Republicans Win, Earth Loses

Vinita Banthia, MJLST Staff Member

The results of last Tuesday’s midterm elections were somewhat of a victory for climate-change deniers around the country. In Iowa, Joni Ernst, a long-time climate change denier beat Democratic candidate Bruce Braley in the race for Senate. Ernst has remarked that she has “not seen proven proof that [climate change] is entirely man-made.” Meanwhile Colorado elected climate change skeptic Cory Gardner over Mark Udall and Oklahoma elected one of the environment’s biggest enemies: James Inhofe. Inhofe has long believed that the dangers of climate change are a hoax and recently wrote a book expressing the same sentiment. Ironically, Inhofe will also serve as the new chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

At the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23, 2014, President Obama pledged to world leaders that the United States is committed to doing its part in reducing carbon emissions while also maintaining economic growth. This extended Republican majority in the House will push back President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the nation’s environmental policy, and will increase resistance to the Environmental Protection Agency’s heightened regulations, but will not entirely seize efforts on that front because the White House remains dedicated to advancing its climate change agenda and the President’s veto will prevent drastic changes in the current law and policy.

In the last year, the U.S. has reduced its carbon production more than any other nation, and the President continues to push this trend to meet his office’s goal of reducing carbon emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. As part of the Climate Action Plan, the White House aims to work with states and companies to cut the amount of carbon emissions from power plants, which will be the one of the biggest step in reducing carbon emissions in the nation’s history. In addition, new actions are being taken to encourage and implement alternative sources of energy (such as hydroelectric, solar and wind power generators) which will save consumers $10 billion on their bills and reduce carbon pollution by 300 million metric tons by 2030.

Finally, the U.S. aims to work with private companies to reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in similar ways as they limited ozone-depleting chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbon (CFC). In addition to taking measures domestically, the U.S. is working with developing nations to find sustainable and clean ways to build infrastructure and create economic growth. For example, the President has formed partnerships with African farmers to implement sustainable agricultural practices.

Despite the recent elections of many Republicans who fail to appreciate the immediate dangers of climate change, many environmentalists, including David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council, say that this kind of climate denial could have a negative impact on the party’s popularity in the long run. Colbert Report host, Stephen Colbert mocked several Republicans for adamantly denying the man-made nature of climate change while they repeatedly disclaimed that they are “not scientists.” Republicans adhering to this view ignore the glaring evidence linking human activity to the drastic rise in sea levels, global temperatures, and loss of biodiversity, without proposing alternative causes for these phenomena.

According to a recent poll conducted by the New York Times, over 54% of Americans believe that some part of global warming is caused by human activity–the greatest number in American history to share this belief. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll found that more than 70% of Americans believe climate change is an important threat to the interests of the country, and half of the respondents felt that the government needs to do more to curb the its effects.

As suggested by Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, most Republicans’ denial of the dangers of climate change is based on political pressure from their supporters in industries that contribute to environmental degradation. Since much of the Republican campaign funds come from some of the largest polluters , it is unlikely that Republican candidates will expressly change their views unless these culprit industries, such as the fossil fuel industry, move away from these damaging processes and adopt sustainable practices. This change may only be had by incentivizing “green” processes such as efficient and renewable energy sources, which is a key aspect of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. Hence, even though the current House might try to push the Action Plan behind schedule, the nation is heading toward a more sustainable and green future whether James Inhofe and his fellow Republicans are onboard or not.