Republicans Can’t Get Their Climate Story Straight

Bill Scher

In Tuesday’s debate, both Rand Paul and Jeb Bush tried to offer a new Republican approach to climate, and both got tied up in knots.

Back in February, with an eye towards expanding the Republican party appeal with young voters, Paul voted for a Senate amendment that acknowledges human contribution to climate change (his rivals Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz voted against it.)

Asked about that vote by one of the moderators, Paul fell back on debunked climate science denial: “While I do think that man may have a role in our climate, I think nature also has a role. The planet’s 4.5 billion years old, we’ve been through geologic age after geologic age. We’ve had times when the temperatures been warmer, we’ve had times when the temperatures been colder. We’ve had times when the carbon in the atmosphere’s been higher. So, I think before we — we need to look before we leap.”

As ThinkProgress’ Emily Atkins notes, “Homo sapiens literally did not exist the last time earth’s atmosphere had this much carbon dioxide in it.”

So much for broadening the Republican base.

Bush then jumped in, trying to argue that Obama deserves no credit for the recent reduction in carbon emissions:

“We’ve had a 10% reduction in carbon emissions, and it isn’t because of Solyndra. It isn’t because of the central planners in Washington D.C. It’s because we’ve had a great American success story, the explosion of natural gas. Taking two existing technologies, and applying it through innovation has created lower carbon emissions, lower energy costs — 40% of all the economic activity in the age of Obama has come from the energy sector, and Hillary Clinton wants to suppress that. We — I think we ought to be expanding this. High growth is the path to lower carbon, and more jobs.”

That is a very tortured effort to deny Obama credit.

The truth is, natural gas is booming because it’s more affordable than coal, thanks in part to EPA regulations that favor lower carbon sources energy. Obama has resisted calls to ban natural gas fracking, opting for solutions that capture methane emissions instead. And while natural gas is a big part of the story, increased renewable energy usage, fostered by Obama’s policies, is also contributing to the reduction in carbon emissions.

Because of, not despite of, Obama’s energy policies, “40% of all the economic activity in the age of Obama has come from the energy sector” while carbon pollution has been cut. But credit where credit is due is not part of the Republican playbook.

At least Bush avoided any outright climate science denial. That’s about as much evolving as we got from the Republicans on Tuesday night.

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