The issue of climate change in America is hotly contested by politicians, especially over the issue of whether or not it is a man-made event. The debate rages on despite 97 percent consensus from scientists, revealing a political rift based not on facts or a difference in interpreting them, but on partisan ideology. Increasingly, the problem of climate change is exposing the Republican party for what it is–a party owned by corporate donors. The influence of donors who require denials from conservative politicians is leading to an identity crisis for Republican voters who are increasingly accepting the scientific facts behind the issue. Through their actions on climate change, the Republican party is showing its real colors to the world.
Overwhelmingly, opinions on the issue fall on party lines in America. Democrats support action and accept the science behind it. Not only do Republican conservatives deny its existence, but they contest that there is even any science to back it up. Republican Representative Jeff Miller from Florida was one of the most recent to vocalize this view in an interview with MSNBC. He said at the time, “for us to say that it is a settled argument right now I think, again, is a foolish argument to make, because there are scientists on both sides of the issue that say that it’s not settled.” In fact, a survey of peer-reviewed research in the scientific community revealed 97 percent consensus that climate change is happening. That is an overwhelming statistical fact that Miller had to ignore in order to hold his position. Not even presidential elections see that kind of consensus.
What is it that motivates conservative politicians like Miller to hold such an untenable view? It could possibly be money. Republican politicians are funded for the most part by donations from large corporate entities, such as the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity. This organization requires politicians to sign a pledge which promises to fight against a “climate tax.” The entire GOP leadership has signed this pledge, as has Representative Jeff Miller. Is there a connection between their stance on climate change and donations from Americans for Prosperity? It certainly seems like it.
In the examination of the issue and the real Republican party, the stance of business is important to note. Not only are businesses involved in lobbying politicians, but they donate to political campaigns, as the example of the Koch brothers indicates. One businessman, Robert Murray, has said he is going to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because it is “lying” about climate change. The EPA has presented the science that shows it is exists and is a threat to the environment. Murray, the owner and founder of Murray Energy Corporation, the largest coal producer in the United States, claims that global warming does not exist, but global cooling does. The theory of global cooling has been debunked by scientists, but Murray’s belief in it has led him to sue a government agency anyway. This is the kind of stance that many businesses are taking and it is the stance that Republican politicians have had to take in order to get funding from business donors.
What this kind of ethical tap-dancing has done for the regular Republican voter is create an identity crisis. Can someone be a conservative and also believe in climate change? The two positions have been turned into opposites by the Republican leadership. There are some people out there, however, who are fighting against this false dichotomy. Atmospheric scientist and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, Katharine Hayhoe is one of these. Not only does she accept climate change as scientific fact, but she is a devout Christian who speaks to conservatives about it all the time. She has noticed the problem for conservatives over the issue. “You can’t be a conservative and agree with the science,” she says. According to her, “to care about green issues you don’t have to be a liberal or what people call ‘tree huggers.’” This is an important message for conservative voters and it is not one they are hearing from their GOP leadership.
So what is the real Republican party? From the perspective of science, it seems to be the party that denies climate change in order to please its largest donors. For conservative voters, being a member of the Republican party and accepting the facts are so opposite that they cannot do both. As time goes on and climate change becomes more and more accepted as fact, Americans will be able to see just exactly what the real Republican party is and what they are not, which is people who accept facts.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury