Climate

Republicans Are Doing Everything They Can To Undermine U.S. Participation In The Paris Climate Talks

CREDIT: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

On Tuesday, as his time in Paris drew to a close, President Obama offered some words of hope to a crowd of press gathered at the United Nations’ climate change conference.

“Climate change is a massive problem. It’s a generational program. It’s a problem that by definition is just about the most difficult thing for a political system to absorb,” he said. “And yet despite all that the main message I’ve got is, I actually think were gonna solve this thing.”

But back in the United States, Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail were touting a decidedly different message, questioning the conference’s importance and working to undermine the potential agreement before it has even been solidified.

On The Campaign Trail

“While the world is in turmoil and falling apart in so many different ways, especially with ISIS, our president is worried about global warming,” Donald Trump said in a video posted to Instagram on Tuesday. “What a ridiculous situation.”

On Sunday, the day before the climate talks began, GOP presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina dismissed the idea that climate change is a major threat to U.S. security. She also argued that a single country acting alone can do little to stop climate change, rendering the Paris talks, in her opinion, unproductive.

“If you read the fine print of the science, what the scientists tell us, all those scientists who say climate change is real and manmade, they also tell us that a single nation acting alone will make no difference at all, that it would take a concerted global effort over 30 years costing trillions of dollars,” she said. “I think the likelihood is near zero. So no, I don’t think [the Paris climate conference] is very productive.”

Currently, almost 200 countries have submitted climate plans to the United Nations.

But Trump and Fiorina aren’t alone in using the Paris talks as a way to challenge Obama’s priorities. On Monday, as the conference began, presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee took to Twitter to also voice his displeasure with the Paris conference.


He later followed up by tweeting:


Current U.N. pledges set the world on track for more than 2°C of warming, which would result in more than just sunburns — it would decrease yields of important staple crops, place species at a greater risk of habitat loss, threaten millions with flooding, and severely limit water availability for billions. Such stressors, the Pentagon warned in a 2014 report on climate change and national security, would act as “threat multipliers,” worsening national security problems like terrorism and infectious disease.

In Congress

In both halls of Congress, several Republicans have also launched attempts to dismantle any agreement reached in Paris. On Tuesday, the House Science Committee held a hearing titled “Pitfalls of Unilateral Negotiations at the Paris Climate Change Conference,” which largely sought to undermine the idea that a binding agreement could come out of the Paris talks. In his opening remarks, Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) argued that Obama’s pledge to the United Nations would “increase electricity costs, ration energy, and slow economic growth,” adding that the plan “ignores good science and only seeks to advance a partisan political agenda.”

“The president should come back to Congress with any agreement made in Paris,” Smith continued. “He won’t, because he knows the Senate will not ratify it.”

Oren Cass, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research who also served as domestic policy director for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, testified before the committee that an agreement in Paris would drive up energy prices for Americans, as well as cost taxpayers billions in money meant to finance climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.

On Tuesday, Obama pledged that the United States will uphold its commitments to financing developing countries’ climate mitigation and adaptation strategies through the Green Climate Fund, a promise that Congressional Republicans have seized upon in an attempt to sabotage a deal. On November 13, Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) sent a letter to Obama promising that Congress would not allow taxpayer dollars to go towards the Green Climate Fund unless the agreement reached in Paris is presented for Congressional approval. Both the U.N. negotiations and the year-end spending bill are to be finalized on December 11, leading Senate Republicans to hope that by choking off funds to the Green Climate Fund, they can sow doubt in the minds of countries like India, which could be more hesitant to back an agreement that doesn’t contain a promise of funding for developing countries.

“The money is the linchpin,” Barrasso told the Huffington Post in a recent interview. “The money is the linchpin that has to get a number of countries engaged in a kind of pay to play approach, and we want to make sure they know they are not going to get paid.”

Contrary to Republicans in Congress and in the presidential race, most Americans support an international climate deal. According to a new poll released by the New York Times/CBS, two-thirds of Americans support the United States agreeing to a binding international deal that would limit the impact of global warming.