Planet Days
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Planet Days

Amid record wildfire and hurricane seasons, Republicans’ climate strategy remains nonexistent

Hours before Hurricane Laura made landfall last week, United States Vice President Mike Pence took center stage at the Republican National Convention.

Stern-faced with a clenched jaw, Pence offered a sober account of the perils of climate change — how it is already here, wreaking havoc on our communities and those most vulnerable — before laying out a detailed plan that called for a just, sustainable green recovery.

If only.

Instead, Pence said that his “prayers are with” those in the path of Hurricane Laura. He failed to mention climate change at all until the end of the speech — only to bash Biden’s climate policy.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who took the stage a night later, offered his “thoughts” to those affected by Hurricane Laura. Like Pence, Trump acknowledged climate change once, this time, lauding over how he “ended the unfair and costly Paris Climate Accord,” the 2015 international agreement that aims to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (the U.S. is the only country to file paperwork to withdraw from the agreement).

Shortly after Pence’s speech, Hurricane Laura made landfall with 145 mph winds, jumping from a Category 1 storm to a Category 4 within 24 hours. Climate change almost certainly contributed to this rapidly intensifying storm and the already very active Atlantic hurricane season. Warming temperatures also fueled California’s record wildfires.

But after four days of speeches, not one RNC speaker mentioned climate change as a threat. In fact, for 2020, Republicans simply recycled their 2016 platform, which left out climate action.

This is in line with a party that has historically blocked climate legislation. Last year, Republicans rejected the progressive Democrats’ “Green New Deal” resolution, without offering an alternate climate plan, and most recently, they stripped climate provisions from the country’s $2 trillion COVID-19 recovery package.

Rather than wait for Republicans to face the music, though, House Democrats unveiled a 547-page climate plan in July calling for net-zero emissions by 2050. A month later, in the middle of the Republican National Convention, Senate Democrats released a plan of their own.

Neither bills are likely to get passed without a blue wave in November, and even then, it may take ending the filibuster to get it past the Senate. But the plans still indicate where the Democratic Party stands on climate.

For someone who cares about the planet, Democrats offer a pretty enticing — if imperfect — path for climate action. The problem is that voters often care about a lot of other stuff, too.

A recent Pew Research survey showed that the top three issues for voters are the economy, healthcare, and Supreme Court appointees. Climate change ranks 11th. Still, the number of Americans who feel passionately about climate change is at an all-time high, even with COVID-19 and high unemployment.

For those people who passionately care about the Planet, the choice this November is clear: It’s a choice between something or absolutely nothing.

By the way, Tropical Storm Omar just became the 15th-named storm this season.

An environmental newsroom with a flair for drama and a fanfare for Earth, informing and empowering people who prefer the planet liveable.

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Brandon Pytel

Brandon Pytel

Environmental writer living in Washington, DC. Opinions are his own.

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