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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks during a House Oversight and Accountability Committee on Capitol Hill on Jan. 31, 2023.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks during a House Oversight and Accountability Committee on Capitol Hill on Jan. 31.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

On the climate crisis, Republicans abandon the pretense of interest

A couple of years ago, Republican officials believed they should at least pretend to care about the climate crisis. Now, the GOP's pretense is gone.


During a committee hearing this week, Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia suggested humans during the Ice Age didn’t try to address climate change, so we shouldn’t either. Around the same time, during a separate hearing, Sen. Ron Johnson argued that the planetary crisis might be a good thing — unless you happen to live in a part of the world being destroyed by global warning.

A Washington Post analysis took a closer look at the Wisconsin Republican’s assessment and said it might very well have been “the worst argument for climate inaction in political history.”

On the surface, the rhetoric served as a timely reminder that folks like Greene and Johnson are almost certainly in the wrong line of work, but there’s a larger context to all of this: The entirety of the Republican Party at the federal level appears desperate to derail effort to deal with the climate crisis.

The New York Times reported last week, for example, that the House GOP’s radical debt ceiling hostage note is ostensibly focused on debt reduction and moving the budget closer to balance. But that’s not the only priority in House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ridiculous legislation.

[T]he bill Mr. McCarthy introduced ... also carries a second big objective that has little to do with debt: undercutting President Biden’s climate and clean energy agenda and increasing American production of fossil fuels. ... More than half the 320 pages of legislative text [is designed] to speed up leasing and permitting for oil and gas drilling. ... The Republican plan also gives priority to removing clean energy incentives that were included in Mr. Biden’s signature climate, health and tax law.

In other words, for all intents and purposes, the GOP’s debt ceiling hostage note is also an anti-climate bill.

To the dismay of those concerned with the planet’s future, it’s not the first. The House Republicans’ H.R. 1 — a bill number set aside for the party’s top legislative priority — was designed specifically to undo measures to combat climate change. It passed the lower chamber about a month ago with the support of 99.5% of the House GOP conference.

A Politico report added yesterday that Republicans now believe that “pushing more fossil fuels” will be an electoral winner for the party.

I can appreciate why all of this has a dog-bites-man quality. Republican indifference toward the climate crisis is not new, and it hardly comes as a shock to see so many GOP officials take steps to undo the important work that’s already being done.

But in the recent past, the party seemed at least a little interested in a less dangerous direction.

It was a couple of years ago when The New York Times reported that some Republican officials had come to an uncomfortable conclusion: Climate denialism was a political loser for the party.

“[M]any in the Republican Party are coming to terms with what polls have been saying for years: Independents, suburban voters and especially young Republicans are worried about climate change and want the government to take action,” the article explained.

As we’ve discussed, it led some GOP leaders to believe they should at least pay lip service to global warming — not because of the intensifying planetary threat, but because failing to make such acknowledgements might interfere with the party’s electoral prospects.

The more Republicans were seen as climate deniers, the argument went, the more the national party put itself at a political disadvantage. Some in the GOP even felt the need to form the Conservative Climate Caucus and the Energy, Climate, and Conservation Task Force as a way of demonstrating an interest in the issue.

These weren’t developments from decades past. The Conservative Climate Caucus was formed in 2021. The Energy, Climate, and Conservation Task Force took shape just last year.

And yet, here we are, watching Republicans abandon the pretense of interest. For voters concerned about climate change, GOP leaders aren’t even bothering to keep up appearances anymore. They don’t care, and they’re indifferent to whether the public notices their apathy.