You’ll be amazed by the news you’re about to read: Last Thursday, 46 House members of the flat-earth party actually acknowledged that climate change is real and needs to be urgently addressed.
A veritable Republican breakthrough! What’s next, a GOP resolution that Trump and his craven courtiers are dire national security risks?
OK, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s just nice to know that even members of a party wedded to anti-science denialism can, on rare occasions, muster the brain cells to face verifiable reality. Granted, we’re only talking here about 46 of the 240 House Republicans, a paltry 17.5 percent, but a rare ray of sunshine amidst the gloom is always welcome.
Here’s what happened: A new defense authorization bill was on the table, setting the Pentagon budget for fiscal ’18. One of the proposed provisions explicitly declared that “climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States” — not really a surprise, because the Pentagon and intelligence officials have been warning about that, in multiple “defense review” reports, since the George W. Bush era.
The Center for Climate and Security, a nonpartisan group of military and intel experts, warned last September that coastal U.S. military bases are being imperiled by rising seas. Trump’s Pentagon chief, James Mattis, echoes the warning; during his confirmation hearing, he said: “I agree that the effects of a changing climate impact our security situation.” And a study last year said that 128 coastal military installations, including naval bases, are at risk from rising seas.
So the new defense authorization bill, after declaring climate change to be real, instructed the Pentagon to draw up a list of its 10 most imperiled bases. A no-brainer, right? Not necessarily. Thirteen months ago, the Pentagon readied a preparedness plan that would’ve assessed climate change’s impact on military construction — but House Republicans voted to block the Pentagon from spending money to launch the plan. Which is what happens when you’re in hock to the fossil fuel interests and the Koch brothers.
And sure enough, last Thursday, hewing to the GOP’s flat-earth spirit, Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry urged fellow Republicans to kill the climate change provision, because, in his words, it “detracts from the central mission of securing our nation.” (Which put him at odds with people like Gordon Sullivan, former chief of staff of the U.S. Army: “Climate instability will lead to instability in geopolitics and impact American military operations around the world.”)
But when it came time to vote, Perry’s kill-amendment lost! And the 46 Republicans who killed it provided nearly the entire margin of defeat!
Forgive my exclamation marks, but it’s surely a fine development that the Pentagon will actually be free to address what’s actually happening in places like Norfolk, Virginia, headquarters of the Atlantic fleet, which now floods 10 times a year; like Eglin Air Force Base in Florida (a state where saltwater is surfacing on people’s lawns); like Diego Garcia, located on a low-lying atoll, a major deployment hub of U.S. operations in the Middle East, but cited by the nonpartisan American Security Project as the most imperiled American base in the world. (One ASP official warns, “It legitimately could disappear.”)
Yes, more than 80 percent of House Republicans did vote to strip the climate change language and essentially echo the ignorance of Internet trolls and Trump tweets. (A sample of the latter, from 2013: “GLOBAL WARMING a total hoax!” and from 2014: “GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop.”) But those 46 Republicans who broke ranks, who managed to mesh science and patriotism, give us hope that reality-based thinking can trump magical thinking — before it’s too late.
As the Center for Climate and Security, which features prominent Reagan and Bush alumni, said last September, “There’s absolutely nothing political about climate change.” Or, as the astronomer Galileo once lamented to a friend, about the science-hating absolutists who refused to believe that the earth revolves around the sun, “My dear Kepler, what would you say of (those) here who have steadfastly refused to cast a glance at the telescope? What will we make of this? Shall we laugh or shall we cry?”
Meanwhile, someone on Twitter has posted an old Art Buchwald column, and it’s downright eerie — even if you’ve never heard of Art Buchwald, the ubiquitous humor columnist who reigned for many decades.
Buchwald was at the top of his game during the Watergate era; circa 1973, he listed the excuses that Nixon’s defenders employed in their futile efforts to dismiss the scandal. Here’s a represenative sampling; see if these sound familiar:
“Everybody does it.”
“The press is blowing the whole thing up.”
“The Democrats are sore because they lost the election.”
“Wait til ALL the facts come out.”
“Democrats would’ve done the same thing.”
“People would be against Nixon no matter what he did.”
“What about Harry Truman … Franklin D. Roosevelt … Chappaquiddick?”
“What’s the big deal about finding out what your opposition is up to?”
“The president was too busy running the country to know what was going on.”
(OK, that last one doesn’t resonate today. Trump doesn’t run anything, except his mouth.)