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The Climate Is Changing; Republicans Are Not | Commentary

By Rep. Gerald E. Connolly When Republican politicians deny the existence of climate change, they often qualify their position by emphasizing that they “aren’t scientists.” Thankfully, one doesn’t need to be a scientist to understand the empirical evidence which definitively proves the existence of climate change.  

To ignore the significant and impending threat climate change poses to future generations is a clear reflection of poor leadership.  

I was proud to see Hillary Rodham Clinton announce a comprehensive energy and climate agenda as part of her campaign for president. Clinton intends to continue to roll out policy proposals over the next few weeks and she began with two bold goals. First, Clinton proposes that during her first term, America will build on the growing success of solar energy, and install more than half a billion solar panels across the country. Second, within 10 years of entering the White House, Clinton believes the United States should generate enough renewable energy to power every home in the country. These goals are ambitious, and build on many of the investments Democrats in Congress have made, but I am confident Clinton is uniquely prepared to see them through completion.  

As secretary of State, Clinton led the nation’s international effort to tackle climate change. She tapped a Special Envoy for Climate Change to coordinate climate policy and strategy; established the Bureau of Energy Resources; and built a coalition of international partnerships to help countries affected by climate change. This domestic and international diplomatic infrastructure continues to yield dividends to this day — particularly this fall when the United States will attend the critical climate change conference in Paris.  

Despite the Obama administration’s historic progress toward tackling climate change, Republican politicians continue to deny its very existence. Of the 17 candidates in the Republican presidential field, not one has presented a plan to address climate change. Why? Because virtually every Republican candidate denies its existence.  

Donald Trump, for example – who has consistently polled higher than all other Republican presidential candidates – called climate change a “hoax,” and argued that cold weather in places like Texas and Tennessee proved climate science to be inaccurate. In fact, cold weather in winter doesn’t disprove climate change. Climate change produces all sorts of extreme weather events, including extreme cold.  

Then there’s Jeb Bush, who said “I’m a skeptic. I’m not a scientist.” The truth is that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening. This list includes scientists from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Meteorological Society, along with many, many others.  

As more and more Americans have come to embrace clean and renewable sources of energy, the list of GOP candidates who refuse to tackle one of our most consequential challenges is hard to fathom. The science is clear and the scientific community is urging elected officials to act.  

Yet, the nation’s leading Republicans still are unapologetic climate deniers.  

“I’m not a scientist,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “I don’t want to overreact,” said John Kasich. “It’s absolutely and utterly untrue,” was Rand Paul’s take on climate change. “There’s been no warming whatsoever,” echoed Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.  

The next president of the United States does not need to be a scientist – but I’d expect that person, whomever he or she may be, to embrace scientific consensus, especially on an issue that poses a significant threat to the future of all Americans.  

If we want to build a sustainable economy for tomorrow, we will need to find innovative solutions to address climate change and to invest in the clean energy technology available to us today. Clinton understands that vision, and will meet this challenge.  

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly is a Democrat from Virginia.  

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