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Action on Climate Change, in Spite of Republicans

Steve Chapman on

Riley Moore, the state treasurer of West Virginia, is fed up with people who worry about climate change. "The climate has been changing in the world since Earth was created," he informed The New York Times. "Whether these greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to the warming of the globe, I'm not sure I necessarily agree with that."

It was said of the Bourbons, who once ruled France, that they had learned nothing and forgotten nothing. When it comes to environmental matters, Republican politicians have learned nothing and forgotten everything.

The Inflation Reduction Act signed by Joe Biden Tuesday actually has a lot more to do with combating global warming than it does with inflation. It's a landmark achievement: the first major legislation ever to address climate change.

It will cut greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 42% from the level in 2005. It provides funds and tax breaks to encourage solar, wind and nuclear power, along with incentives for electric vehicles and energy conservation. The Rhodium Group, which does research on climate matters, calls it "a game changer for U.S. decarbonization."

Can you guess how many Republican members of Congress voted for it? Zero. Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota scoffed at the Democrats' approach: "They just have a million ways to slow down development of fossil fuels. And I think we know at this point that is their religion and that's their conviction."

His theology, by contrast, treats climate concerns as the work of the devil. A big element of the GOP brand is an ostentatious indifference to the fate of the natural world. But there was nothing inevitable about that.

 

It was a Republican president, Richard Nixon, who created the federal Environmental Protection Agency. He also signed the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act.

It was a Republican president, Ronald Reagan, who joined an international treaty to preserve the ozone layer. It was a Republican president, George H.W. Bush, who vowed to be "the environmental president" and signed a new Clean Air Act, which largely solved the problem of acid rain.

But today, the biggest problem is human-caused climate change, and it's a far worse problem because for decades, Republican presidents and legislators have blocked every attempt to resolve it -- and, in many cases, denied its existence altogether.

George W. Bush withdrew from the Kyoto climate accord and refused to act on carbon dioxide. Donald Trump, who mocked the notion that the planet was heating up, scrapped Barack Obama's program to curb power plant emissions and abandoned the Paris climate agreement.

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