The increasing gap between Democrats and Republicans on our changing climate
A new Republican plan for making the executive branch of the federal government much more powerful has recently surfaced in a book length document, Project 25 by the ultraconservative Federalist Society. One area of special concern is the plan for a new Republican administration to cancel nearly every rule or law instituted during the Biden and Obama administrations to protect the environment.
The environmental provisions of the new Federalist Project 25 document calls for doing away with nearly all existing regulations for curbing greenhouse gas pollution from the burning of fossil fuels and at the same time boosting the production of oil, gas, amd coal. The plan has been endorsed by several ultraconservative groups including the Heartland Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute which states that “climate change does not endanger the survival of civilization or the habitability of the planet”.
When asked by a New York Times reporter what the country should do to combat climate change, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, the director of the Heritage Foundation’s Energy and Climate Center replied that “Americans should use more natural gas’.
The non-partisan League of Conservation Voters gives every member of Congress an annual score based on how the members voted on key environmental issues. Democrats received scores of better than 90% whereas Republicans scored less than 10% with only one Republican even scoring over 40%.
Described by The Atlantic magazine as “the first comprehensive climate legislation in US history” the Inflation Reduction Act passed the House only because a few Republicans were absent during the vote. All told, not a single Republican senator or member of Congress voted for the bill. However, a clear majority of the IRA’s benefits have gone to generally poor and needy “red” states, and typically, many members of Congress who voted against the IRA are now cheering on construction of the new projects that they had voted against.
At the first televised Republican presidental debate on August 23, the Fox News anchors posed a question about the environment, asking, in effect, whether climate change was a serious matter. Despite the fact that wildfires, tropical storms, disasterous heat waves and other climate disasters were top stories on the network news shows at that moment, fewer than half the presidential contenders were encouraged to speak. Vivek Ramaswarmy said that “the climate change agenda is a hoax” and the others let his remark stand without challenge and quickly changed the subject without any redirection by the Fox hosts. It seemed clear that none of the contenders or the network wanted to talk about climate change.
To find a prominent Republican who was a leader in caring for the environment, one has to go back to Theodore Roosevelt who introduced the idea of and created a slew of National Parks such as Crater Lake and Mesa Verde.
Upon taking office Ronald Reagan, with great fanfare had the solar collectors installed by his predecessor Jimmy Carter removed from the White House roof. Not long after, he declared to a press conference that “trees cause more pollution than automobiles’.
Although founded by Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson — Earth Day (1972) — Republicans joined in to make it a resounding success. This helped to enable the Nixon administration to institute a sweeping program of environmental legislation including the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Clean Air abd Water Act, and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency surprisingly.
Former President Trump has been calling climate change a “hoax” for nearly a decade and continues to do so despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The Heritage Foundation’s Project 25 is apparently very consistent with the plans and ideas of the former president and most of the party leaders.
Republican members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee are inserting “poison pill” provisions into new legislation in order to block renewable energy provisions such as funding for electric vehicles and charging stations.
The partisan split regarding climate change was clearly demonstrated in a recent nationwide NPR/PBS poll where about 90 % of Democrats thought climate change to be a major threat while 70 % of Republicans said it was either a minor threat or no threat at all.
Other proposals in Project 25’s environmental chapter include:
• Repealing the Inflation Reduction Act.
• Drastically cutting back the
• Department of Energy.
• Developing fossil fuel reserves on public lands.
• Reversal of a 2009 scientific finding at the EPA that says that CO 2 emissions are a danger to public health, thus preventing the federal government from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from most sources.
On environmental issues, the split between the Democrats and Republicans seems almost unbridgeable at this time.
However, typical Republican farmers in Kansas or California may be considerably more aware of the ravages of climate change than politicians in their offices in the milder climate of Washington, D.C.
Let’s hope so.
Architect and landscape designer Mac Gordon lives in Lakeville.