The GOP primary is climate policy disaster
"The Republican Party is bought and paid for," Dr. Leah Stokes tells us.
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During the first Republican presidential debate, Vivek Ramaswamy proclaimed that “the climate change agenda is a hoax.” Every candidate but one (Asa Hutchinson) refused to raise their hand when asked to do so if they believe human behavior is causing climate change. And then during the second Republican debate climate change didn’t really come up at all.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump, who enjoys such a large lead in GOP primary polls that he hasn’t even bothered to participate in any of the debates, is on the campaign trail denigrating renewal energy, lying about electric vehicles, talking about how wind turbines kill whales and destroy planes (nope on both counts), and calling climate change a hoax. His energy policy hasn’t evolved beyond the Palin-style crudity of “drill, baby, drill.”
In short, from Trump all the way down relative nobodies like Ramaswamy, the conversation about climate change among Republicans is a disaster. And that puts the GOP out of step with the majority of voters — especially young ones. A recent poll found that nearly 60 percent of young adults think addressing climate change should be a priority even at the risk of slowing economic growth. This presents a major opportunity for President Biden, whose Inflation Reduction Act not only represents the largest climate investment in US history but is already rapidly accelerating private spending on clean energy technologies.
So with the third GOP presidential debate coming up next week, we figured now is a good time get some expert perspective on the politics of climate change. Public Notice contributor Thor Benson connected with Dr. Leah Stokes, a political scientist who focuses on climate change at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for her insight on GOP climate denial, how it compares (or doesn’t) with climate denialism coming from other right-wing parties across the world, Biden’s historic record, and much more.
“The fact is that President Biden is the best president we’ve ever had on climate, by a wide margin, while Trump gave massive handouts to the fossil fuel industry,” Stokes told us. “The choice could not be starker.”
A transcript of their conversation, lightly edited for clarity and length, follows.
What do you make of what Republican presidential candidates are saying about climate change?
It’s disturbing. It’s a real return to climate denial for the Republican Party. There was a time period there when you had folks like Sen. John McCain who understood that climate change was real and that we need to do something about it, but it feels like the more climate action takes place and the more we challenge the hegemony of the fossil fuel industry, the more they fight back.
The Republican Party is bought and paid for. Unfortunately, these folks running for president, by and large, have adopted the climate denial playbook. They have the same talking points that really date back to the 1980s and 1990s.
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