Republicans in Congress are out of step with the American public on climate

A majority of Americans understand that climate change is a problem. A recent poll found that about six in ten adults in the United States say the effects of global warming are already happening and that a slightly larger proportion believe human activities are responsible for the rise in Earth’s temperature. Another study found that 65% of Americans think climate change is an emergency.

Americans’ concerns about the climate translate into approval of the action: 83% favor tax breaks for public services that develop renewable energies and 62% favor the taxation of companies for their greenhouse gas emissions Such opinions are not shared only by Democratic voters. A survey just before the 2020 election, more than three-quarters of Republican voters favored government action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s not just Americans who are concerned about the climate and are pushing for action. The American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association representing the US oil and gas industry, ad in March 2021, a list of actions it favors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including a carbon price. Many big European oil and gas companies have set net emission reduction targets by 2050. US-based companies have generally not taken this step, but several come out in favor of a carbon emissions price.

Some skeptics believe that the support of the oil companies for the carbon policy is cynical, an attempt to prevent even more onerous regulation or a ploy to protect investments in natural gas or carbon capture. But while the change is tinged with cynicism, it still provides an opening for conversation and policy making.

The American financial sector is also in the game. The Climate Finance working group is made up of several professional associations of banks and financial institutions. In February 2021, the group issued a list of policy principles this would encourage funding for a low-carbon transition, including science-based policy in line with the Paris Agreement, long-term policy signals to foster innovation, and a carbon price.

Living and working in Germany for a few months, I’m often asked why America’s greenhouse gas policy is behind Europe, when the United States is going to put a price on carbon, and similar questions. The answer to these questions is Congress, where Republicans firmly oppose serious climate legislation.

Many Republican lawmakers still reject the science of climate change, a position not owned by other traditional parties in democratic countries, But rise among far-right parties in Europe. Their positions have not followed those of their constituents, or even of certain groups of companies with which they are generally aligned. After the API announcement, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the senior Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released a statement saying, “Proposals that impose a cost on carbon will hurt American families. In April, Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania ad during a hearing of a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that he planned to introduce a bill to remove the United States from the United Nations Framework Commission on Climate Change. He presented his bill, which has no chance to pass, on Earth Day.

How did we get here? Part of the problem is complete reluctance to cooperate with Democrats. The polarized atmosphere in Washington is such that it is difficult for a Republican to support anything proposed by the Biden administration, lest they be demonized by the right-wing media and the party’s militant base. A lack of honesty compounds this problem. Over the past few days there has been a surge in the political right that President Joe Biden’s climate plan wanted to severely limit Americans’ meat consumption. His plan said no such thing, but as the saying goes, a lie can travel the world while the truth ties its boots.

The climate policies proposed by Biden so far are a mix of executive action and proposals to Congress to fund climate-friendly investments. His American employment plan includes encouragement for the purchase of electric vehicles and the construction of charging stations, a clean electricity standard and tax credits for the development of clean electricity, and support for low-emission industrial processes. carbon. It’s focused more on carrots than sticks, in part because carrots are easier to get through a skeptical Congress. Yet these policies are condemned by Republicans as “socialism”. “Our better future will not come from Washington’s plans or socialist dreams”, said Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina in response to President Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress, April 28.

The situation of a political party out of step with the majority of the American people seems to be an unstable state, an imbalance that cannot stand. As an American concerned about the climate and looking towards a low carbon future, I wish it were. But the Republican Party remains united in the opposition. Even if 57% of Republican Voters Support US Jobs Plan, Republicans in Congress are say no. The anti-majority structure of the Senate gives the minority the power to block legislation and demand 60 votes for its passage. Democrats can use their tight Senate control to push support for green investments through the budget reconciliation process, and perhaps subsequently highlight the legislation’s popularity among average Republicans. But in today’s tribal political environment, will this matter? Ultimately, hope for change among Congressional Republicans rests with voters, who say they are concerned about the climate, but did not make it a central issue in determining their vote. Unless and until that changes, I fear the US climate stalemate will continue.

About Alma Ackerman

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