GOP Will Save Climate By Painting Smokestacks Green, Hoping Everybody Fooled
In December, a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that nearly three-quarters of adults and teens in America agree climate change is real, and humans are causing it. It even found that a majority of younger Republicans accept climate science and want the government to do something about it. So, ever attuned to the nation's political mood, at least some Republicans are making a big show of their desire to do something about climate, hooray! That led to headlines like "Are Republicans coming out of 'the closet' on climate change?" in the Washington Post, and "How House Republicans won over conservatives to gain consensus on a climate agenda" in the Washington Examiner. The latter piece even featured arch-Trumper Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) gushing, "Climate denial is a bad political strategy [...] At some point, you have to be for something to fix it." Oh, hooray for the new generation of GOP Climate Achievers!
Mind you, the "plan" Gaetz, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, and other rightwingers have unveiled has a lot more to do with marketing than with any real change that would slow global warming. It's all about looking like Republicans Care Very Much about whatever the kids are upset about, and will fix it with the "Free Market" Principles that got us into this mess in the first place. As John Roberts puts it at Vox, the conservative climate plans "are neither conservative nor plans."
Roberts, as ever, is right on the money in his examination of this lazy attempt to greenwash the party that has spent 30 years saying it just doesn't know about this science stuff. He notes that most respectable media outlets have finally learned that completely denying science is not a valid "side," but that makes journos feel icky in their ethics parts, because how can you be objective if you don't cover both sides? So if the GOP frames itself as having a climate policy of some kind, however empty, some journalists may sigh and get right back to the familiar two-sides formula. The only thing stories about the "new GOP receptiveness" to talking about climate get right is that, yeah, Republicans are feeling pressure to do something.
But what are they saying they'll do? Mostly nothing! The GOP "plan" would focus on three areas, as that Washington Examiner piece outlines:
- Carbon capture, mostly through tree-planting initiatives but also new tech.
- Funding for "clean energy" and "innovation," as long as it doesn't hurt fossil fuel companies.
- Recycling, especially of plastics, which have fuck-all to do with greenhouse emissions but allow Boomers to refer to The Graduate one more time.
The Republicans pushing this crap are happy to acknowledge they're all about "addressing" climate change without doing a blessed thing to reduce the amount of oil, coal, and natural gas being burned. Louisiana Rep. Garrett Graves, the ranking Republican on the select committee on climate set up by Nancy Pelosi last year, is really proud of how he frames it:
Fossil fuels aren't the enemy. It's emissions. So let's devise strategies that are based on emissions strategies, not based on eliminating fossil fuels.
Of course, as Roberts points out, the GOP "plan" doesn't do dick about emissions, either:
[It] carefully avoids endorsing policies that directly go after emissions, such as a carbon tax or pollution regulations. It avoids setting any particular targets for emission reductions. It avoids mention of most of the technologies and policies with the most potential to reduce emissions, like renewable energy and performance standards.
But it would offer fossil fuel companies tax credits to clean up their own emissions while producing petrofuels, and to maybe capture some carbon from smokestacks, so isn't that lovely?
As for "clean energy" research, that too is mostly missing from the plan. Nothing about solar or wind energy for generating electricity, nothing about electric vehicles, nothing about improving building efficiency or moving to using heat pumps. But there would be R&D money for basic science and improving storage for electricity, so those unnamed wind turbines and solar panels might become a bit more viable, just as long as we keep digging, drilling, and burning.
And as Roberts goes on to point out, it sure would be nice if media outlets would please please not fall for the GOP gimmick of calling their do-nothing plans a "free market" means of addressing the climate crisis. Hell, since the measures all rely on tax incentives, they aren't even remotely "free market." They're just rewards for the dominant fossil fuel players to make minor adjustments, all while Republicans insist it's wrong to "pick winners or losers." But regulations on emissions or incentives to switch to renewables, those are fundamental sins against the market, you see, and would be very bad, since they distort the markets in ways that gifts to Big Carbon magically don't.
Even the Republican nods to planting trees -- like Donald Trump's State of the Union pledge to help plant a trillion trees worldwide -- don't amount to much more than greenwashing, if that's all we do. To avoid the very worst projected effects of global warming, we'll need carbon capture and sequestration, and trees can be a big part of that. Yay trees! But without steep cuts in fossil fuel consumption, carbon capture simply isn't enough.
And not even the piddling steps being touted as the Great Republican Greening have a chance of being taken seriously by their ideological allies. Myron Ebell of the notoriously anti-science Competitive Enterprise Institute told the Washington Examiner that McCarthy's do-not-much plan does too much and is bad, because REAL conservatives are still going with denial. If enacted, the non-plan is mere happy talk aimed at getting votes and
wasting taxpayer dollars to pay off special interests and nutty plans to plant a trillion trees.
I would have to be convinced that global warming is a crisis and that carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced before supporting such a package.
Similarly, an unnamed White House official made clear that if some GOP members of Congress want some green window dressing for 2020, that's fine. But don't expect Trump to do anything, please:
These are Kevin McCarthy's bills [...] They are messaging bills and all about the next election, and that's great. But the president has been pretty clear he cares about affordable energy, energy independence, and clean air and clean water. He is not particularly obsessed about climate change.
The only concession the Trump administration has made so far is that, at least before the election, it's decided not to go ahead with an all-out attempt to trash climate science. If Trump gets a second term, though, hoo boy.
Wouldn't it be nice if media outlets refused to fall for it? Haha, we have a feeling David Brooks is already hard at work praising this bold new step in GOP thinking.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.