Conservatives and Climate Change
When Donald Trump was running for President in 2016, his stance on climate change was clear. He maintained the position that it was myth, going as far as to call it, in one tweet, a myth created by the Chinese to stifle American business (Trump, 2012). But this sentiment is not new. In fact, Republican members of Congress have gone as far as entering the halls of the senate with a snowball, claiming that it provides sufficient evidence that so-called global warming is a hoax. It is at this point that we must ask ourselves, why are members of the US Republican party continuing to deny climate change, and why is it so important that this changes? Considering that it is a scientific fact that nearly the entire scientific community has agreed upon, it is clear that these climate change deniers are motivated by outside forces. These reasons are boiled down to three main sources of interest or concern. The first, is that the Republican Party itself and its members receive large quantities of donations from the fossil fuel industry, which has fueled their campaigns and allowed them to continue reelection. Without these donations, many Republicans would be financially unable to support their reelection efforts. Another source of denial is that many Republicans, such as those in the midwest, have constituents that rely on fossil fuel jobs. These are citizens of the so-called ‘fly over states’, in which Trump performed so well. States like these are often home to huge coal mines, or oil refineries. Therefore, it would be detrimental to these economies (in the short term) to shift away from the very source of energy that is destroying the environment. The final source of climate change denial is the fact that many Republicans are hoping to stay in line with their parties original philosophy of limited government, and believe that if the government were to intervene on issues relating to the environment for the purpose of combating climate change, they would be expanding the government, and giving it the potential to tax corporations and individuals that may be contributing to them. While these may seem like valid reasons not to support environmental protection legislation, it is clear that we understand a very obvious fact. Without these pieces of legislation, the environment will suffer. With that suffering comes much human suffering. There is no plan B. There is no amount of campaign donations that can save us from the threats that climate change poses.
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United, the floodgates of corporate interest and donations were opened. The fossil fuel industry took full advantage of this, with Republican candidates receiving large amounts of donations from fossil fuel corporations, in the interest of fighting legislation that would potentially limit their ability to destroy the environment without consequence. The oil and gas industry, for example, donated a massive 19,459,259 dollars to Congressional Republicans in 2016 alone. (Open Secrets, 2016). This does not include the donations that were given to other levels of government, including the donations that Republican Candidate, Donald Trump, received himself. The oil and gas industry is one of the largest lobbies in Congress, and with most of their donations going to Republicans, it is only logical that they would not support agreements, such as the Paris Agreement, that would potentially impact the profit that is generated by these corporations. Perhaps the $276,503 that Donald Trump received has something to do with his scientifically incorrect statements about coal being ‘clean’. (Open Secrets). Though Trump largely touted that he was going to ‘drain the swamp’ it is clear that corporate interests have dictated his policies relating to climate change (Open Secrets). This is true for many American Conservatives who are currently serving in office, as they realize that any changes that could potentially lower the profitability of these fossil fuel industries will have a direct impact on the amount of money they receive when it is time for their reelection. To sum it all up, members of the republican party are forced to deny the existence of climate change due to the fact that large portions of there campaign donations are received from corporations and individuals who would be negatively affected by the acknowledgement of its existence.
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While many referred to states in the midwest as ‘fly-over’ states, it is in these states that Republican candidates such as Donald Trump performed particularly well, as they promised to protect the fossil fuel industries that play a large role in their states economies (Rubin, Washington Post, 2016). For many of these Republicans, legislation that puts further regulations on the climate, has the potential to limit the economic activity of the industry that their home state relies on. In addition, fossil fuels supply much of the energy in these states. States such as missouri, for example, get 80 percent of their energy from the use of coal. (Energy Information Administration) With such high rates of consumption, there is a large market for coal mining in Missouri. When you consider how this large market provides both jobs and electricity for these states, it becomes obvious that the votes from these “fly over states” really aren’t that insignificant at all. As seen in 2016, they are a powerful force, especially when members of government threaten their ability to find employment in an industry such as the fossil fuel industry. For many Republicans, to go against the fossil fuel industry would political suicide. They would undoubtedly lose, as their constituents would find themselves unemployed due to compliance with federal regulations on climate change.
In addition to corporate and political interests causing climate change denial, Conservatives also hold certain beliefs about the role of government and how it shouldn’t interfere with different things. They believe that the government should remain small, and that private industry should be left to its own devices, with intervention only when totally necessary. For many Republicans, there is a belief that that if they were to accept that climate change is real, they would undoubtedly acknowledge that regulations must be put in place in order to combat the rising climate. Also, by denying it, they are able to stay in line with the traditional Republican belief that the government should be small and limited in scope. (RNC). The implementation of say, a carbon tax, which would have a large impact on the amount of emissions put out by corporations, would be an overstepping of the governments intended powers. Republicans believe alternatively that corporations should be left to themselves to figure out solutions. Laissez Faire Capitalism, an economic system adopted the US republican party, is the belief that the market can figure out the best solutions to its own issues (RNC). In denying climate change, Republicans are sticking to their belief in laissez faire economics, by asserting that if it were such a problem, corporations would have developed a solution by now. Furthermore, they hold the belief that the only duty of corporations should be to bring profits to shareholders. In summary, the core beliefs of the US Republican party inhibit members from partaking in creating legislation against climate change, which in turn forces the denial of its existence altogether.
In conclusion, members of the Republican party are evidently being influenced by outside sources to deny the existence of climate change. When senator Jim Inhofe held up a snowball in front of Congress to prove that climate change was a hoax, he said the following words. ‘It’s a snowball. From outside here. So it’s very cold out! Unseasonably.’. (Bump, Washington Post, 2015). This was done in 2015, at a time which we were, and continue to be, certain about the validity of climate change. But it is clear that this is motivated not by the ignorance on the topic of climate change, but rather, the serving of corporate interests, as well as political, and party interests. No longer is the fight surrounding climate change about a genuine lack of information. Nay, the facts are clear. Climate change is on the brinks of having devastating effects on our planet. Sea levels are rising, storms are getting worse, animals are going extinct, and yet, US Conservatives, concerned with the interest of industry, fear that they will lose their largest donors should they chose to fulfill their role (NOAA). That role being, to serve the best interests of the people of the United States. That is precisely why this is important. To deny that climate change exists and is killing our planet slowly, is to deny Americans their right to a safe and healthy environment here in the US. If members of the Republican party continue to deny the existence of climate change, the effects will only become more and more evident as time goes on. Climate change denial amongst the Republican party needs to end now, before climate change is able to end us.
- Trump, Donald J. “The Concept of Global Warming Was Created by and for the Chinese in Order to Make U.S. Manufacturing Non-Competitive.” Twitter, Twitter, 6 Nov. 2012, twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/265895292191248385.
- “Oil & Gas: Money to Congress.” OpenSecrets.org, www.opensecrets.org/industries/summary.php?cycle=2018&ind=E01%29.
- “Coal Mining: Top Recipients.” OpenSecrets.org, www.opensecrets.org/industries/recips.php?ind=E1210&recipdetail=A&sortorder=U&me m=Y&cycle=2016%29.
- “State Energy Profile.” Factors Affecting Gasoline Prices – Energy Explained, Your Guide To Understanding Energy – Energy Information Administration, www.eia.gov/state/print.php?sid=MO%29.
- “Republican National Committee.” GOP, www.gop.com/platform/americas-natural-resources/.
- ‘Jim Inhofes’s Snowball has Disproved Climate Change Once and For All’ Washington Post 2015 Bump: (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/02/26/jim-inhofes-snowball-has-disproven-climate-change-once-and-for-all/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.73978bebab6c)
- Rubin, Jennifer. “Trump’s Grip on the Midwest Was Illusory.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 16 Oct. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/news/opinions/wp/2018/10/16/trumps-grip-on-the-midwest-wa s-illusory/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.279222ed14df.
- US Department of Commerce, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “How Is Sea Level Rise Related to Climate Change?” NOAA’s National Ocean Service, 3 June 2009, oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/sealevelclimate.html.