Of the Republican presidential candidates currently leading in the polls – Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz – only Rubio has acknowledged that climate disruption is real.
However, even Rubio’s position should be taken with a grain of salt, as he continues to deny the reality of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD). In other words, he doesn’t believe that people are to blame for planetary warming. On May 11, 2014, Rubio said, “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.”
Cruz’s stance toward ACD is no secret: He has received much media attention for regularly rejecting climate science, and even more attention for his more famous statement that “Climate change is not science, it is religion.”
Cruz also has the distinction of being listed as the only climate policy “hero” by the American Energy Alliance, a Koch brothers-backed climate change denier group that praised Cruz for his stance against taxes and regulations. Cruz recently pulled together a Senate hearing on whether climate science was “data or dogma.”
The only two Republican presidential candidates who had reasonable positions about ACD (acknowledging that it is real and human-caused) were Sen. Lindsey Graham and George Pataki, but they received little support and dropped out of the race before the end of 2015.
If one of the Republican candidates currently leading in the polls wins the nomination and goes on to become the next president, the implications for the planet are indeed dire.
Aiming for Venus
Most congressional Republicans have been out of sync with the majority of Americans regarding ACD for quite some time now.
Recent polls show that some 70 percent of Americans accept the scientific consensus that the world is getting warmer. Nevertheless, less than half of Congress, and only 30 percent of those in the Senate, are willing to agree.
This is despite the fact that there has been ample evidence for years now that the fossil fuel industry has played an active role in promoting doubt and denial messages around ACD.
Current scientific data show that the planet is on a crash course to a boiling future that will assuredly be catastrophic without immediate and dramatic government-led mitigation measures. Nevertheless, Republicans remain undeterred in their efforts to allow corporate power to run amok over the environment.
As noted earlier, only Marco Rubio has said that climate disruption is real, with Ted Cruz at one point saying, “It’s complicated,” before abandoning even that relatively soft response in favor of flat-out denial coupled with an attack on science.
Carson and Trump continue to deny the reality of ACD, and Trump maintains his commanding lead in the polls.
Meanwhile, none of the four leading candidates believe ACD is human caused, none of them have called for any degree of action regarding ACD, none have ever explicitly said they would work to mitigate ACD if elected and not one of them has made a specific proposal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
“I’ll tell you what I think about climate change,” Carson has told other Republicans. “The temperature’s either going up or down at any point in time, so it really is not a big deal.”
Cruz has accused the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with other federal agencies that generate climate data, including NASA, of “cooking the books.”
Even Rubio has shifted his position slightly to align with the other candidates’ extreme positions. “I believe climate is changing because there’s never been a moment where the climate is not changing,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
As for Trump, he has consistently made grandiose statements of denial. In 2013, he tweeted: “Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!”
Earlier, he tweeted that he believes global warming “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”
And when it comes to the candidates’ positions regarding broader environmental issues, the news is not any better.
“Protecting the environment is neither a Democratic nor a Republican position, but rather it should be a logical position for capitalists and socialists, because everyone should be looking out for the interests of future generations and trying to protect their own health as well,” Ben Carson has said.
Yet Carson has made several public antagonistic statements against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and his overall positions toward ACD and the environment lack any coherence with his supposed concern for “future generations.”
In July 2015, he posted on his Facebook page that he would radically change the way the EPA operates, and wrote, “My EPA would be much more like NASA and much less like the FBI. I believe we all understand that we want to leave our planet better than we found it. However, I believe the EPA should be a research and technology coordinator, not an armed police force. Find ways we can all pitch in and stop the regulatory mandates. Lead us, not leash us.”
In a March 29, 2014, op-ed in the Reno Gazette-Journal, Carson wrote, “Many advocates of common sense are also concerned about the environment, but are reasonable enough to realize that rather than using Environmental Protection Agency regulations to stifle abundant energy production, we can use the EPA in conjunction with the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship to produce and export a vast amount of clean energy.”
EPA bashing aside, Carson does not offer any actual policies that, if elected, he would try to enact to protect the environment.
Ted Cruz is far more straightforward in his disregard for the environment and the science behind ACD, and has the voting record to prove it.
During his 2012 Senate campaign, Cruz aimed to revoke the offshore drilling moratorium that was still in place at the time, and in September 2011 he penned an op-ed for the National Review in which he wrote:
Currently, the Obama administration is using the alleged presence of a lizard to try to stop oil and gas exploration in West Texas. Even more ominously, the EPA has launched ‘investigations’ into hydraulic fracturing, a long-used drilling process that has recently unlocked vast new reserves in both natural gas and oil. These new American energy reserves are poised to create countless new jobs and drastically reduce our dependence on foreign energy supplies. But if the Obama administration succeeds in banning hydraulic fracturing, tens of thousands of jobs will be lost and America will be left even more dependent on foreign dictators for our energy needs. We can and should vigilantly protect clean air and water while aggressively developing these new resources and new jobs.
In 2013, Cruz voted not to protect ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems. Then in 2014, he sponsored the American Energy Renaissance Act, which proposed lifting multiple regulations on energy producing industries.
Similarly, Rubio believes we should just let the so-called free market “fix” the environment. And like the rest of the four candidates in question, he too likes to take shots at the EPA.
On September 17, 2015, Rubio introduced a joint resolution disapproving of the EPA’s expansion of federal authority over US land and waterways. “Hardworking Americans have had enough of Washington bureaucrats telling them how to use their land,” he wrote. “The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are irresponsible to go forward with this job-killing rule despite the serious concerns raised by farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and small business owners across the country.”
Rubio has called for lifting a ban on crude oil exports and stopping the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, along with empowering local and state governments (rather than the federal government) to regulate energy production.
In 2013, he co-sponsored the National Energy Tax Repeal Act, which proposed prohibiting “the head of a federal agency from promulgating any regulation relating to power sector carbon pollution standards or any substantially similar regulation on or after June 25, 2013, unless that regulation is explicitly authorized by an Act of Congress.”
As for Trump, in 2008, he made the claim that development “enhances” the environment, but also claims to have partnered with environmentalists when undertaking development projects.
While talking about energy production in 2011, Trump expressed being exasperated by the fact that the United States was not drilling more aggressively for natural gas and oil.
On August 24, 2012, Trump tweeted that wind turbines were “an environmental & aesthetic disaster,” and that same year he told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline was “disgraceful” and that “we should be able to drill our own oil.”
When it comes to fossil fuel policy within the Republican presidential field, the candidates seem dedicated to staying the course – marching Earth toward a Venus-like future.