By Diane Roberts
People, it’s too hot to be this stupid.
A new NPR/PBS/Marist poll shows that nearly three-fourths of Republicans don’t think the climate crisis is a big deal and we don’t need to do anything about it.
I guess the good news is that 56 percent of all political persuasions say the climate crisis requires urgent action. That includes nearly nine out of 10 Democrats and over half of Independents.
The Earth is being held hostage by the party of ignorance, “conservatives” who no longer want to conserve anything other than white privilege. They’ve become a death cult, denying what’s obvious to rational, literate people. Who cares if the seas are boiling? As long as they “own the libs.”
It’s not as if the science is unsettled. The data are solid; we’ve been shown over and over again what’s happening and told what to do about it.
But Republicans see reducing fossil fuel use and developing sustainable energy as just another front in the culture war, right up there with reproductive rights, education, race, gender issues, gay rights, and those satanic vaccines.
This is the hottest summer in 120,000 years. Accelerated climate change is causing sea water temperatures to reach 100 degrees off the coast of Florida; parts of Canada are bursting into flame; the Southwest is scorched; places in Europe where a summer high temperature used to be maybe 80F, are now watching their thermometers break 98.
But who are you going to believe, Republicans or a bunch of lying climatologists who have the receipts?
It’s common to characterize our inability to address the skin-searing, ocean-boiling, crop-killing climate crisis as “planetary suicide.” That’s partly true. Those of us in the greenhouse gas emitting world are indeed colluding in our own destruction.
Murder for hire
But this is also a long murder for hire, contracted by Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Bank, the Republican Party, and even a few Democrats. The corporations have understood the dangers of climate change for more than 40 years.
They don’t care. To them, high carbon emissions smell like money.
Not only are right-wingers ignoring our frying earth, they’re determined to push it to the brink. The Heartland Institute, a cabal of ultra-libertarians initially famous for questioning the link between tobacco and cancer, now peddles climate denial to schools, shipping out propaganda masquerading as “common sense” to educators, hoping to influence schools.
Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and Baptist preacher, now publishes a “Kids’ Guide to the Truth About Climate Change,” a brightly-colored booklet of misinformation and senseless graphs assuring children the climate has always changed, greenhouse gases have fluctuated for thousands of years, and if “teachers and the media” say different, it’s because they “have an agenda.”
Dismissing the climate crisis is now a full-time job for rightwing think tanks and politicians, determined to protect the likes of Exxon, Shell, and BP. The Heritage Foundation has concocted a policy document for the next president (assuming that’s a Republican) demanding Washington nix Joe Biden’s climate initiatives, gut the EPA, ramp up oil and gas production, and maybe sell off public lands for drilling and mining.
A Wall Street Journal editorial board member (who traffics in unhinged opinions) complains that Wall Street Journal reporters (who deal in facts) shouldn’t keep writing about the climate. Such scary stuff causes “mental disorders,” she says.
It’s just a little heat wave. Calm down. Jump in the pool!
In Washington, Republicans work themselves into fits, insisting that climate change is some kind of woke fabrication. During a hearing in July, some of the House’s dimmer bulbs tried to bully U.S. climate envoy John Kerry. They pulled out spurious charts to “prove” the Earth isn’t warming and attacked Kerry on the ground that his political science degree from Yale isn’t real “science,” so how dare he lecture the intellectual giants of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on greenhouse gasses?
Not surprisingly, two congressmen from Florida particularly distinguished themselves, behaving like third graders denied another hit of Skittles, lobbing juvenile insults. Rep. Cory Mills, who famously handed out “commemorative hand-grenades” when he first took office, snarked about Kerry flying in on his “private jet.”
Another member of the Brain Trust, the Treasure Coast’s Brian Mast, accused Kerry of pushing a “far-left radical agenda.”
Kerry doesn’t own a private jet, and you can bet they knew that. Moreover, his “agenda” might better be characterized as helping save us from the deadly consequences of our own idiocy.
But since when has reality mattered to the likes of Mills, Mast, and the rest of the Idiot Caucus?
Meanwhile, Florida burns and floods and our supposed leaders don’t give a damn. On April 12 this year, Fort Lauderdale got hit with 26 inches of rain in one day. Streets were under two feet of water; airport runways were awash; houses destroyed.
Ron DeSantis didn’t show up. He was on book tour.
After former Gov. Rick Scott, a man so spooked by the politics of climate change that he forbade state employees to even say “climate change,” decamped for the U.S. Senate, Floridians felt a tiny shiver of hope. Newly-inaugurated Gov. Ron DeSantis named a chief science officer.
Could it be that the state would finally get serious about mitigating greenhouse gases?
That would be a super-sized hell, no.
DeSantis talks a big game about “resilience” and “saving the Everglades,” and he put together a “task force” to tackle toxic blue-green algae — a huge health risk — but he hasn’t done a damned thing to slow down production of the greenhouse gases that are killing us or force polluters to stop dumping filth in our waters.
He refused to accept federal money to foster energy efficiency and renewables such as wind and solar because, I suppose, it might give him Joe Biden cooties.
He ignores the increasingly vicious hurricanes, the sunny-day floods, the coastal erosion, the ecological collapse of our waterways, and that thick, stinking blanket of poisonous algal bloom choking the life out of Lake Okeechobee.
To slow down our carbon production, we need to stop encouraging fossil fuel extraction and embrace solar and wind. But DeSantis and his party refuse.
To clean up our impaired waters, the governor and Legislature must stop the sugar, dairy, and phosphate interests from using them as a sewer system.
To save the planet, we have to push the nations of the earth — especially the U.S., India and China — to stop gagging our skies with noisome emissions. We know this. The Republican Party knows this. Ron DeSantis knows this.
Yet he shrugs and signs laws to help developers drain, dredge, and pave what’s left of Florida.
After all, these are the people funding his campaign.
DeSantis says he disapproves of “politicizing the weather” and refuses to, as he puts it, “do any left-wing stuff.”
Left-wing stuff like caring for Floridians suffering killer storms, undrinkable water, and roaring floods?
As my colleague Craig Pittman often reminds us, during hurricane season Florida is trying to kill us.
Republican Party nihilism is trying to kill us — all of us, every day.
Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo. She has been a member of the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times–back when that was the Tampa Bay Times’s name–and a long-time columnist for the paper in both its iterations. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books.