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Confronted with evidence of a climate crisis, Republicans shrug

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change' report was terrifying - except to congressional Republicans, who didn't much care.


The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its new report this week -- its first comprehensive assessment since 2013 -- and by any fair measure, it was absolutely terrifying.

Except to congressional Republicans, who didn't much care.

The IPCC findings were, at a minimum, sobering. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the findings a "code red for humanity," adding that the "alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable." NBC News' report noted that the report "provides the strongest case yet for human-caused global warming, saying it's 'unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.'"

The report also found that climate change is "intensifying, occurring at an accelerated pace and is already affecting every region of the planet."

The good news is, while a hotter planetary future is now unavoidable, sustained reductions in carbon pollution can prevent the most severe consequences. The bad news is, sustained reductions in carbon pollution are only possible through aggressive and immediate action from policymakers.

Politico reported yesterday on congressional Republicans' widespread indifference to humanity's code red.

The United Nations report that found the nations are already facing catastrophic effects from climate change drew a cool reception from Republican senators, who were largely unmoved by the dire warnings. Despite the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Sixth Assessment Report painting the starkest picture yet on how climate change will wreak havoc around the globe, Republicans brushed off the urgency and largely reiterated their view that efforts to rein in greenhouse gases would threaten the economy.

The report quoted a handful of GOP lawmakers saying they'd consider climate-related policies, so long as there were no tax increases on anyone. "We clearly have an issue over climate change," said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who soon after added, "I don't want to raise taxes on anybody."

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), right on cue, told Politico, in apparent reference to the IPCC, "I don't know why people still take it seriously."

The Oklahoma senator, of course, is whom Senate Republicans tapped a few years ago to lead the Senate committee that oversees environmental policy.

A handful of other congressional Republicans said they'd seen some coverage of the latest findings, but they've been too busy to get up to speed.

Reading this, I found myself thinking about a New York Times report from a couple of months ago that said, "[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."

As we discussed soon after, it's led some GOP lawmakers to launch efforts such as the Conservative Climate Caucus, which will purportedly cultivate unidentified, conservative-friendly solutions to the intensifying crisis.

But while some Republicans go through the motions, convinced that blanket climate denial is no longer a sustainable political position, the party still refuses to engage in the debate in a meaningful way, and is even less willing to propose meaningful policies that might make a difference, even when confronted with brutal evidence.

Action is needed immediately. By all appearances, the vast majority of GOP elected officials don't seem to care.