Republican task force’s labeling their work a ‘climate plan’ is part of their ruse

The plan is no surprise given that several of the 17 members of the task force are outright climate science deniers. The League of Conservation Voters calculates the lifetime environmental score of all 17 combined averages a pitiful 10%.

Here’s Debbie Lesko of Arizona’s 8th congressional district being asked in a January 2018 candidate debate her views on climate change: “Is some of it, maybe, human-caused? Possibly. But certainly not the majority of it. I think it just goes through cycles and it has to do a lot with the sun. So no, I’m not a global warming proponent.” Here’s Jeff Duncan of South Carolina’s 3rd district: “The climate alarmists continue to move the goalposts when their politically motivated projections do not come true. What was predicted decades ago has yet to take place. We all know that global temperatures have changed throughout the generations, but we must not look to activist climate organizations to push a false agenda in an effort to upend parts of our economy.” And here’s David McKinley of West Virginia’s 1st district on an energy panel in 2016, “I think only 4% of the CO2 emissions are anthropogenic. 96% is naturally occurring.”

Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana’s 6th district, who chairs the task force, says, “The climate’s always changed,a tedious dodge being used more and more by Republicans who have found outright denial too toxic. 

Yes, the climate does always change. But the speed with which it is doing so is what has scientists alarmed. For some reason, Graves and other task force members, including the ones who don’t openly reject climate science, cannot seem to hear those scientists who are practically screaming that we can no longer have an “all of the above” energy policy if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Graves offers this upside-downism in his Siegel interview:

“We are creating a clear coherent energy strategy that returns the U.S. to an emissions reduction trajectory as opposed to what we are seeing under the Biden administration, which is failing every test, whether it be affordability, emissions or security,” 

Just before the pandemic began in 2020, David Roberts at Vox took note of a Graves-led alternative to Democratic plans on climate:

This is the argument Rep. Garret Graves, a Louisiana Republican who is leading GOP climate efforts, uses: “Fossil fuels aren’t the enemy. It’s emissions. So let’s devise strategies that are based on emissions strategies, not based on eliminating fossil fuels.”

This makes no sense if interpreted literally. The plan Graves was talking about carefully avoids endorsing policies that directly go after emissions, such as a carbon tax or pollution regulations. It avoids setting any particular targets for emission reductions. It avoids mention of most of the technologies and policies with the most potential to reduce emissions, like renewable energy and performance standards.

In other words, the 2022 plan is just like the 2020 plan—a PR deception. Nowhere does the task force show the slightest inclination toward urgency.

The responses have been scathing. Jamal Raad, executive director at the climate advocacy group Evergreen Action, succinctly summed up the plan:

Kevin McCarthy’s so-called climate strategy appears to be little more than a how-to guide for accelerating the climate crisis. Real and effective climate solutions are at our fingertips, but McCarthy and his caucus are so beholden to their donors in the fossil fuel industry that they’d rather double down on the technologies of the past that are poisoning our communities and cooking our planet. Every election year, Republicans in Congress try to greenwash their records to mislead voters who overwhelmingly support common-sense climate action—and every time they seize power, they stand in the way of real solutions and subsidize the industries that are fueling this crisis. This stunt is a not-even-thinly veiled attempt to bullshit the press and the public. It’s time to stop falling for it.”

Here at Daily Kos, ClimateDenierRoundup (whose posts deserve a lot more attention than they usually get) wrote:

The key question that reporters should be asking Republicans claiming a new climate conversion is: Will this plan enable the U.S. to meet its commitments to the Paris Agreement and help put the world on a path to limit warming to 1.5°C? But, that’s a really serious question, with a simple “no” answer, and we know political reporters need some sugar to help the medicine go down, so here’s another: How is this a break from Trump’s MAGA agenda, in terms of actual policy changes?

Clearly the messaging of climate change is real but not that bad so we should burn more fossil fuels is slightly different from Trump’s approach of climate change is a hoax so we should burn more fossil fuels, but the policy platform has remained exactly the same. 

The truthful answer to that question about the Paris Agreement is that several of the task force members opposed President Joe Biden’s decision to rejoin the agreement after Donald Trump yanked the United States out of it. 

It’s not as if there aren’t some worthwhile ideas in the task force’s plan. For instance, streamlining permitting could be a good thing if done right. Which means ensuring that the protection regulations are designed to provide remain in place even as permit approvals are accelerated. But, as with so much else, Republican duplicity is at the heart of the party’s streamlining approach. Permitting takes so long in large part because Republicans have worked diligently to cut staff and budgets at the  Environmental Protection Agency ever since Ronald Reagan’s head-on assault on the EPA. Want quicker permitting results? Hire enough people to do the job. What Republicans really mean by streamlining is demolishing. 

For two decades, I’ve warned that when it comes to climate policy delay is denial. This year, in the wake of the most devastating report yet from the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change, Secretary-General António Guterres said, “Delay is death.” At its core, delay is what the Republican “climate plan” is really about. 

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