When Joe Manchin announced an abrupt end to Senate negotiations last week on major climate legislation, activists and even fellow Democrats have expressed outrage at the West Virginia lawmaker. Manchin was attacked as a “modern-day villain” who had spoken “nothing less than a death sentence” on a rapidly warming planet.
However, some Democratic leaders, including President Joe Biden, have since tried to redirect that anger to congressional Republicans instead.
“Not a single Republican in Congress has stepped in to support my climate plan. Not a single one,” Biden said, speaking at a coal-fired power plant-turned-windmill in Massachusetts on Wednesday. be clear: climate change is an emergency.”
Although congressional Republicans have refused to embrace Biden’s policy ideas, the party has largely abandoned its past climate denialism. But climate experts and activists say the ideas put forward by Republicans are insufficient or misguided and fail to address the scale and urgency of this crisis.
Republicans have generally not been viewed as champions when it comes to addressing the climate crisis at the federal level. Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accord and his administration rolled back nearly 100 environmental rules during his presidency, eliminating important regulations for the fossil fuel industry.
More recently, the conservative-dominated Supreme Court ruled, in West Virginia vs. Environmental Protection Agencywhich will seriously impede the ability of this government agency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
There have been some modest signs of change among Republicans on climate policy, however. While it was once fairly common to hear Republican lawmakers reject the very idea of climate change, many in the party are now at least willing to discuss the issue.
“I think there’s been a really significant narrative shift in the last five years,” said Quill Robinson, vice president of government affairs for the American Conservation Coalition, a right-wing environmental advocacy group. . “A lot of elected Republicans and also the broader conservative movement are much more comfortable, willing and honestly interested in engaging on this issue of climate change.”
Signs of this change are visible in Congress. Last year, Republican Congressman John Curtis announced the formation of the Conservative Climate Caucus, which has more than 70 Republican members.
Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy has released his own climate platform. The proposal, unveiled last month, outlines how Republicans would work to address environmental and energy issues if they regain control of the House, as they are expected to do after the midterm elections in November.
Critics say McCarthy’s platform is a perfect example of Republicans’ failure to grasp the enormity of the climate crisis. The plan calls for increasing domestic fossil fuel production and boosting US natural gas exports. In recent months, Republican demands to boost U.S. oil production have intensified as the war in Ukraine pushes gasoline prices to record highs.
Environmental experts have said that the world’s reliance on fossil fuels must be drastically reduced in order to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid disastrous climate breakdown. The Republican proposals threaten to accelerate this impending calamity, Democrats say.
“This House Republican proposal simply recycles old bad ideas that are little more than giveaways to the oil companies,” Democrat Frank Pallone, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said last month. “It is an astonishing display of insincerity to admit climate change is a problem, but to come up with policies that make it worse.”
Republicans have also called for additional action to protect American wildlife, but climate activists have again criticized those proposals as too progressive to respond to at the moment. By contrast, the Biden administration has set a goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
Kidus Girma, spokesperson for the youth-led climate group Sunrise Movement, said even Biden’s political goals fell far short of the changes needed to help protect the planet.
“We basically don’t have that timeline,” Girma said of the Republicans’ incremental approach. “Reducing emissions by 2030 is incrementalism in itself, so I don’t know how much more we could get.
Robinson argued that the Democrats’ failure to pass Build Back Better and the Supreme Court’s decision to limit the EPA’s regulatory power demonstrate the urgent need for a bipartisan compromise on this issue, even if the end product doesn’t. falls short of what climate activists have demanded.
“You can’t rely on nine Supreme Court justices, one man in the White House, and one party in Congress to pass sustainable climate policy,” Robinson said. “It needs to be done on a bipartisan basis in Congress.”