Former Vice President Dick Cheney has to be smiling. With one exception, none of the Republicans running for the Senate “” including the 20 or so with a serious chance of winning “” accept the scientific consensus that humans are largely responsible for global warming.
The candidates are not simply rejecting solutions, like putting a price on carbon, though these, too, are demonized. They are re-running the strategy of denial perfected by Mr. Cheney a decade ago, repudiating years of peer-reviewed findings about global warming and creating an alternative reality in which climate change is a hoax or conspiracy.
Dick Cheney Republicans — that about sums up the GOP today (see “Has anyone in U.S. history made more Americans less safe than Dick Cheney?” and below).
American conservatives are unique to the extent to which they have been bought and paid for by Big Oil, fossil fuel interests, and corporate polluters, as previously noted (see UK’s conservative Foreign Secretary: “You cannot have food, water, or energy security without climate security” and National Journal: “The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones”).
It’s hard to see how the nation and the world can avert catastrophic warming as long as the GOP lives in an alternative reality somewhere other than planet Eaarth.
You may be wondering who the NYT says is the exception among Republicans running for Senate. Their must-read editorial continues:
Some candidates are emphatic in their denial, like the Nevada Republican Sharron Angle, who flatly rejects “the man-caused climate change mantra of the left.” Others are merely wiggly, like California’s Carly Fiorina, who says, “I’m not sure.” Yet, over all (the exception being Mark Kirk in Illinois), the Republicans are huddled around an amazingly dismissive view of climate change.
Well, Kirk has expressed an understanding of climate science in the past (as has John McCain and Fiorina, for that matter), but now he says as a Senator he would oppose the moderate, business-friendly climate bill he supported in the House (see “Dawn of the brain-dead Senate”).
A few may genuinely believe global warming is a left-wing plot. Others may be singing the tune of corporate benefactors. And many Republicans have seized on the cap-and-trade climate bill as another way to paint Democrats as out-of-control taxers.
In one way or another, though, all are custodians of a strategy whose guiding principle has been to avoid debate about solutions to climate change by denying its existence “” or at least by diminishing its importance. The strategy worked, destroying hopes for Congressional action while further confusing ordinary citizens for whom global warming was already a remote and complex matter. It was also remarkably heavy-handed.
According to Congressional inquiries, White House officials, encouraged by Mr. Cheney’s office, forced the Environmental Protection Agency to remove sections on climate change from separate reports in 2002 and 2003. (Christine Todd Whitman, then the E.P.A. administrator, has since described the process as “brutal.”)
The administration also sought to control or censor Congressional testimony by federal employees and tampered with other reports in order to inject uncertainty into the climate debate and minimize threats to the environment.
Nothing, it seemed, could crack the administration’s denial “” not Tony Blair of Britain and other leaders who took climate change seriously; not Mrs. Whitman (who eventually quit after being undercut by Mr. Cheney, who worked for the energy company Halliburton before he became vice president and received annual checks while in office); and certainly not the scientists.
In 2007, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its most definitive statement on the human contribution to climate change, Mr. Cheney insisted that there was not enough evidence to just “sort of run out and try to slap together some policy that’s going to try to solve the problem.” To which Mrs. Whitman, by then in private life, said: “I don’t see how he can say that with a straight face anymore.”
Nowadays, it is almost impossible to recall that in 2000, George W. Bush promised to cap carbon dioxide, encouraging some to believe that he would break through the partisan divide on global warming. Until the end of the 1990s, Republicans could be counted on to join bipartisan solutions to environmental problems. Now they’ve disappeared in a fog of disinformation, an entire political party parroting the Cheney line.
Dick Cheney is the person who killed Bush’s proposal to regulate CO2 emissions from electric utilities. Indeed, it is doubtful that Bush had particularly strong opinions on any major energy or environmental issue. Cheney after all is the one who put together Bush’s entire energy plan.
Cheney led the effort to block all EPA action on climate and censor U.S. scientists from even telling the American public about the dangers posed by global warming as the Center for American Progress Action Fund detailed in a report (see “Dick Cheney didn’t get memo on shifting from denial to delay”):
Last October, Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee about the “Human Impacts of Global Warming.” Gerberding told the committee that global warming “is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans,” but she gave few specifics, instead focusing on the CDC’s current preparation plans. Soon after Gerberding delivered her testimony, CDC officials revealed that the White House had “eviscerated” her testimony by editing it down from 14 pages to four”¦. In a letter responding to questions by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) yesterday, former EPA official Jason Burnett revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and the Council on Environmental Quality pushed to “remove from the testimony any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change.”
CHENEY’S MALIGN ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCE: In his letter to Boxer, Burnett revealed that Cheney’s office had also objected in January to congressional testimony by EPA administrator Stephen Johnson that “greenhouse gas emissions harm the environment.” According to Burnett, an official in Cheney’s office “called to tell me that his office wanted the language changed.” Such actions are not unusual for Cheney. Since taking office, he has taken “a decisive role to undercut long-standing environmental regulations for the benefit of business” while undermining any real action to combat climate change. In December, after Johnson “answered the pleas of industry executives” by announcing his decision to deny California the right to regulate greenhouse gases from vehicles, it was revealed that executives from the auto industry had appealed directly to Cheney. EPA staffers told the Los Angeles Times that Johnson “made his decision” only after Cheney met with the executives. Since February 2007, Cheney has quietly maneuvered to exert increased control over environmental policy by federal agencies “” particularly the regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.
One could write an entire book on Cheney’s single-handed efforts to destroy a livable climate for your children, grandchildren, and the next 50 generations of Americans. I suspect someone will. In 2007, the Washington Post wrote a long story about his role promoting pollution: “The vice president has intervened in many cases to undercut long-standing environmental rules for the benefit of business.”
Cheney is too old to see the worst of what his policies will do. But history will not be kind to Cheney and Bush. Assuming that we don’t avert catastrophic global warming, they will be seen as two of the worst leaders in U.S. history “” a judgment some have already issued: “Bush will go down in history as possibly a person who has doomed the planet.” Make that, “Bush and Cheney.”