When a president announces the most significant action ever on climate change, it’s going to raise some hackles among the opposition. Here are the greatest, and the lowliest, reactions to the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, a sweeping rule announced Monday requiring states to lower carbon emissions from their power plants.
The Republican field falls mostly into two camps. First is the “there is nothing happening” group. These are your classic climate deniers. Many of the Republican presidential candidates do not accept the scientific consensus that the climate is changing because of human activity. Denying climate change is occurring — much less that there is anything we did to cause it — makes it much easier to say we don’t need to address it.
The second group can be broadly described as “there is nothing we can do about it.” They believe that climate change is happening, and people may or may not be causing it, but American action is meaningless.
Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) falls into the classic deniers’ camp. He sidestepped questions about human-caused climate change at a candidates’ forum Monday night, but his campaign followed up strongly:
“Governor Walker believes facts have shown that there has not been any measurable warming in the last 15 or 20 years,” spokeswoman AshLee Strong told the Wisconsin State Journal.
If you don’t think that global warming is a real thing (which means you have sided against 97 percent of climate research), than putting in rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions probably doesn’t make much sense.
If there is no climate change, there must be another reason Obama pushed for a Clean Power Plan. Conspiracy theories work here. It’s unclear why a sitting president (or any president, for that matter) would spend years creating a program in an attempt to “destabilize the nation’s energy system,” but in Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) world, that’s not only a possibility, it’s reality.
“The President’s lawless and radical attempt to destabilize the nation’s energy system is flatly unconstitutional and — unless it is invalidated by Congress, struck down by the courts, or rescinded by the next Administration — will cause Americans’ electricity costs to skyrocket at a time when we can least afford it,” Cruz said in a statement.
This is not the first thing Cruz has called unconstitutional. He used the same word for Obama’s executive action on immigration. So was the Affordable Care Act. He has even found Supreme Court opinions to be “alien to our constitutional system.” Ironically, Cruz’s former Harvard law professor said in 2013 that some of Cruz’s actions have been unconstitutional.
Americans for Prosperity Oklahoma, a branch of the Koch-funded conservative organization, put an even finer point on Obama’s mission: “We’ll all be left to suffer while the President scrambles to carve out a legacy for himself, leaving a ruined economy in his wake,” AFP Oklahoma director John Tidwell said.
Climate change is happening but we shouldn’t do anything about it
The certainty of a ruined economic future was a recurring theme for CPP opponents. Keep in mind, some of the following people have spent millions in their home states to mitigate damage from extreme weather, which has been linked to climate change. Some of them even believe that climate change is an issue, which makes not doing anything about it deeply immoral.
Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, thinks the plan is going to cost a lot of money.
“Climate change will not be solved by grabbing power from states or slowly hollowing out our economy. The real challenge is how do we grow and prosper in order to foster more game-changing innovations and give us the resources we need to solve problems like this one,” he said in a statement.
The administration projects that it will decrease the average American electricity bill $85 a year by 2030.
Marco Rubio echoed his fellow Floridian’s comments, but just a tiny bit further into truly cynical. These policies “will do nothing to address the underlying issue that they’re talking about, because as far as I can see, China and India and other developing countries are going to continue to burn anything they can get their hands on.”
In other words, climate change might be a problem, but there is nothing we can do about it.
The people who aren’t running for anything but said amazing things
Then again, maybe climate change is real, but not a problem. Maybe global warming will continue, but it will allow us to farm in Siberia and make home heaters obsolete. That’s ostensibly the reasoning behind billionaire and GOP-funder Charles Koch, who told the Washington Post, “there has been warming. The CO2 goes up, the CO2 has probably contributed to that. But they say it’s going to be catastrophic. There is no evidence to that. They have these models that show it, but the models don’t work.”
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was instrumental in the first round of court challenges, before the CPP was finalized, and he has already gloved up for the next round. On Monday, he told FoxNews that the plan is a “radical and illegal proposal.” According to an AP reporter, Morrisey has also linked Obama’s plan to drug use.
West Virginia attorney general says residents turning to drugs because Obama is shutting down their coal plants
— Josh Lederman (@joshledermanAP) August 3, 2015
Of course, coal companies jumped on board, including Morrisey ally Murray Energy. “This illegal rule will adversely restructure the electric power system in America and will force every state to radically change their energy policies,” the company said in a statement Monday. “It will dramatically increase the cost of electricity for all Americans, with no environmental benefit whatsoever.”
Arch Coal called the plan “ill-advised and poorly designed.”
Maybe it’s personal
Sterling Burnett, from the Heartland Institute, comes to that conclusion. “Obama must really hate coal miners and coal-fired power plant workers because he’s doing everything he can to put them out of work and in the food line,” he said.
University of Western Ontario mathematics professor Chris Essex, who has written extensively against what he sees as the bias in climate science, opted to go with an English lesson. “Power is a physical quantity, not something that is either clean or dirty. Dirty power has no more meaning than, and just as silly as, clean entropy, or dirty momentum,” Essex said. Perhaps he is unfamiliar with the current vernacular, which refers to power plants, power cords, and power outlets.
But while many politicians and pundits were talking electricity Monday, one presidential contender was notably absent from the conversation: Donald Trump spent the news cycle in a back-and-forth with Gawker about his phone number. Time will tell if the leading Republican candidate will weigh in on what will likely be one of the Obama administration’s most important acts.
One candidate managed to wrap Obama’s war on coal along with climate denial — and tie it all up with some terrorism rhetoric. Presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee:
Obama’s carbon crusade shows he’s more committed to confronting American coal miners than Iranian clerics who chant 'death to America'. #EPA
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) August 3, 2015
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified the organization Sterling Burnett is from. He works at the Heartland Institute.