Republicans fight climate change progress on every front

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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler testifies before the House Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee during a hearing on President Trump's budget request for Fiscal Year 2020, Tuesday, April 9, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler testifies before the House Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee during a hearing on President Trump’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2020, Tuesday, April 9, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Currently the Trump Administration is hoping to roll-back an Obama-era regulation aimed at specialty light bulbs (decorative globes used in bathrooms, reflectors in recessed lighting, candle-shaped lights, etc.). 

The proposed rule would require these lightbulbs to be more energy efficient, as “standard” bulbs are under a law passed in 2007. It is because of this law that most incandescent bulbs have been replaced with LEDs that are five times more efficient. But what I want to discuss today is not necessarily the rule itself (which I do support) but how Republican resistance to it follows a pattern of resisting virtually any policy that will help fight climate change. 

Climate change was first developed in the scientific community in the 1970s. However, the issue did not strongly capture public attention until 1988, which was then the hottest year on record. Like any disease or threat, treatment is easier the earlier it is detected. There is no doubt in my mind that if we had agreed on the facts then and there, climate change would not be the existential threat it is today. But the world did not come together in 1988. Corporations and individuals whose fortunes were tied up in things like oil and coal, as well as those who opposed government regulations in general, started fighting tooth and nail to prevent meaningful action. In the United States, opposition to the existence of climate change became a prevalent feature of the Republican Party and still is to this day.

Over time, of course, the Republican position evolved. As the abundance of evidence grew, the argument shifted from “no climate change” to “well maybe climate change but it wasn’t humans” to “well maybe it was humans but proposed solutions would hurt the economy too much.” But whilst the Republicans took gradual steps towards recognizing the obvious, the state of the climate continued to deteriorate and the window to act grew ever smaller.

My point is that their main argument about current economic proposals such as the Green New Deal was only made possible by their own inaction. They call the plan “too aggressive” and “not realistic”, but Democrats wouldn’t have to suggest such drastic ideas if Republicans had just gotten onboard 30 years ago and helped to find a solution. 

Which brings me back to the lightbulbs. It is estimated that mandating new energy efficient specialty bulbs would reduce electricity needs by about “25 large coal-burning power plants.” That’s pretty significant, because one of the main obstacles to switching over to renewable energy is that meeting energy demands is more difficult. Alternatives like solar and wind are great, but the resources we need to devote, if switching over, are very large. Any actions that helps reduce the energy we as a society uses will go a long way towards helping us meet environmental goals. Republicans are perfectly happy to shoot down this rule and then go out the next day with talking points about these difficulties that persist in part because of their direct actions.

Essentially, because Republicans refuse to make all these changes, or act in an appropriate amount of time, they have made the issue much more difficult to solve. And then they have the gall to turn around and say that the Democratic plan is “pie-in-the-sky” and unrealistic. They may have a point, but we wouldn’t need such drastic and immediate action if we hadn’t been forced to debate the existence of climate change for decades, and then whether or not it was caused by humans for another dozen or so years (something we’re still doing). 

If we were able to make changes to lightbulb efficiency, car mileage and other areas then the goals for transitioning to renewable and clean energy would not be so difficult and costly to reach. So next time you complain about the costs that the Green New Deal brings with it, remember that we wouldn’t have to sacrifice so much to save our planet if it wasn’t for conservatives dragging their feet for the last 30 some-odd years. 


Jacob Kowalski is opinion editor for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at jacob.kowalski@uconn.edu.

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