Most people today believe that the U.S. Republican Party (“GOP”) firmly denies climate change. How will it impact the party and its credibility once, presumably, more evidence amasses that confirms the views of the overwhelming majority of the scientific community? The Republican Party’s stance on climate change is a complicated one…
Current Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed doubt in the science behind climate change, and his policy proposals reflect that doubt.  Additionally, he also has called global warming a “hoax” and “bullshit” via Twitter.  Trump’s denial of climate change has also led him to make false claims. For example, on July 26, 2016, Trump told Bill O’Reilly at Fox News that “people” at the Copenhagen conference in 2009 were “sending out emails, scientists practically calling it a hoax, and they were laughing at it,”. However, an independent international investigation set up by the University of East Anglia found no such wrongdoing or manipulation. 
First of all, although he has denied the existence of climate change as a candidate, Trump has actually accepted the reality of global warming as a businessman. For example, Trump International Golf Links Ireland applied for a permit to build a sea wall to protect the Irish golf course from “global warming and its effects.” The permit explicitly cites global warming and its consequences – increased erosion due to rising sea levels and extreme weather this century – as a chief justification for building the structure. 
Secondly, the Republican Party has not always denied climate change. Most recently, other GOP front runners such as Ted Cruz have denied man-made climate change, and two years ago only 8 Republicans in Congress, out of 278 in the caucus, made on-the-record comments accepting the reality of man-made global warming.  However, only eight years ago, the 2008 Republican platform acknowledged that human activity had increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and that “common sense dictates that the United States should take measured and reasonable steps.” The platform went on to say that “Republicans support technology-driven, market-based solutions that will decrease emissions” and “mitigate the impact of climate change where it occurs.”  And even further back, a Republican president – Richard Nixon – signed into law the Clean Air Act, approved the Council on Environmental Quality and established the two federal agencies most focused on climate change today: the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 
Additionally, not every Republican politician denies climate change – some on the very contrary. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger (Republican governor of California 2003-2011) has been one of the most outspoken U.S. governors to tackle global warming and reduce emissions  and has implemented significant environmental protection legislation in California.  Also, former GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has spoken in favor of investing in green energy . Republican Senator of South Carolina Lindsey Graham has even called out members of his party who dismiss climate change. 
Some people suggest Republicans politicians’ climate change denial stems from their pressure from the oil lobby. In fact, 80% of the energy industry’s contributions have gone to Republicans, who have implemented tax breaks and other favorable legislation for the oil industry on a nationwide scale . What some people view as lobbying, others see as corruption – either way, a causal relationship is difficult to prove and not the topic of this post. Regardless, oil companies themselves have actually accepted climate change and announced or implemented significant changes. 
Finally, many Republican politicians may escape responsibility after all by manipulating semantics, i.e. accepting “climate change”, but denying that it is “man-made”.  This causal relationship between “man-made” and “climate change” is obviously more difficult to prove and therefore, in their view, still absolves them of any requirement to take action to reduce emissions.
To summarize, in my view, a potential origin of this problem is the binary and reactionary nature of the U.S. two-party system which causes the other party to automatically adopt the opposite view of an issue. However, given the increasingly overwhelming scientific evidence, the Republican Party needs to take a clear and decisive position and acknowledge man-made climate change if it is to maintain its credibility. If the GOP is looking to differentiate itself from the Democratic Party, it should do so via offering innovative ideas on the implementation of green policy – what to tackle first, how to tackle it, and how to finance it.
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