The Earth is Cooking. Republicans are Turning up the Heat | Opinion

Photo by Li-An Lim, via Unsplash.

Watching politicians like Ron DeSantis ignore climate change while the nation cooks is like being trapped in the backseat of a car - windows up and locked - with a crazed driver who won’t stop smoking. Coughing falls on deaf ears. Complaining makes him chain-smoke. Explaining the science of carcinogens and lungs makes him twitch and light cigars - simultaneously.

Last week nearly one-third of the nation baked in record-breaking heat. South Florida was under an excessive heat warning for the first time in history, while the surrounding ocean and marine life endured (or didn’t) water temperatures near 100 degrees. By this September, the deadly marine heat wave is expected to double in size to as much as half of the ocean.

Devastating heat in the US tracks last year’s European heat wave, one that killed more than 61,000 people. Aside from El Niño, heat domes - where high pressure in the Earth’s atmosphere traps hot air - are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change, a post-industrial development scientists began predicting over 100 years ago.

Many GOP-led States, Backed by Fossil Fuel Money, Double Down on Climate Misinformation

Although the earth’s climate has changed throughout history, our current warming trend is accelerating at a rate scientists have never seen before, and is clearly the result of burning fossil fuels. NASA reports that the causal link between burning fossil-fuels and climate change has evolved from “theory” to “established fact.” “It is undeniable that human activities have produced the atmospheric gases that have trapped more of the sun’s energy in the earth system. This extra energy has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land, and widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere have occurred.”

NASA scientists are far and away the most highly respected scientists in the world.  In a development straight out of Bizarro world, instead of heeding their warning, Republicans have proposed de-funding NASA climate initiatives.

To bolster their attacks on climate intelligence, Republicans have also added climate change to their culture wars. So far, in the first six months of 2023, Republican lawmakers have introduced 165 pieces of legislation throughout 37 states that would block state investors from even considering how climate change will affect their investment portfolios. Never mind that climate-related losses exceeded $1 billion in the first half of 2023 alone, or that climate destruction has cost $2.570 trillion since economists started tracking it. If you think about climate risk when investing millions in an oceanfront high rise, you’re “woke.” In Florida you’re also probably a “groomer.”

Big Surprise: Fossil Fuel Money Protects Fossil Fuel Interests

The energy sector has engaged in a massive decades-long disinformation campaign that nearly quadrupled following the 2010 ruling in Citizens United. Citizens United enabled oil, gas and coal corporations, among others, to spend unlimited funds to influence federal elections. Alarmed by slow responses to our heating planet, the Union of Concerned Scientists recently issued a report identifying which politicians have protected the oil and gas industry in exchange for specified campaign donations.

Paradoxically, politicians most obstructive to climate progress hail from states most affected by climate change. For example, Texas, along with Louisiana, South Carolina, and 19 GOP-led states challenged the EPA’s authority to curb power plant carbon emissions in West Virginia v. EPA, leading SCOTUS’ conservative majority to significantly limit the EPA’s climate efforts. In Mississippi, where coastal disappearance is indisputable, the AG brags about her “Fight (against) Biden’s Radical Environmental Agenda.” Florida, where home insurers have vanished due to excessive climate-related claims, opposes reducing on-road CO2 emissions to net-zero by 2050.  DeSantis, having received millions in fossil fuel contributions, dismisses climate change as “left wing stuff.”

At the federal level, Republican members of the Senate Commerce Committee are now circulating a memo attacking climate measures in Biden’s proposed 2024 budget, seeking to defund federal climate initiatives. Republicans have also introduced 17 budget amendments- “poison pills”- to undo Biden’s clean energy measures. Among other things, these amendments would stop the federal purchase of electric vehicles; block an Executive Order requiring federal agencies to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045; erase climate disclosure requirements; and undo major clean water efforts.

It's hard to believe money and power would be more important to elected leaders than our only habitat, as if there’s a planet B. It’s even harder to believe every young person doesn’t vote. If they did vote - in every election - these Neanderthals wouldn’t even be in office.

Thankfully, not every conservative opposes climate science. Joe Manchin, for example, says he is open to tackling climate change, as long as we don’t turn our back on fossil fuels. Maybe he and No Labels can talk our driver into at least cracking the window.

Sabrina Haake is a 25-year litigator specializing in 1st and 14th Amendment defense. Her columns appear in OutSFL, Chicago Tribune, Salon, State Affairs, and Howey Politics. She and her wife split their time between South Florida and Chicago. Follow her on substack.


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