The GOP’s Crime Against Humanity

President Trump says he does not believe the conclusions of a report on climate control issued by the U.S. government.

The Republican Party — led by President Donald Trump — is a criminal enterprise aiding and abetting the destruction of the planet. The refusal of GOP leaders to accept the danger of climate change has isolated the United States in the global attempt to slow down — if not reverse — global warming. International efforts to combat global warming likely will prove ineffective without the participation of the country with the world’s largest economy. The United Nations’ landmark report on climate change — issued two months ago — warned that the world must act soon to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5ºC. Even a half degree more, the scientists say, significantly worsens the risk of drought, floods, and extreme heat. Minor temperature increases above agreed-upon goals will result in the impoverishing of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people. Ignoring this scientific consensus is a crime against humanity. 

Yet, the Republican Party leaders continue to deny climate change. I stress the word “leaders” because polling shows movement among GOP voters on attitudes toward global warming. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans believe the planet’s climate is warming — a significant increase from only three years ago when just under half believed in the science of climate change. Ninety-two percent of Democrats say climate change is occurring — with 82 percent considering it serious, while 78 percent of independents agree.

Bob Inglis, former Republican Congressman from South Carolina

According to Bob Inglis, a former Republican representative from South Carolina, “President Trump is becoming a real caricature of climate disputation. The public is coming to much greater awareness and understanding of the challenge, and he persists in this basically superstitious denial of the data.” Trump has acted on his belief that climate change is “hoax,” pulling the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate accord, which set goals for stemming global warming. Just this past weekend, the United States secured language in a joint statement, issued by the Group of 20 leaders, carving out an independent position on climate change for the United States separate from the goals of the rest of the world. 

Marsha Blackburn, Republican Senator-elect from Tennessee.

Many prominent Republicans are ignoring the scientific warnings and the overwhelming public endorsement of those predictions, choosing instead to follow Trump and deny the science. Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee argued during her campaign that the Earth has cooled while stating scientists have not reached a consensus on climate change. Blackburn was flat-out wrong on both counts. Senator-elect Rick Scott — who is wrapping up his tenure as governor of Florida — refuses to attribute global warming to humans spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, even though his state faces dire threats from rising seas. Senator John Neely Kennedy says, “I’ve seen many persuasive arguments that [global warming is] just a continuation of the warming up from the Little Ice Age.” Kennedy hails from Louisiana, a state that has been losing land to the Gulf of Mexico for decades. 

The problem for these Republicans — who, as I wrote last week, seem determined to do the bidding of fossil fuel extractors — is that they have no credible arguments on their side. It is simply not true that significant number of scientists question climate change. Multiple studies “show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree” the Earth is getting hotter. Those studies also point to human agency — namely, the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels — as the primary cause of global warming. 

Rick Scott, Republican Senator-elect from Florida.

Some Republicans — Scott, for example — explain their reticence on climate change by saying, “I’m not a scientist.” That may be the single most foolish argument ever made by a politician. Of course, Scott and most Republicans are not scientists. Our elected leaders are not experts on many things, but they vote on issues after consulting the experts. The need to hear from experts — in this case, scientists — is one reason why Congress holds hearings before voting on policy. 

Not wishing to sound as if they doubt scientific inquiry, some Republicans have become savvier in their posturing on climate change, admitting the world is getting hotter but questioning whether human activity is the cause. Senator Marco Rubio — like Florida’s other senator — admits changes in climate are measurable and, therefore, undeniable. “The secondary aspect,” Rubio says, “is how much of that is due to human activity?” In short, Rubio’s argument comes down to this: The climate is changing, but no one is sure why. Actually, as indicated above, scientists are sure of the cause of global warming, but Rubio’s position has the virtue of not labeling as a “hoax” all of the scientific studies on the issue. His position makes him sound thoughtful and reasonable.

Scientist say global warming will produce more killer storms like Hurricane Michael, which devastated the Florida Panhandle in October.

Many Republicans in Congress hide behind economics, claiming that measures to limit carbon emissions would be “detrimental to the United States economy.” In other words, the globe may be warming, but we cannot afford to do anything about it. Actually, the opposite is true: We cannot afford not to do anything about it. According to the U.S. government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment, released late last month, “The continued warming that is projected to occur without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts. With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.”

Ignoring this warning — and all the others — is downright criminal. The Earth is getting hotter  — this is measurable — and scientists know it is because humans have been burning fossil fuels at record levels since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. Economists understand the costs of not slowing down global warming, and the public believes the experts. Yet, Republican politicians refuse to act.

As naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough says, “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.” Allowing that to happen is a crime against humanity!

Posted December 4, 2018

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