The Growing Republican Rift Over Climate Change

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As the world gears up for the climate negotiations kicking off in Paris next week, Republicans in the United States are doing everything in their power to make sure that no climate deal takes place without their approval (which will never happen.)

But there are a few Republicans in leadership positions in Washington that have had enough of being labeled the “anti-science” party, and they are hoping to turn the GOP onto the idea that climate change is very real.

Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte, Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, and Mark Kirk have created a new committee that will meet periodically to talk about environment and energy issues. The group, called the Senate Energy and Environment Working Group, is the first national effort by Senate Republicans to address the threats of climate change and to address our continued dependence on fossil fuels.

Over in the House, a group of 11 Republican Representatives have put forward a resolution, H. Res. 424, “Expressing the commitment of the House of Representatives to conservative environmental stewardship,” according to Slate.com.

These moves by Republicans signal that the party itself might be ready to buck the establishment and the big money that flows to the GOP from the fossil fuel industry.

But in order for these groups to be successful, they have to overcome stiff opposition from the old guard, fossil fuel-funded members of the GOP that want to make sure that the U.S. takes absolutely no action on climate change.

Leading that charge, to absolutely no one’s surprise, is Senator James Inhofe.

The upcoming Paris talks are expected to lay the groundwork for a global climate fund, and the United States is projected to invest roughly $3 billion into this fund. But Inhofe and 36 of his fellow Senate Republicans have issued a letter to President Obama letting him know that he will not be able to invest any money into a climate fund without the approval of the Senate.

According to The Hill, Inhofe says: “When it comes to the financing: I know a lot of people over there, the 192 countries, assume that Americans are going to line up and joyfully pay $3 billion into this fund…But that’s not going to happen.”

But Inhofe and crew are already behind on this issue, as Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley has inserted a provision into an appropriations bill that will give the government the authority to contribute to a global climate fund without the approval of Congress.

The reason this climate fund is so important is because it will help developing nations deal with the inevitable impacts of climate change. And since we now have mounting evidence that shows that climate change helps to exacerbate global terrorism threats, this fund could help curb violence and instability across the globe.

The terrorism threat could be playing a role in the new attitude that some Congressional Republicans are displaying towards climate change, but another factor could be the currently unfolding Exxon saga. Now that we have evidence that the largest oil company in the world knew that climate change was real back in 1977 — and that Exxon covered up this information for nearly 40 years — it becomes harder and harder for anyone to deny that it is currently taking place.

In the short term, the anti-science Republicans in Washington may win. But in the long run, they will ultimately lose because it will be the entire world against a handful of fossil fuel-funded Republicans in America.

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his articles have appeared on The Huffington Post, Alternet, and The Progressive Magazine. He has worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mike Papantonio, and Sam Seder since August 2004, and is currently the co-host and producer of the program. He also currently serves as the co-host of Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV, a daily program airing nightly at 8:30pm eastern. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

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