If I’ve learned anything listening to Republican presidential candidates campaigning through New Hampshire, it’s that climate denial isn’t what it used to be.
It’s more frenetic and disorganized than ever before.
First, we have some old-fashioned deniers, like Ted Cruz, who says warming hasn’t occurred for 17 years. Not sure where he got those numbers, given that 13 of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000.
When asked about climate change, other candidates say things like,
“I believe the climate is changing, because there has never been a moment where the climate has not been changing.”- Marco Rubio
“It is an issue… but do we tell people the truth, that [wind technology] slaughters millions of birds?!” – Carly Fiorina
“Climate change is real… no, I will not leave fossil fuels in the ground.” – Chris Christie
The Republican candidates who do recognize the science – which says unequivocally that we must keep at least 80% of fossil fuels in the ground – simultaneously deny the imperative to stop digging for more. They spew mumbo-jumbo about how phasing out fossil fuels “will send us into poverty,” and then, to avoid seeming totally out of touch, gesture towards the growth of renewables, saying they’ll include them too in the energy mix, like children on a playground.
The elephant in the room here (pun intended) is this: due to growing demand for energy, and the presence of a fossil fuel industry hell-bent on burning its reserves, combusting carbon can and will occur along with renewable energy growth. In this scenario, growing renewable energy won’t make a difference. The bottom line is that we simply can’t continue using “all types of energy” – even ExxonMobil knows that.
This is precisely why Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VM) introduced a bill today that would end new leases for fossil fuel companies on public lands. Half the fossil fuels underneath U.S. soil are on public lands, and our next president has the power to keep all unleased fossil fuels – 450 billion tons of carbon – in the ground. Given that we can only afford to burn 1000 billion more tons of fossil fuels worldwide, there is no credible climate scenario that includes digging up and burning the fossil fuels on public lands.
World leaders agreed in June that warming should not exceed a 2° Celsius rise if we want to maintain a habitable planet. Without serious commitments to halt fossil fuel extraction, we’ll quickly blow through all the reserves we can afford to burn, meaning catastrophic harms to people worldwide, with the poor and vulnerable hit the hardest.
Just a year from the presidential election, voters are looking for candidates with real solutions to climate change: ones who are willing to bite the bullet, keep fossil fuels in the ground, and spearhead the transition to a new economy. None of the Republican candidates are anywhere close to offering such solutions. In total disarray, they’re still denying the facts.
Elaine Colligan is a member of the 350 Action New Hampshire Field Team.