Two powerful forces are headed to Tampa on Monday: the GOP Convention and Tropical Storm Isaac. Isaac may not make landfall, but the storm is likely to send gusty winds and heavy rains into the city.
It’s hard to escape the irony of an intense storm hurtling toward the Republican Convention. Extreme weather is a hallmark of climate change—a topic GOP lawmakers avoid like the plague.
While individual weather events are hard to link to climate change, global warming makes its presence known in trends, and there is no doubt America is in the throes of troubling trends.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, July was the hottest month since record keeping began nearly 120 years ago. More than 60 percent of the nation is in still in the grip of severe drought, while earlier in the summer, freak storms flooded communities with intense downpours like the derecho storm that barreled across more than 700 miles, left 23 people dead and 1.4 million people without power from Illinois to Virginia in late June.
Now Tropical Storm Isaac is arriving at the end of one of the hottest summers on record. That seems like a good opening to restart the climate conversation, but it doesn’t look like the GOP wants to talk about the weather.
The energy plan Romney released on Thursday—in New Mexico, a state gripped by drought and the biggest wildfire in its history—never mentioned the words climate change. The Republican Governors Association’s energy blueprint, released a few days before, didn’t either. Instead, both of them called for an explosive increase in the very fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.
It wasn’t always like this. Prominent GOP leaders called for climate action in the past, including Senator John McCain, Jon Huntsman, and even Romney. As recently as last June Governor Romney told a crowd: “I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that…And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions.” When he was governor, he supported the regional cap and trade program to reduce carbon emissions that Massachusetts belonged. He even said, “I am convinced it is good for business.”
But then his commitment to scientific fact faded in the face of Tea Party influence and fossil fuel donors. In October 2011, he said: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”
This is the worst kind of climate denial in my book. Romney seems to know climate change is a threat, but he chooses to ignore it. That means he is ignoring the suffering of millions of Americans and the destruction of our natural resources.
Right now, farmers are watching their crops die, ranchers are culling their herds, senior citizens are experiencing heat-related illnesses, and people are losing their homes and livelihoods in the wake of floods and wildfires. And it’s not just about one bad summer. Four out of five Americans live in counties that have had natural disasters declared since 2006, some of which were influenced by climate change.
If GOP leaders have any intention of representing the concerns of ordinary Americans, they have to start talking about the extreme weather events pummeling our communities—and the climate change that causes them. They can begin by giving some thought to the implications of Tropical Storm Isaac.