Climate Denial is a Republican Problem – Not a Trump one

The international community universally condemned President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. This decision fulfills a campaign promise made by Trump, and surely isolates the United States as one of only three countries to not sign the Agreement (the other two being Nicaragua and Syria). While Trump has been the primary target for those looking to voice their displeasure at the decision, Naomi Oreskes’ The Guardian article argues that Trump’s anti-climate change stance is a reflection of decades of active resistance to environmental policies on the part of the entire Republican Party.

Oreskes highlights a number of key historical moments since the George H.W Bush administration when Republicans discarded climate change evidence, ignored the scientific community’s calls for action, and opposed legislation meant to address climate change for tenuous reasons. President Bush Sr.’s participation in the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was undermined by his own administration. Vice-President Al Gore’s carbon pricing was labelled by Republicans as damaging to the economy without evidence and President George W. Bush’s administration withdrew from the Kyoto protocol and refused to acknowledge the existence of man-made climate change. Finally, not a single Republican primary candidate in the most recent election cycle was willing to support the Clean Power Plan developed by President Obama.

Interestingly, Oreskes notes that the anti-climate change positions held by a majority of the Republican establishment doesn’t necessarily reflect the majority positions of their voters. A recent Yale Program poll “showing that a majority of Republicans in every state support American participation in the Paris Climate Accord”. These political realities appear to have made little difference to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and the other Republican Senators who advocated for Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord.

In spite of the seemingly partisan implications of the position, Naomi Oreskes concludes her article by stating that in order to address climate change, it is important to “fix the problem, not the blame… the greatest obstacle to American action on climate change for the past 20 years has been the Republican party, and this opposition has proven itself impervious to argument”. While Trump has become a prominent symbol for climate denial in the Republican Party, climate advocacy must oppose the much larger Republican establishment’s entrenched opposition to climate change.

Oreskes, Naomi. “The Republican Party – Not Trump – Is the Biggest Obstacle to Climate.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 5 June 2017, Accessed 9 June 2017.


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