Climate change deniers fumble for new ways to foul the air

     U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he walks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. (Andy Wong/AP Photo)

    U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he walks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. (Andy Wong/AP Photo)

    For years, Republican climate change deniers have essentially said, “We can’t do a darn thing about this global crisis that doesn’t exist, because China won’t agree to reduce its emissions!”

    But now that China has agreed to reduce its emissions – joining the United States in a breakthrough deal that’s being hailed as “the most important bilateral climate announcement ever” – the Republican deniers, having had the rhetorical rug yanked from beneath their feet, are stuck in yeah-but mode. Now they’re essentially saying, “Yeah but we still don’t want to do a darn thing about this global crisis that doesn’t exist, because job-killing, because the deal we never foresaw happening oughta be better, because whatever.”

    Is President Obama’s pact with China perfect? Of course not. China has agreed, for the first time ever, to cap its heat-trapping pollution, but the target date is 16 years away. But this deal at least does something – which is way better than what the climate-denying party would ever do on this issue, which is nothing. You’ve got to start somewhere, which trumps the head-in-sand GOP tactic of taking the issue nowhere.

    Congressional Republicans – with the Koch Brothers and other fossil fuel lobbies breathing down their necks, with the mindless trolls cheering them on – have long sought via verbal sleight of hand to deny the reality of mandate climate change. My personal favorite is Senator James Inhofe’s ’09 howler (“God’s still up there. We’re going these cycles”), but China-refuses-to-help has long been a Republican mantra.

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    House Speaker John Boehner: “We can’t do it alone as one nation if we’ve got China and other industrialized nations not working with us…”

    Sen. Marco Rubio: “There are other countries that are polluting in the atmosphere much greater than we are at this point – China…They’re not going to stop doing what they’re doing.”

    House member Michele Bachmann: “China made the comment that they will not be engaging, they won’t be engaging and reducing their emissions.”

    Then-Sen. Jim DeMint: “It makes no sense (to confront climate change) if we don’t require other industrialized countries, like China…to do the same thing.”

    Sen. David Vitter: “If countries like China…are not part of a carbon-reduction global program, then it doesn’t matter what we do.”

    Yet now China has agreed to be part of a carbon-reducing program – and a spur for other nations to do the same, in advance of a ’15 global summit meeting.

    It would be nice if the Republicans channelled Homer Simpson and said, “D’OH!” Not a chance. The instant GOP response: Yeah-but the deal is “unrealistic” (Sen. Mitch McConnell), yeah-but the deal is “irresponsible” (Sen. John Barrasso), yeah-but the deal is “hollow” (Inhofe). They seem willfully blind to the Chinese president’s pragmatic reasons for doing the deal – like the fact that the Chinese economy is manifestly slowing, and that serious investment in green technology is crucial to its future growth.

    But the funniest response yesterday, from McConnell and Inhofe, was that “the American people,” in the midterm results, “spoke up against” Obama’s environmental policies. I’d been waiting to see how long it would take for Republicans to conflate the midterm results (36.3 percent turnout, the lowest since 1942) into “the American people.” Apparently the deal with China did the trick. What else can you do when the China-won’t-help talking point goes bye bye?

    Problem is, those Republican leaders didn’t read the midterm exit polls. “The American people” indicated, by a margin of 57-41 percent, that climate change is a serious global problem. And remember, that’s just the older, whiter, Republican-leaning midterm electorate. A nationwide poll last year, sponsored by Stanford University, found that 81 percent of Americans view climate change as a serious problem and want the feds to limit the private sector’s carbon emissions. Gallup said this past April that only 25 percent of Americans buy the GOP’s denial riff.

    But it’s a cinch bet that the newly-muscled Senate Republicans will induge that 25 percent, and that the party’s 2016 aspirants will duly toe the line during the primaries (a Koch brothers spokesman has already threatened ad attacks on any candidate who defies Rightthink). McConnell and allies are vowing to undercut Obama’s executive efforts to curb carbon emissions; if successful, that could convince China that America is not a reliable partner for progress. Thus foiling the deal.

    Does the GOP actually think that this reactionary ‘tude would be a winner in 2016, when a truer, broader slice of “the American people” shows up to vote? If, as expected, the party promotes Inhofe – the Senate’s most notorious climate change denier – to the chairmanship of the committee that oversees climate change, then we can assume the answer is yes.



    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.


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