Ed Rogers’s piece last week on global warming is timely in a number of respects and worth reading to see how the Republicans, having lost their argument that global warming is not real and man-made, have shifted to a new argument: Global warming may be real, but the solutions cost too much and won’t work anyway. The new Republican argument against doing anything to combat global warming has moved from denial of its existence to despair of its mitigation. This is what passes for progress today in the Republican Party.
Of course, not all Republicans share this “progressive” new outlook: In 2011, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection banned the terms “global warming” and “sea-level rise” from its reports. There is, perhaps, no state in our union more vulnerable to global warming’s impacts, which have already begun to threaten Florida’s coasts and aquifers. It’s a little more difficult for a governor than a pundit to say global warming is real but that we can’t fight it. Property owners in Miami might not like to hear that. Better to stick to denial.
Rogers’s piece is timely, too, because this weekend The Post reported on an ongoing utility-led and Koch brothers-funded effort to stop homeowners from installing solar panels and selling excess energy back to the grid. Solar energy has taken on aspects of a grass-roots movement to free customers from the grip of high fossil-fuel utility bills. Large coal and oil interests are afraid of the trend, so they are working to impose new burdensome regulations and fees to make it much more difficult and expensive to compete with them. Yes, the same people who continually bash Democrats for regulatory overkill are at it themselves. All this underscores what we know: Republicans’ disdain for solving global warming isn’t because the cause is hopeless; it’s because the solutions threaten the fossil fuel industry, which has long been a mainstay of the party’s support.
For years, on global warming, Republicans pushed denial, at least until the water was up to their knees and most realized they looked ridiculous. Now they will sell despair and try to put Americans back to sleep. Their line will be something like, “Yeah, it may be happening, but we can’t do anything about it, so why worry?” But their marketing of despair reveals their fear: concern that Americans, having seen through their denial, won’t accept their fatalism either and will move even faster and further to shift from old energy sources to new ones in a race to save the planet.