Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

The GOP alone in the world in its rejection of climate science


On Dec. 12, 2015, leaders and delegates of more than 190 nations unanimously committed to reducing the impact of manmade climate change, which they described in their Paris agreement as "an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet (that) thus requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries."

Here at home, though, the Republican Party cannot bring itself to admit that manmade climate change even exists. Its isolation on the issue is so complete and extreme that around the globe, it is the only major conservative party that takes such a stance.¹ Even a longtime climate-change skeptic such as ExxonMobil is now publicly admitting that without significant government action, potentially catastrophic heating of up to 9° F is likely, with even greater increases well within the realm of possibility.

"We believe the risks of climate change are real and those risks warrant constructive action by both policymakers and the business community," as ExxonMobil Vice President Ken Cohen puts it, using words that none of the GOP frontrunners could bring himself to utter. ExxonMobil even advocates that a global carbon tax be placed on its own products as the most effective means of reducing greenhouse emissions, with all revenue generated by the tax used to reduce other forms of taxation.

Think about that. An oil company so frightened about the prospect of climate change that it advocates taxing its own product to reduce the risk.

Other major oil companies -- including BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi Aramco -- have also embraced the findings of climate science and voiced vocal support for the Paris climate-change agreement. Clearly, they too believe that the climate is warming to a dangerous degree, and that action must be taken to reduce the damage as much as possible.

And the data continue to roll in to confirm that finding. Last year was the warmest on record; this year will break that record. Thirteen of the 14 warmest years on the global record have occurred since 2000. In October -- the most recent month for which we have global data -- the temperature deviation from the monthly norm was the highest ever recorded. The autumn of 2015 -- from September to November -- was the warmest ever recorded in the contiguous United States, with the average temperature some 3.3 degrees above the 20th century average.

But hey, maybe all that data are mere coincidence and the Republicans are right. Maybe the governments of more than 190 countries are wrong, and the Republicans are right. Maybe the overwhelming majority of climate scientists are wrong, and the Republicans are right. Maybe the folks at ExxonMobil and BP and other major oil companies are wrong, and the Republicans are right. Maybe earlier generations of Republicans that proposed to address the threat of manmade climate change were wrong, and the modern GOP with its cult-like insistence on ideological conformity is right.

Maybe. But I don't want to bet the planet I leave to my children and grandchildren on that unlikely event.

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¹In Britain, for example, the Conservative Party ran for re-election this year on a promise to "push for a strong global climate deal (in Paris) ... one that keeps the goal of two-degrees (Celsius increase) firmly in reach." That is exactly the final goal agreed to in Paris.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.