Guest Editorials, Opinion

Republicans finally weighed in on climate change

The U.S. lost massive ground in combating climate change during the Trump administration, a recent report says. Now, congressional Republicans are offering their own climate plan — which doesn’t actually do anything new — while slamming President Joe Biden for climate shortfalls GOP opposition caused. When are Republicans going to understand that climate change isn’t a political football to be played with, but a genuine global crisis? The Environmental Performance Index, from Yale and Columbia universities, periodically charts the progress of nations around the world in the common goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The latest report scored 180 countries on a range of environmental criteria. It found that in the first half of Donald Trump’s presidency, between 2017 and 2019 (the latest period for which there is complete data), America plunged from 15th in the world to 101st in terms of climate-related action.

This is unsurprising, given that the Obama administration made climate a front-burner issue for eight years, then Trump set about dismantling that legacy with such zeal that he even attacked automakers for seeking emissions standards tougher than the government was seeking.

Trump’s climate vandalism was extreme even by Republican standards, but his party historically hasn’t been much better. It outright denied the science of global warming for years before adopting today’s approach of grudging acknowledgment that still doesn’t prioritize the issue. That was most evident with the scuttling of Biden’s sweeping climate change plan last year. Supporters of that plan have labeled Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as the villain for derailing it, but Manchin was only in that make-or-break position because of unified Republican opposition.

Now House Republicans, facing midterm elections in which they’d like to solidify support from young educated suburbanites who care more about climate change than the lawmakers apparently do, have unveiled a mixed-bag package of vague goals on climate, energy and environment that included both expanded renewable energy (windmills, solar) and expanded fossil fuel production. If the climate-change analogy is a burning house, Republicans are calling for pouring water on some parts of it, gasoline on others.

Where this sad attempt to finally enter the climate conversation turned comical was with comments from the Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., the GOP point person on the issue. He told Politico the party is “creating a clear, coherent energy strategy that returns the U.S. to an emissions reduction trajectory as opposed to what we are seeing under the Biden administration, which is failing every test.”

Again: The last Republican “trajectory” on climate change arched catastrophically backward, and Biden hasn’t failed a test on that front so much as run into a Republican wall. If this is all the GOP can offer to appeal to voters who care about climate change, they’re probably better off just going back to pretending it doesn’t exist.

This editorial first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.