The GOP Platform and the Environment Mix Like Oil and Water

Even with a hurricane on their heels, any mention of climate change was scrubbed from the agenda.

polar bears in the arctic
Arctic ice is at record low levels, but the Republican Party platform says there’s no need for concern. (Ho New/Reuters)
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

“Over the past four years, the Republican Party has undergone a fairly dramatic shift in its approach to energy and environmental issues,” reports The Washington Post. “Global warming has disappeared entirely from the party’s list of concerns. Clean energy has become an afterthought. Fossil fuels loom larger than ever. And one way to see this shift clearly is to compare the party’s 2008 and 2012 platforms.”

The Post goes on to quote a section from the 2008 platform called “Addressing Climate Change Responsibly,” noting that it began like this: “The same human economic activity that has brought freedom and opportunity to billions has also increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. While the scope and longterm consequences of this are the subject of ongoing scientific research, common sense dictates that the United States should take measured and reasonable steps today to reduce any impact on the environment. Those steps, if consistent with our global competitiveness will also be good for our national security, our energy independence, and our economy.”

That positive tone is in stark contrast to the 2012 platform: “That section devoted to climate change? Gone. Instead, the platform flatly opposes ‘any and all cap and trade legislation’ to curtail greenhouse gases. It demands that Congress ‘take quick action to prohibit the EPA from moving forward with new greenhouse gas regulations.’ It criticizes the Obama administration’s National Security Strategy for elevat[ing] ‘climate change’ to the level of a ‘severe threat’ equivalent to foreign aggression.’ ”

MORE: Hurricanes and Climate Change: A Marriage Made in Hell

And during his speech last night accepting the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney even seemed to mock the idea that we should be concerned with environmental issues. Yahoo reported that he said, “ ‘President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet,’ Romney said, a line that prompted laughter on the RNC floor. ‘My promise is to help you and your family.’ ”

Environment & Energy Publishing points out the irony in the party’s platform position, noting, “Many Republicans poised to stream into Florida for their nominating convention next week have doubts about climate change, if polls are right. Yet scientists say the GOP's swashbuckling event is happening within sight of climate impacts.Tampa is Florida's second-largest metropolis, with dense clusters of homes, hotels and an arena hugging the curved shoreline of massive Tampa Bay, a two-headed body of water that merges with the Gulf of Mexico. That makes the region vulnerable to rising ocean water, farther-reaching storm surges and, perhaps, stronger hurricanes, experts say.”

Salon made a related observation. saying, “The fact that Hurricane Isaac is threatening the Republican National Convention is not, as some Democrats have argued, evidence of karma. But it is evidence of climate change—undermining the best efforts of Republicans to deny that it even exists.”

And one thing The Post article doesn’t point out is that despite what past Republican platforms may have said or promised with regard to climate change (2004: “We support President Bush's Clear Skies proposal to reduce power plant emissions.”) once in the White House, it was a different story.

TheDailyGreen named George W. Bush the “Worst Environmental President in History,” saying, “Bush rolled back laws (and stymied enforcement) on air pollution and standards for arsenic in drinking water. He pushed to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other federal lands to destructive drilling, promoted mountaintop removal coal mining, stepped up logging on public lands, slashed support for family planning around the world, fought against fuel economy and other efficiency standards and deliberately dragged his heels on the issue of climate change.”

Republican hero Ronald Reagan wasn’t far behind, coming in at number two on the list. Their reasoning: “Setting the tone for much of his policy, Reagan famously (and bizarrely) said ‘trees cause more pollution than automobiles do,’ and that if ‘you've seen one tree you've seen them all’ . . . [his] industry-friendly appointees worked tirelessly to roll back environmental regulations, from the Clean Air Act to the Clean Water Act. In the administration's first year, there was a 79 percent decline in the number of enforcement cases filed from regional offices to EPA headquarters, and a 69 percent decline in the number of cases filed from the EPA to the Department of Justice.”

So perhaps what Romney said last night, and the wording in this year’s platform, is really just a matter of telling it like it is. A straightforward, “what you read is what you get.”

How do you feel about the 2012 platform statement on environmental issues?

Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence | TakePart.com

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