On Thursday, the GOP’s Energy, Climate and Conservation Task Force announced a six-pillar plan for how the Republican Party will address climate change should it win back the House in November. That, at least, is how the party has sought to present the plan, and largely how it’s being reported. But it’s worth being clear: This six-part strategy is not a climate plan, and nobody should confuse it for one.
Though allegedly the result of a year of work from a subdivision of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s “Commitment to America,” helmed by Louisiana Congressman Garrett Graves, the new “plan” is a microwaved set of talking points that might be familiar to the tiny circle of climate reporters who are professionally obligated to pay attention to the various climate-scented things the GOP has belched out these last few years.
The six pillars themselves are a grab bag of buzzwords presumably harvested from the party’s favorite think tanks and trade associations: “Unlock American Resources,” “Let America Build,” “American Innovation,” “Beat China and Russia,” “Conservation With a Purpose,” and “Build Resilient Communities.” The policies therein, accordingly, are the same things Republicans have been asking for for as long as anyone can remember. Those include boosting domestic fossil fuel production and exports but also restoring coastal wetlands and building some renewables. Gathering even those details, though, requires reading between the lines. Specifics on the pillars are reportedly set to be rolled out over the next two months. The first (“Unlock American Resources”) exists mainly as a chaotically formatted two-page list of talking points, with recommendations limited to a list of four bills. (There is also a one-pager for those short on time.)
More interesting than what Republicans plan to do about climate change (not much!) is why they feel the need to say anything about it at all.
Republican climate posturing tends to come in two forms. The first involves proposals for carbon pricing, most notable among them, in recent years, being the Climate Leadership Council’s Baker-Shultz plan, named for two Republican White House Cabinet members turned Theranos investors, and sponsored by the country’s biggest oil and gas companies. The Baker-Schultz plan manages to grab valuable op-ed real estate every so often thanks to its roster of big-name backers and a well-funded communications department that sprinkles around words like “efficiency” and “bipartisanship” in a way that tends to soothe the editors of mainstream liberal opinion pages. Meanwhile, carbon pricing’s most high-profile Republican congressional backers have tended to lose or abandon their seats.
The second type of Republican climate posturing is statement documents like the one McCarthy and Graves put out yesterday, whose progenitors are Florida Representative and noted Venmo user Matt Gaetz’s “Green Real Deal” (2019); an election-year push in 2020 that included the Trillion Trees Act; and McCarthy’s somewhat related Energy Innovation Agenda (2021). There’s also the 75-member Conservative Climate Caucus formed last year, which “won’t endorse specific legislation to address the problem.” I’ve provided links here as a courtesy but cannot emphasize enough how little the details of these plans matter and how little time you should spend thinking about them if it is not your job to do so.
As Republicans well know, there’s no great pressure for them to do more than pay minimal lip service to the climate crisis that could render a fifth of the planet too hot for humanity. Every incentive—namely, campaign donations—points them in the opposite direction: to protect corporate polluters at all costs. An estimated 94 percent of House seats are uncompetitive thanks to organized gerrymandering efforts, and Wyoming has as many votes in the Senate as California. The GOP’s electorate is tiny and increasingly radical, in many cases existing in a different epistemic universe altogether, where global warming is more likely to be caused by Jewish space lasers than the burning of fossil fuels. And the party’s decades-long project to safeguard its power within fundamentally undemocratic institutions means that, even in the unlikely event that Democrats sweep both houses, they still can’t stop the Supreme Court from, for instance, smashing the administrative tools for regulating pollution.
The GOP does indeed have a climate plan, just not the one some poorly paid intern in Graves’s office spent an afternoon this month copy-and-pasting together from emails with the American Petroleum Institute. (Since said intern may also be the one charged with reading the Google Alerts for Garret Graves’s name, here’s a suggestion: If you’re reading this, quit your job!)
The GOP’s real climate plan consists of stuff it’s already doing: militarizing borders against nonwhite climate refugees, preserving the flow of deadly weapons to murderous police and white supremacists spouting eco-fascism, and using minority rule to safeguard private wealth from any threats it might face in a warming world. Anything else the GOP claims as part of its climate strategy is just fluff.