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Published on January 17th, 2020 | by Michael Barnard


More Evidence Of A Republican Pivot On Climate

January 17th, 2020 by  

For several months, I’ve been tracking the crumbling wall of denialism in the senior ranks of the Republican Party. The formal denial of climate change and refusal of climate action of the party is a global outlier, with every other country in the world signatory to the Paris Accord. Almost every other country has sidelined denialist parties entirely.

GOP elephant upside down on a warming earth

Image by author with graphics courtesy NASA and GOP

But the US Republicans have been tidally locked to fossil fuel funding and the overlapping set of Libertarian oligarchs, and have chosen for the past 20 years to use wedge politics to scoop up climate change denialists, just as they scooped up Creationists, racists, and are now scooping up anti-vaxxers.

Previously, I wrote about Senator Lindsey Graham’s public guidance to Donald Trump to accept climate change and produce Republican action plans to counter the Democratic advantage in the face of clear climate reality in most of the US states. I pointed to Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, described by GQ as the “Trumpiest Congressman in Trump’s Washington,” who is public in his statements that history will judge deniers very harshly. Also covered were Pew Research and Monmouth University polling that made it clear that this was an issue that had strong bi-partisan voter concern, and much stronger concern in coastal states, and that was before rain bombs and crop wipeouts in Nebraska and neighboring states brought it home clearly in the heartland. The bi-partisan efforts that included Republicans and ex-Republican action groups devoted to climate policy were addressed. The very specific threat of Florida flipping with its crucial 29 Electoral College votes looms large in my assessment, as does the less compelling but still strong evidence of risk to Texas.

But more evidence is mounting.

In a recent press conference, ironically while announcing climate-damaging regulatory rollbacks, Donald Trump was asked if he thought global warming was a hoax, something he’s on record as saying in the past. How did he respond?

“Trump said: “No, no. Not at all. Nothing’s a hoax. Nothing’s a hoax about that. It’s a very serious subject. The environment is very important to me,” he said. 

As I have pointed out in the past, Trump has no concern at all with pivoting 180 degrees in his positions on major subjects where he’s on record saying the complete opposite of what he’s currently saying. His truth exists only in the moment, in what he can get out of it and in the most political advantage he can gain. I predicted this kind of pivot months ago, and now Trump has spun. I’ve been watching the brain freeze of climate change deniers as their Denier in Chief swept the rug out from under them with some glee in a couple of online forums.

Of course, Trump went on to slam wind energy and make it clear that any action which threatened jobs or industry — read as jobs and industry that tends to support him — would not be prioritized.

There is still more, of course. News just broke of a closed-door senior Republican meeting in Washington on January 16, 2020 to come up with actions to address the climate issue and to play catch-up to the Democratic Party. As has become clearer and clearer, millennials consider climate action a must-do, and Republicans are at a crossroads where if they do not accept the science and craft a compelling action plan, then they are at risk of losing entirely.

“There’s been a lot of credibility given to some really crazy and dangerous and irresponsible ideas, and we’ve got to make sure that we are working to inform and educate the public about the dangers of some of these policies,” Representative Garret Graves of Louisiana, the top Republican on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, said in an interview.

Those ‘crazy and dangerous and irresponsible ideas’ are likely those contained in the Green New Deal, the Roosevelt-New Deal patterned, evidence-based, sensible set of policies which were triggered in part by a 2009 Mark Z. Jacobson 2009 Scientific American paper that was the basis of the 143 country 100% renewables study he leads.

Jacobson has already chimed in on Twitter with his fairly widely shared view among those who have been working toward realistic solutions to the climate crisis for years that this is too little, too late, and any solutions will be the wrong ones.

Research out of Lancaster University and the University of Hagen, published in European Economic Review, gives a hint of one of the ways that a Republican pivot might play out.

“What we found with our model was that where two parties took a stance on an issue, there would be one more moderate and one more radical, but if only one did, this would be the one with the moderate stance. This implies that it is parties who care least about policies who will make the more audacious, radical proposals on issues while those who care most will not alter their positions.

Given that Joe Biden is the front-runner and his stance on climate is definitively moderate, being the weakest among the front-runners, there is a lot of room for more radical solutions, even if they are poor solutions that pander for votes.

One can imagine a Republican-made solution which goes on a war footing to build out nuclear, for example. Or they could take planks from Andrew Yang’s playbook, and offer trillions in low-interest guaranteed loans for home solar, a very expensive and tiny wedge that would play well to their base and to suburban and rural Independents. They could steal Bernie Sander’s pledge to give trillions in rebates to electric car purchasers, without addressing anything else.

One thing is clear. Giving only lip service to climate and weak policy suggestions will not gain Republicans substantial votes in November 2020.


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About the Author

is Chief Strategist with TFIE Strategy Inc and co-founder of two current startups. He works with startups, existing businesses and investors to identify opportunities for significant bottom line growth and cost takeout in our rapidly transforming world. He is editor of The Future is Electric and designing for health. He regularly publishes analyses of low-carbon technology and policy in sites including Newsweek, Slate, Forbes, Huffington Post, Quartz, CleanTechnica and RenewEconomy, and his work is regularly included in textbooks. Third-party articles on his analyses and interviews have been published in dozens of news sites globally and have reached #1 on Reddit Science. He's available for consulting engagements, speaking engagements and Board positions.

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