Ostriches, Republicans and Climate Change


WC could stand to lose a few pounds. As a diet technique, WC recommends reading the 2016 Republican National Party Platform before breakfast. It will induce enough nausea to make you avoid food the rest of the day. But that’s about all it is good for; as a national policy it is so far from reality that you have to wonder if the Platform Committee isn’t ingesting the drugs they claim to oppose.

WC offers two competing stories to illustrate his point. Here’s what the Republicans have to say about climate change:1

Information concerning a changing climate, especially projections into the long-range future, must be based on dispassionate analysis of hard data. We will enforce that standard throughout the executive branch, among civil servants and presidential appointees alike. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a political mechanism, not an unbiased scientific institution. Its unreliability is reflected in its intolerance toward scientists and others who dissent from its orthodoxy. We will evaluate its recommendations accordingly. We reject the agendas of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, which represent only the personal commitments of their signatories; no such agreement can be binding upon the United States until it is submitted to and ratified by the Senate.

That “hard data” the Platform talks about was released Tuesday. The first half of 2016 was the hottest in history. The global mean temperature was about 1.4° C warmer than the baseline 1889-1899 average. That breaks the record set in 2015, which broke the record set in 2014.

 January-to-June average global surface temperatures, compared to the 1880-1899 average. Source: NASA.

January-to-June average global surface temperatures, compared to the 1880-1899 average. Source: NASA.

WC senses that among the Republican delegates to the convention in Cleveland graph-reading isn’t a strong point, so WC will include a graphic even a Trump supporters should be able to understand.

Regional temperature anomalies, Jan-Jun 2016. Source: NASA.

Regional temperature anomalies, Jan-Jun 2016. Source: NASA.

While the Republicans are attacking the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, accusing it of being a biased political institution – it’s not, but an ad hominem attack isn’t meaningful anyway – the planet is cooking. While the Republicans accuse the IPCC of intolerance for those who “dissent from its orthodoxy,” the evidence of anthropogenic climate change has reached the point that even Exxon Mobil is planning for it. It’s pretty clear who is blinkered by orthodoxy here, don’t you think?

The Republican Platform goes on to say:

We demand an immediate halt to U.S. funding for the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in accordance with the 1994 Foreign Relations Authorization Act. That law prohibits Washington from giving any money to “any affiliated organization of the United Nations” which grants Palestinians membership as a state. There is no ambiguity in that language. It would be illegal for the President to follow through on his intention to provide millions in funding for the UNFCCC and hundreds of millions for its Green Climate Fund.

Can we be completely clear about this? The Republicans want to prevent funding international efforts to manage CO2 emissions because of a minor political dispute in the Middle East? Never mind the merits of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The Republicans want to punch holes in the bottom of the lifeboat in which we are all passengers. They’ve made it a plank of their platform.

One final quote from the Republican Platform:

We firmly believe environmental problems are best solved by giving incentives for human ingenuity and the development of new technologies, not through top-down, command-and-control regulations that stifle economic growth and cost thousands of jobs.

That’s a pretty amazing statement for a political party that claims to cherish “hard data.” Both the premises and the allegations are false. President Obama has created “incentives for human ingenuity” and as a result, wind power and solar power have increased dramatically in the last eight years. The amount of energy produced is greatly increased and the cost of production is way down.

Source: US Department of Energy

Utility Scale Wind Power Generation. Source: US Department of Energy

So wind power capacity had pretty much doubled under President Obama, while the cost has declined by about 40%.

Cumulative Utility Solar Power Production. Source: US DOE

Cumulative Utility Solar Power Production. Source: US DOE

Note this does not include reduced demand from individual and business rooftop installations. But utility-scale solar production has from less than half a gigawatt to just under 10 gigawatts, while the cost of solar power has declined by 45%. So the Republicans missed that “hard data.” And the top-down thing seems to be working for renewables. It created a lot of jobs, too. Some 260,000 new jobs in 2015-2016. So much for “stifling employment.”

But more fundamentally, Republican’s avowed distaste for “top-down, command and control” Federal regulation2 ignores fundamental economic principles, including the Tragedy of the Commons. Particularly in a crisis, and man-caused climate change is a crisis, government regulation is a necessity. Denying the problem exists – which seems to the the Republican’s fundamental position – is just damnfoolishness.

Even the claim of “stifling economic growth” is bogus. The hard data – remember the Republican Platform claims to like “hard data” – shows that we have already decoupled increase in CO2 emissions from economic growth. We are already enjoying an improving economy while government mandates are lowing dangerous CO2 and coal plant emissions.

It’s a myth that ostriches stick their heads in the sand to avoid problems. But, apparently Republicans do.

Republicans Addressing the Critical Issue of Climate Change

Republicans Addressing the Critical Issue of Climate Change

 


  1. 2016 Republican Platform, p. 22. 
  2. Oddly, the Republicans are perfect willing to impose top-down, command and control federal regulation in any number of other areas, certainly including women’s bodies and religious belief. See Republican Platform, p.22. A spurious consistency is, indeed, the hobgoblin of very small minds. 
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