The stark difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump on climate change is now well known. Secretary Clinton said climate change is “one of the most urgent threats of our time, and we have no choice but to rise and meet it.” On the other hand, Mr. Trump has said that climate change is a hoax.
Similarly, the Democratic platform and Republican platform are practically opposites of each other. The Democratic platform calls climate change “a defining challenge of our time” and supports ”using every tool available to reduce emissions now.” The Republican platform dismissively claims that “environmental extremists” in the Democratic Party are working to “sustain the illusion of an environmental crisis.”
Just as remarkable as the partisan difference on climate change is just how far the Republican Party has moved itself over the past eight years on the issue. The 2008 Republican platform acknowledged that human activity had increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and that “common sense dictates that the United States should take measured and reasonable steps.” The platform went on to say that “Republicans support technology-driven, market-based solutions that will decrease emissions” and “mitigate the impact of climate change where it occurs.” A Republican uttering these words today would likely be seen as a liberal pariah by their party.
Democratic Platform Calls For WWII-Scale Mobilization To Solve Climate CrisisClimate CREDIT: Mark Stehle/Invision for NRG/AP Images This month, the full Democratic Platform Committee approved the…thinkprogress.orgIn 2016, that call for reducing emissions is gone and replaced with policy ultimatums that would make it very difficult to cut emissions. The Republican platform proposes to ”forbid the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide.” Contrary to the call for market-based solutions in 2008, the 2016 platform opposes “any carbon tax” and promises to “do away with” the Clean Power Plan. According to the national association representing state environmental agencies, the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan encourages and provides for the adoption of market-based approaches to control and reduce carbon pollution.
To be sure, the GOP platforms in both 2008 and 2016 explicitly support oil and coal by proposing to increase production and easing permitting requirements. But the support is framed extremely differently in the two platforms. In 2008, the GOP said that “In the long run, American production should move to zero-emission sources, and our nation’s fossil fuel resources are the bridge to that emissions-free future.” That platform also stated that the party would “aggressively support technological advances to reduce our petroleum dependence” — even supporting the doubling of the gas mileage of cars and trucks and favorably mentioning electric vehicles as a way to “usher in a renaissance in the American auto industry.” In 2016, the platform is silent on the nation’s oil dependence, the need to reduce emissions, or on viable alternatives to oil.
The Republican Party’s Platform Says Coal Is ‘Clean’ EnergyClimate by CREDIT: AP Photo/Jim Cole For the Republican Party, internet porn is a ” public health crisis.” Coal…thinkprogress.orgMoreover, in 2008, the Republican platform seemed to understand the need for a robust economy as well as action on climate change, arguing that the world’s poorest people “would suffer terribly if climate change is severe — just as they would if the world economy itself were to be crippled. We must not allow either outcome.” These dual goals are in fact achievable. Between 2005 and 2014, for instance, energy-related carbon emissions in the United States fell 8 percent while the economy grew by 13 percent. The 2016 platform omits these goals, ignoring the fact that millions of Americans have already lowered their energy costs by taking advantage of a booming renewable energy industry, and that severe weather is costing American families billions of dollars in damages.
The United States, which is responsible for about 16 percent of global carbon pollution on an annual basis, cannot solve climate change by itself. In 2008, the Republican Party recognized that and called for global efforts to address climate change in their platform:
Because the issue of climate change is global, it must become a truly global concern as well. All developed and developing economies, particularly India and China, can make significant contributions in dealing with the matter. It would be unrealistic and counterproductive to expect the U.S. to carry burdens which are more appropriately shared by all.
In December 2015, more than 190 governments, including the governments of India and China, came together to adopt the Paris climate agreement which establishes a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change. Yet this year, the Republican platform says the party “rejects” the Paris climate agreement and its goal.
The platform even discounts U.S. participation in the agreement as President Obama’s “personal commitment” and states that the agreement can’t be binding upon the United States until it is submitted to the Senate for consideration. This requirement for submission to the Senate would be in stark contrast to U.S. law and practice of international agreement-making in the modern era. Only 6 percent of internationally binding agreements from 1939 to 2013 were treaties, which require the formal consent of a two-thirds majority of the Senate. The remainder were executive agreements, which can be concluded based on the authority of a prior treaty, a statute, or the president’s constitutional authorities. Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement would cast the U.S. as an untrustworthy diplomatic partner and would compromise the truly global effort that climate action has become.
Finally, in 2008, the Republican platform argued: “Because Republicans believe that solutions to the risk of global climate change will be found in the ingenuity of the American people,” monetary climate prizes should be awarded for those who solve the challenges of climate change. Ironically, this seems akin to one element of Secretary Clinton’s ambitious climate plan: establishing challenge grants to help deploy renewable energy and address climate change.
Every four years a political party’s platform encapsulates the party’s position on matters of important national policy. The Republican Party’s 2016 platform is a testament to how far to the right the GOP has moved in just eight years. Even as the global will to address climate change has strengthened into concrete action, the GOP has retreated from even providing a sober assessment of the challenges we face and the opportunities we have.