will grow the economy and create jobs. The benefits of less fossil fuels also includes cleaner air and water and the result is better health.
Here is the specific question that Jake Tapper asked the GOP presidential candidates: “Ronald Reagan’s own secretary of state, George Shultz, has advocated for some kind of action on climate change, just as an “insurance policy.” Tapper asked, why not follow Reagan’s example, and take out an insurance policy to respond to what scientists overwhelmingly believe will be devastating impacts of climate change?”
The three candidates that responded where Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. They were all united in their conviction that the US should do nothing saying that government action won’t amount to a hill of beans.
Rubio said that the EPA’s regulations on carbon emissions from coal plants “will do absolutely nothing to change our climate.” Christie said he agreed, that regulations “will not do a thing to lower the rise of the sea … [or] solve the drought here in California.” Walker was more measured, saying the Obama administration’s actions, “will have marginal impact on climate change.”
Rubio added that as the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases (ghgs), climate change is China’s problem. However what he did not say is that historically the US is by far the world’s largest producer of GHGs.