“The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”
The Republican Party has a climate denial problem.
In the past, Republicans in office have been stalwart supporters of conservation and protecting our air and water. President Theodore Roosevelt, the great Republican conservationist, once said, “Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.” Its no surprise, then, that Roosevelt had kind words for his friend John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club. Other Republican Presidents have had strong environmental records as well, including Richard Nixon, who helped lead the way for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and signed the Clean Air Act.
The same can’t be said with the new breed of Republican politicians - the former party of conservation is rapidly developing into a party sheltering climate science deniers who are launching attack after attack on clean air, clean water, clean energy, and climate action. Since 2011, the Republican-led House has taken more than 400 votes that assault the environment. Fully 58% of the Republicans in Congress refuse to accept the basics of climate science - and more are trying to join them in Washington.
The dangers of this trend aren’t going unnoticed - especially in light of the newly-unveiled National Climate Assessment that sounds the alarm for immediate action to halt the climate crisis that is already endangering every corner of the country. USA Today’s editorial board summed up what many are thinking, blasting the party’s bend towards denying climate science:
Given the increasing scientific certainty about global warming, and the likelihood that public opinion will shift in the face of ever more compelling evidence, Republicans should be thinking of ways of getting out in front of the issue. Otherwise, like climate change itself, it will overtake them before they can react.”
And the criticism of climate denial is coming from inside and outside the party. The former Presidential candidate and governor of Utah Jon Huntsman penned a New York Times editorial declaring that “The GOP Can’t Ignore Climate Change”:
So obtuse has become the party’s dialogue on climate change that it’s now been reduced to believing or not believing, as if it were a religious mantra.
This approach reached a new low last month during a North Carolina congressional debate at which all the Republican candidates chuckled at a question on climate change — as if they had been asked about their belief in the Tooth Fairy. [...]
Our approach as a party should be one of neither denial nor extremism. Science must guide sensible policy discussions that will lead to well-informed choices, which may mean considering unexpected alternatives. We aren’t inspiring much confidence, especially among millennials, who at least want an intelligent conversation on the subject.
Its a breath of fresh air to hear a national Republican leader sound a climate call to action.
Huntsman’s words should be a wake-up call for Republican climate deniers. That’s because refusing to recognize the urgent need to act on the climate crisis will be disastrous to Republican politicians. On the one hand, coddling inaction continues to put the communities and families they represent in danger of the extreme temperatures, extreme storms, and extreme droughts fueled by the climate crisis. And ignoring the opportunities climate solutions like wind and solar energy means ignoring one of the fastest-growing sectors of the American economy that’s creating jobs throughout the country - especially in the Republican districts that house 81% of all of the nation’s wind capacity.
On the other hand, continuing to deny climate science will be politically disastrous for Republicans. As Huntsman recognizes, the voters of the future want conversation on climate - not candidates who bury their heads in the sand.
The Sierra Club Voter Education Fund seeks to educate voters about issues important to our members by responding to statements and positions made in an electoral context, with the goal to encourage the public to find out more about the candidates and their positions on these issues.