Why Does the GOP Still Ignore Climate Change?

Hurricane Isaac. (Photo via Flickr/NASA Goddard Photo and Video)

With Hurricane Isaac hammering Louisiana with 80 mile-per-hour winds, you would think the Republican Party might pause to consider: “Hey, what’s with all this crazy weather?” New Orleans, after all, is just a short trip around the Gulf of Mexico from Tampa, where the GOP is holding their Republican National Convention. And it’s clear they’re aware that Isaac actually exists, since they shortened the convention from four days to three—not necessarily because Tampa was going to get hit, but just to avoid the “optics” of a big Republican party occurring while New Orleans floods. After all, George W. Bush didn’t avail himself too well during Katrina.

But instead of acknowledging the fact that climate change exists and is responsible for the increasing weather extremes—more hurricanes, more snowstorms, more tornadoes, more scorching-drought-filled summers—the Republicans continue to not just ignore climate change, but mock President Obama for being concerned about it. The only mention of climate change in the entire 2012 Republican Platform isn’t in the environmental/energy section, but in a critique of Obama’s national security strategy:

“The current Administration’s most recent National Security Strategy reflects the extreme elements in its liberal domestic coalition…the strategy subordinates our national security interests to environmental, energy, and international health issues, and elevates “climate change” to the level of a “severe threat” equivalent to foreign aggression.”

Why would the Obama administration consider climate change to be a severe threat? Well, maybe it’s because the military and the Defense Department are really worried about it. Consider the Department of Defense’s Quadrennial Defense Review Report, which notes that:

“While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world. In addition, extreme weather events may lead to increased demands for defense support to civil authorities for humanitarian assistance or disaster response both within the United States and overseas.”

Or, how about, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta:

“The area of climate change has a dramatic impact on national security,” Panetta said. “Rising sea levels, severe droughts, the melting of the polar caps, the more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”

Or, work by independent nonprofit groups:

“A subsequent assessment by the National Research Council found that even moderate climate shifts will impact Navy operations. Sea-level rise and more severe storm surges will hit coastal military bases, and marine forces could also face more work in responding to an increase in humanitarian crises following disasters. The opening of the Arctic as sea ice disappears will likely require more patrols in harsh conditions as nations and industry interests are expected to vie for control of new trade routes and energy resources.”

The list could go on and on. Listen, I’m not pretending I have the solutions to climate change. But the military preparing for it seems like a pretty wise idea. And denying its existence when a hurricane is screwing up your convention is not just short-sighted, but sheer obstinate lunacy.