The White House confirmed earlier today that President Obama would indeed be attending the climate change summit in Copenhagen, along with a handful of his Cabinet members.
Recent setbacks had left Obama’s attendance in question. Just last week, many world leaders at APEC announced that a legally binding deal on climate change would be impossible to achieve. And the Senate has put off action on the bill passed by the House until next spring.
The goal of the Copenhagen summit involves striking a deal that would replace the Kyoto Protocol, the pact signed by more than 200 nations that set binding targets for greenhouse emissions. A pact which the United States never signed.
According to the White House press release, President Obama plans to outline his goals for reducing emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels over the next decade. And then by 83 percent by 2050.
Still, many Republicans oppose engaging in talks at Copenhagen or even addressing the issue of climate change to begin with. I’d like to think this sort of denialist nonsense was limited to the fringes of the party. But it’s not. Doubting climate change has become a litmus test for how strong and loyal a conservative you truly are.
Take the frontrunners for the GOP nomination in 2012, for instance: Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal, and Haley Barbour. Of these seven, four deny that there is any scientific merit to the idea of climate change, while the other three are all opposed to meaningful action.
There are plenty more examples. A few weeks ago, every single Republican on the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works Committee refused to show up for a hearing about the Boxer-Kerry climate bill. Their goal was to stall the markup of the bill, based on a rule that says at least two minority members must be present for a markup to begin. But this rule is more of a nicety than anything, so Senator Boxer, the Committee Chair, chose to proceed without any Republicans present.
I think the refusal to engage in debate is much worse than simple opposition. You can disagree on things without being disagreeable, without actively trying to avoid and stifle a legitimate debate. The issue of global warming and climate change may be the defining struggle of our generation, yet the current leaders of the Republican Party are united in their opposition to any sort of substantial action.
Contrary to what Republicans may think, climate change is not some sort of dirty hippie agenda. There is a worldwide scientific consensus that it is real and caused by human activity. More than two thousand scientists over many, many years have provided us with a peer reviewed report (sponsored by the U.N. and the World Meteorological Association) on the threat of climate change.
I can only assume that some of the Republicans have swallowed, hook, line and sinker, the disinformation spewed out by fringe scientists who have no peer reviewed articles which have been published in scientific journals and who are directly or indirectly financed by oil, coal, car, asbestos, etc., companies or false institutes or organizations set up and financed by the same dirty energy corporations.
The truth is that they don’t have to win the debate. They’re not even trying to. They just have to muddy the waters and cause enough confusion to provide cover for those who want to avoid facing the hard task of deciding what to do to slow down and ultimately reverse the effects of climate change.
I’m glad President Obama hasn’t bought into this nonsense and refuses to cater to the whims of ignorant fools who think they know more about science than inter-governmental panels on climate change. I’m glad he’s going to Copenhagen, even though returning with any significant results may cost him a lot of political capital.