The party of “no” has been extra vocal on the subject of climate change lately. They’ve budged only slightly in the past few years, going from stubbornly refusing to admit that climate change exists to begrudgingly admitting that it does, but that humans play no part in it. But progress is progress.
Some Senate Republicans are now officially on the record as refusing the idea that humans are causing climate change after a measure that was rejected 50-49 along party lines.
“Only in the halls of Congress is this a controversial piece of legislation,” said Democrat Brian Schatz, who offered the measure.
Schatz isn’t entirely wrong. A majority of Americans now believe that humans are causing global warming, so — as is so often the case — Republicans are behind when it comes to policy.
While a vote on a measure like this does little more than establish who has what opinions on the issue, it’s not the only thing that happened. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology recently voted to cut NASA’s earth science budget by hundreds of millions of dollars. This was supposedly done to “restore balance” to NASA’s research, according to Committee Chair Lamar Smith. Smith said that this move will “ensure the U.S. continues to lead in space for the next 50 years.”
But it’s OK, because what looks like the result of questionable priorities is absolutely, definitely not a political move. It is only by sheer coincidence that the budget for science responsible for seeking information about climate change got cut. In fact, Smith said so himself.
“Instead of letting political ideology or climate ‘religion’ guide government policy, we should focus on good science. The facts alone should determine what climate policy options the U.S. considers.”
See? Absolutely not about political ideology. It’s about the facts — and if the facts say things you don’t like, you can always take money away from the people trying to find them.
For now, at least, this attitude will be permitted to continue. As a movement, accepting the influence of man on the climate is still new; the science is there, but science doesn’t excite or move people as much as it ought to. The media hems and haws about the facts, because while science is on one side, money is on the other. We all know how powerful money can be, but it’s even more stunning when you see how little Congress cares about public opinion. A recent study found that they pretty much don’t care at all.
“The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”
But that won’t last forever, and these Republicans are once again showing their intent to go down with another hopeless ship.
It doesn’t have to be so. Following the majority of Americans who believe in the human influence on climate change, many Republicans are expressing similar beliefs. This denial is quickly becoming unpopular, and some data suggests this will be a touchy subject come election time.
A recent poll from the New York Times, Stanford University, and Resources for the Future found that “two-thirds of Americans said they were more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change.”
At the very least, this doesn’t bode well for most current Republican presidential candidates.
It is going to be a little more difficult to convince those in government than our friends and neighbors, but while it’s true that many currently elected representatives don’t pay any mind to public opinion, the good news is that their jobs aren’t permanent. The even better news is that there’s an election coming up that can prove it.
Votes on measures and defunding earth science are frustrating and unfortunate, but also just delaying the inevitable. It’s also damaging to many Republican candidates for any position who want voters to believe that they care about the science behind important issues like climate change. Perhaps this is irrelevant to representatives who don’t plan to be in office by the time policy really starts to change, but it should be relevant to a party concerned with its long-term image.
They may take that into consideration, or we may see more snowballs on the Senate floor. You know, because it’s about good science.
[Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images]