If that headline sounds like an extreme statement consider this: Hardly any Republicans in Congress favor serious action on climate change according to RL Miller, founder of Climate Hawks Vote. Miller cites the vote on an anti-carbon-tax amendment, Res. 119 as just one recent example but there are too many to recount here. Whether it’s Marco Rubio’s double speak on human caused climate change or Donald Trump’s incorrect insistence that “other scientists dispute the findings” of his own government’s conclusions, the overall Republican response to the worsening climate crisis has ranged from pathetic to non-existent.
Even without the Trump administration’s continued disavowal and rollbacks of nearly every Obama-era regulation designed to curb our emissions, congressional members of the GOP — the party long symbolized by an elephant — refuse to acknowledge the giant green elephant in the room.
If we had more responsible media outlets, especially major television networks claiming to cover “the news,” there would be far more consequences for this continuation of heads-in-the-sand denialism. If CNN, for example, did a better job of connecting the climate dots when it covers devastating wildfires, floods and hurricanes, or “horror-canes,” the public would have a greater understanding of what is fueling our weather on steroids. While extreme weather has always been with us the magnitude, frequency, and duration of these destructive events is hard to deny. And yet by consistently failing to discuss climate change in the midst of these events, or in their aftermath, TV news networks are missing a “teachable moment.” I call that the sin of omission about the impact of our emissions.
The lack of leadership from too many politicians and mainstream media outlets has consequences in terms of public understanding of what’s happening to nature at our own hands. Without a high awareness level home-owners, whose property has been damaged or destroyed in one of these “unnatural disasters,” normally do not factor a changing climate into their decisions about rebuilding or even whether to evacuate in the face of an oncoming hurricane or inferno. In failing to call these record-breaking occurrences what they truly are, “the new normal,” a complacent public fails to grasp that our atmospheric system is breaking down and more such events are likely to occur in the future, especially if we continue with business as usual. That information can have an impact on what people do to protect their safety, how they live, and how they vote.
Representatives who are recipients of contributions from the fossil-fuel industry, and enablers like the Koch brothers, have continually put their political and financial self-interests above the safety of even their own kids and grandchildren. It is the all-too-rare Republican who displays integrity and independence by breaking with the majority in their party to take a stand and support a carbon tax or resist rollbacks of environmental regulations. Or even to mention human-caused climate change. One notable exception — Florida Rep. Carlos Curbello — attempted to put a price on carbon this summer in a state hard hit by mega hurricanes and flooding. Using a commendable bipartisan approach Curbello tried, but failed, to get enough support for the Climate Solutions Caucus which he co-founded.
This dereliction of duty is no longer acceptable for those who call themselves representatives of the people. Some 72% of Americans say climate solutions should be a bigger priority with half saying they should be a top priority, according to pollsters commissioned by eco America. The survey was conducted last month in the wake of the IPCC’s stunning warning about the state of the world’s climate. A consensus of scientists warned that we have only a dozen years to bring emission levels down in order to avoid the worst consequences of a collapsing climate system.
However, a new report out Friday tells us that 12 years is an overly optimistic timeline according to the journal Nature. Researchers there have concluded that oceans are warming 60% faster than previously thought after analyzing data gathered over the last 25 years. That finding has grave consequences for maintaining a climate stable enough to regulate crop growing seasons, keep ecosystems alive, insect-borne diseases down, and enable all life to thrive.
These increasingly dire warnings seem to be changing little in politics, in the news media, and with a preoccupied public. In the absence of proper leadership on needed action it will only become harder and more expensive to reverse or slow our downward spiral. While Democratic representatives in Congress have shown more willingness to enact legislation to discourage business as usual, leaders like Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) suggest that without Republican support, legislative progress will be only incremental at best.
At a time when the ecological emergency our world is facing calls for maturity, unity, big solutions, short-term action and longer-term thinking, willful ignorance and arrogance about our planetary peril should be unacceptable and considered “malpractice.” Excuses and lies justifying continued delay and stalling tactics should not be tolerated. But since too many conservatives have proven they are unwilling to conserve Earth’s resources — and the delicate balance that comprises our life support system — those on the ballot must be voted out today.
Given the life or death consequences, and incredibly narrow window to make sweeping changes, our battle cry to those in political power — or dictating the news cycle — should be “Wake up and smell the carbon or get your (g)asses out of the way!”