It's Official: The GOP Field Will Have No Environmental Advocate


Photo via IowaPolitics.com via Flickr/CC BY-SA

It's hard to fathom that just three years ago, the Republican presidential candidate had wholly endorsed cap and trade. As in, John McCain repeatedly pledged to fight climate change by putting a price on carbon emissions. The prospect of seeing such a proposal from a Republican today is absolutely unthinkable: Today's crop of candidates lurch over one another, racing to prove they abhor any solution to global warming the most. So extreme has the political climate become that it's now a liability to even admit that you understand the basic advisory of the nation's scientists.

And it's not just climate. Between threatening to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, opposing pollution regulation, and relentlessly supporting the fossil fuel industry's expansion, the environmental ideas these candidates offer up range from discouraging to terrifying. One thing is now clear: There will not be a single GOP candidate who is concerned with protecting the environment in any serious way at all. To get a sense of how radicalized environmental politics has come in just three years, just take a look at the onetime GOP leader discussing, openly, his thoughts on climate change:

Now, John McCain was no environmental champion -- and yet he endorsed an eminently reasonable, market-driven solution to mitigating the climate crisis. Today, the two candidates -- John Huntsman and Mitt Romney -- who even acknowledge the existence of climate change are nonetheless rushing to convince voters that they will do nothing about it.

At the debates last night, Michele Bachmann assailed Tim Pawlenty for ever having tried to put a price on carbon or enact green policies. Pawlenty has since backtracked to the point where he not only considers addressing climate change "a mistake" but engages in outright denial that it is happening. Also in the full-fledged denial corner are Herman Cain, Bachman herself, and now, latecomer Rick Perry, the Texas Governor who ignores climate science while encourages residents of his drought-stricken state to pray for rain.

Meanwhile, Bachmann and Newt Gingrich have made repeated calls to dismantle the EPA, and even the moderate John Huntsman has claimed that the agency is in the midst of a "regulatory reign of terror". Romney, for his part, has remained silent on most issues, possibly because whatever he might say would surely contradict something else he said last week. They are united in their belief that we should engage in more domestic drilling, and most wish to continue the expensive subsidies we continue to hand out to oil companies.

Also telling: In all the coverage I've read about the Republican candidates, not one has suggested a single positive idea about how we might better protect the environment. It is deflating indeed -- not a single one of them will seek in any way to preserve the natural beauty and abundant resources that helped the nation prosper. Pity.

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