Opinion: The GOP platform would make America warmer and smoggier

Pumpjacks pull oil from wells near Lovington, N.M., in 2015. The Republican Party platform puts a renewed emphasis on extracting and burning fossil fuels, which would add to global warming.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Extract and burn more coal. Open public space and the seas to oil exploration. Turn federal lands and environmental regulation over to the states and convert the federal Environmental Protection Agency into “an independent bipartisan commission, similar to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with structural safeguards against politicized science.”

There’s more, but that’s the gist of the Republicans’ 2016 campaign platform on environmental and energy issues. The good news? Party platforms seldom translate into successful legislative agendas. But GOP nominee Donald J. Trump has already backed an aggressively bad environmental agenda (he once said climate change was a China-created hoax). If a Trump administration and a Congress controlled by climate change-denying Republicans adopt this plan as the nation’s new approach to the environment, we’ll be living in a much smoggier and warmer country, and one in which generations of public stewardship of open lands would end. (The draft Democratic Party platform takes a more realistic view of the environmental crisis facing the world.)

The platform’s outlook is basically jobs ahead of environment, which has long been the tough balance to strike. Coal mining jobs are important, but not more important than preserving a habitable planet. The oil industry is huge and has been an engine of prosperity for the nation. But burning that oil is one of the leading contributors to global warming. We need to smartly and humanely transition those core industries to more sustainable and less-polluting energy sources.


In other words, scientific consensus is out, and quackery is in.

That’s not the focus of the platform, though – which describes coal, the worst of the energy-producing polluters, as a “clean” source of energy. And the platform is skeptical about climate change despite overwhelming agreement by scientists that the world is getting warmer, sea levels are rising, local environments are changing and plants and animals face dire threats all as a result of decades of human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels for industrial production, electrical power and transportation.

According to the platform, the party would renege on the Paris climate accord, under which nearly every nation in the world agreed a few months ago to take steps to try to curtail global warming. It also dismisses the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was instrumental in establishing the Paris agreement, as “a political mechanism, not an unbiased scientific institution.” The Republicans’ evidence? “Its unreliability is reflected in its intolerance toward scientists and others who dissent from its orthodoxy.” In other words, scientific consensus is out, and quackery is in.

It’s not a unanimously held concept by the GOP, though. Many Republicans believe in the science, and worry about the effects, according to polling. And a group of conservatives and free-marketers – the Partnership for Responsible Growth – has been lobbying Republicans to recognize the science on climate change, and to resist the calls to open national parks to drilling and other extractive practices, and for private development. In a sense, the party is re-engaging a political fight from the early years of the parks system.

But they face an uphill climb with the party leadership, and Republican members of Congress — yet another issue to keep in mind as this campaign progresses.


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