Republican resistance to environmental protections and unwavering support for fossil fuels drives climate change, yet they oppose aid to those hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. Conventional wisdom indicates that individual storms cannot be attributed to climate change. However, as explained in a Scientific American article, “that statement does not mean that we cannot say that climate change is making storms bigger….Hurricane Sandy has emboldened more scientists to directly link climate change and storms, without the hedge….Insurers, scientists and journalist are beginning to drop the caveats and simply say that climate change is causing big storms.”
Hurricane Sandy was a monster storm, it devastated the New Jersey shore and parts of the New York City area coastline and left thousands homeless. The superstorm damaged or destroyed more than 72,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey. In New York, more than 300,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed and more than 265,000 businesses were affected.
While some victims of Hurricane Sandy have received partial payments, Many Republicans in the House sought to deny assistance to the people in need. There are currently 140,000 outstanding claims that have yet to be closed.
The sane approach is to develop a policy that strives to stave off the worst impacts of climate change alongside planning for long-term adaptation. However, this entails an understanding informed by climate science and this is one of the things that Republicans seem to adamantly oppose.
What makes this even more egregious is the fact that Republicans have consistently voted for legislation that directly contributes to climate change. According to a June 18, 2012 report (PDF) prepared for Congress members Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, this is the most anti-environment House of Representatives in the history of Congress. Between January 2011 and mid 2012, Republicans Voted 247 times to undermine regulations that protect the environment.
Although it is widely understood that fossil fuels are the primary drivers of climate change, Republicans have consistently voted to put the interests of the oil and gas industries ahead of the health and well-being of Americans. Over the last four years, they have also been persistently antagonistic to the EPA.
From the beginning of 2011 to mid 2012, 94 percent of Republican members of the House voted for the anti-environment position, while 87 percent of Democratic members of the House voted for the pro-environment position.
This is not the usual partisan division. Many of the current slate of Republicans in the House are rabid extremists who are at war with both science and the environment. Polls indicate that twice as many Democrats accept climate change compared to their Republican counterparts. The net result is that Republicans subscribe to extreme religious world-views rather than science. A poll in late 2012 indicated that Republicans are much more likely to believe in demonic possession then they are to believe in the veracity of climate change.
Many Republicans have even shown a blatant disregard for the environmental legacy of their own party. A good example of this disrespect is evidenced in their opposition to the Clean Air Act which was signed into law by President Nixon in 1970.
Although the cost to the economy is frequently put forward as the reason for Republican resistance to environmental regulations, this is a ruse which is not borne out by the research. According to an EPA report, the benefits of the Clean Air Act far outweigh the costs of environmental protections.
The Clean Air Act has saved over 160,000 lives; avoided more than 100,000 hospital visits; prevented millions of cases of respiratory problems, including bronchitis and asthma; enhanced productivity by preventing 13 million lost workdays; and kept kids healthy and in school, avoiding 3.2 million lost school days due to respiratory illness and other diseases caused or exacerbated by air pollution.
Although the House did pass a $9.7 billion measure to pay flood insurance claims, there were sixty-seven votes against, all of which were Republican. In the New York Daily News, Mike Lupica said “You ought to remember every one of them, all these elected officials who seem to have all the qualities of dogs except loyalty.” The hypocrisy of Republicans in the House is not lost on Lupica, who points out that many of these members welcomed federal disaster relief when their state was hit by storms.
Republicans who refused to support the bill to help people hit by Sandy are men like Joe Wilson, from South Carolina. He is the man who thought he had the right to stand up during the State of the Union address and call the President of the United States a liar. These ideologically intransigent extremists in the House are the new face of Republicanism.
The reprehensible actions of Republicans are supported by Conservative groups like the Club for Growth, a lobbying group that advocates for limited government and low taxes. They warned lawmakers that they would campaign against any candidate who votes for the Hurricane Sandy aid bill. These types of groups resist environmental regulations and are opposed to measures that help those affected by extreme weather.
Peter Thomas King is the U.S. Representative for New York’s 2nd congressional district, he said: “Turning your back on people who are starving and freezing is not a Republican value.” Sadly, Mr. King’s vision of the Republican party appears to be at odds with the new slate of Republicans in the House. These men and women are self-serving politicians who epitomize all that is wrong with American politics.
America has long been premised on the notion that when one part of the country is in trouble, the rest of the nation comes to their aid. This premise does not appear to resonate with many Republicans now sitting in the House.
While it took just 10 days for Congress to approve about $50 billion in aid for Katrina, Republican opposition has thwarted attempts to get aid to those hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. It has been more than two months after Sandy slammed into the U.S. East Coast and a vote on the entire request for more than $60 billion is not expected before the middle of January.
It is unconscionable that Republicans resist environmental protections and support legislation that contributes to climate change. Perhaps worst of all is the fact that their ideological fixations take precedence over the needs of those who are suffering.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.
image credit: david_shankbone, courtesy flickr