President Obama has had some success of late in addressing the climate crisis, but he’s hardly finished: Chris Mooney reported yesterday that the White House hopes to invest up to $3 billion in the Green Climate Fund, an international effort to bolster clean-energy programs in developing nations.
Indeed, the U.S. contribution to the global effort would complement similar billion-dollar investments from allies including France, Germany, and Japan.
So, what’s the bad news? Take a wild guess.
There’s just one problem. Even though the idea for international climate funding measures like this one dates back to the George W. Bush administration – where they were crucially championed by then Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson – there are concerns that Congressional Republicans may try to thwart some of the new U.S. funds through the appropriations process. In fact, long before the GOP’s triumph in the midterm elections, House Republicans in early 2011 introduced a continuing budget resolution that would have “gut most climate aid” – a sign of the conflict that may be to come.Indeed, the presumptive new chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Oklahoma’s James Inhofe, used a 2012 video to decry a “United Nations green slush fund that would redistribute over $ 100 billion from developed countries to developing countries” – which certainly sounds like a reference to today’s Green Climate Fund. The $100 billion figure refers to a pledge in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord that developed nations would spend that amount by 2020 helping countries adapt to climate change, and that mentioned the development of a Green Climate Fund.
Remember, the Bush/Cheney administration – hardly pioneers in the fight against the climate crisis – saw these kinds of investments as important and worthwhile. As Mooney’s report noted, former President George W. Bush used his final State of the Union address to outline a $2 billion investment in “a new international clean energy technology fund to help confront climate change worldwide.”
But now that Obama wants to follow through on the Bush/Cheney commitment, Republicans seem eager to move in the opposite direction.
Part of this, of course, is the reflexive GOP opposition to anything Obama is for. But there’s also been an aggressive shift in the GOP’s posture on environmental policy itself, to the point that contemporary Republicans now see Bush’s policies as far too liberal.
Republicans have been skeptical for quite a while of efforts to protect natural resources, but those attitudes have grown much harsher over time.
Senate Republicans were swept into power vowing to fight the White House’s “war on coal,” but at least one says they need a broader message than “no” in 2016.“I think there will be a political problem for the Republican Party going into 2016 if we don’t define what we are for on the environment,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said. “I don’t know what the environmental policy of the Republican Party is.”
I don’t, either, though I think it’s safe to say it’s a policy of outright hostility. Indeed, in the Obama era, opposition to climate data isn’t just a position on a platform; it’s become almost tribal – the party’s identity is defined in part by its rejection of scientific evidence.
The more the president urges action in response to a serious threat, the more the Republican Party believes it’s necessary to forcefully push in the opposite direction – even when that means killing George W. Bush’s energy ideas, some of which are now just too liberal for his party.