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Issue: Climate Change: Opportunity for Good

By J. Michael Atherton


We see NH Republicans’ attitude toward climate change in their platform when they say,



They don’t say one word about climate change, the human causes or, more importantly, what to do about it. Mute! Not a peep! It seems climate change doesn’t exist for Republicans, or, if it exists, humans are free from blame, or even if it’s our fault, it’s trivial and we’ll get over it soon enough. Such thinking runs counter to the vast majority of the world’s scientists over the last 100 years.

Don’t they know scientists work with data using precise instrumentation, have professional system analysis skills, require replication of all findings, have a trusted history of predictions, and demand an astonishingly rigorous peer review of all research? Despite all these self-correcting scientific advances, the Republican policy makers ignore substantial facts, confirmatory evidence, and verifiable conclusions; instead, they choose to live in dangerously deluded ignorance of their own making. If those sentences overwhelm, here’s an accessible summary of Republican views of climate change: Deny, Deny, Deny.

We see that denial in play by the actions of Gov. Sununu, who is long on words but short on actions concerning the climate. His “go-slow” approach that allows fossil fuel companies to fatten their profits to record highs while their product exacerbates our climate crisis. Sununu is

The only New England Governor who has refused to join the Alliance is Sununu.

the only New England governor who has failed to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of 24 governors committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For an example of his “go-slow” approach, his net metering cap actively discourages people from adding solar panels. Sununu’s anti-net metering stance means individuals will find it economically difficult to sell their excess wattages. Sununu’s disincentivizing net metering cap even contradicts the GOP profit gospel. As a Republican he should have endorsed such entrepreneurial spirit; instead, he dropped the net metering ball. In addition, Sununu even vetoed a bill that would restrict landfills from polluting ground water, rivers, and lakes. He says a lot of things about valuing NH’s pristine water, but his veto pen leaves it muddied.

With their heads stuck firmly in the mud, New Hampshire Republican policy makers deny the existence of the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced.

Who can trust a party that denies science? Instead of science they rely exclusively on one perspective: economics. For Republicans, if it doesn’t fit an economics box, it lacks importance.

But even economic arguments leave them scratching their heads in bewilderment. For example, if you argue that climate efforts will generate a robust and resilient economy, they stand with mouths agape. It seems the pay-back timeline beggars their imagination. For Republicans, if it costs anything now, it costs too much.

On hearing that climate efforts will create a healthy environment, they pull out their standard chestnut. They believe in a stark either/or choice. It is either a healthy economy or a healthy environment, never both. They constantly promote the economy at the expense of all things environmental despite ample evidence that we not only can have both, we must have both. In a nutshell: a healthy environment means a healthy people and only healthy people can make a healthy economy. When our government explains the linkages this way, they quickly reject it.

Yale Program on Climate Change Communications, September 2021

Republicans exhibit a knee-jerk opposition, saying any Federal efforts to address climate change exhibits government overreach. However, if they were somehow to agree that climate change exists, they would immediately counter that individuals can do it themselves and leave it at that. They believe individuals can do everything, ignoring the reality that no single individual can offset the worldwide and accumulated effects of industrial pollution.

If we argued that fighting climate change is the right thing to do, Republicans would be utterly mystified. For the GOP, doing the right thing has no economic calculation.

So, in reaction to the existential threat of climate change, NH Republicans (1) stand mute, (2) are in denial, (3) have their heads stuck in the mud, (4) scratch their heads with mouths agape, (5) resort to old chestnuts, (6) use knee-jerk arguments, or (7) stand mystified.

Neither a pretty picture nor a track record we can afford to support.

Note the contrast between the do-nothing Republican party and the Democrats who are a powerhouse of forward thinking, proposing one bill after another to combat climate change.

Every climate bill they write includes how it helps our economy. Also notice the difference between the Republican climate change deniers and the rest of the world, where even underdeveloped nations who suffer most nevertheless seek to do the right thing. Deny climate change and exacerbate the problem as the Republicans propose, or follow Democrats who accept the reality of climate change and work to save the world. The choice could not be more stark.

Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” We can grudgingly see the climate crisis as an impediment to progress, or we can choose to see it as a threat that stimulates our collective imagination to overcome. Democrats see this supreme challenge as our chance to improve life for ourselves, and our children as well as children around the world.

About the author

J. Michael Atherton (Mike) has retired from 30 years of teaching philosophy (after 20 years of teaching a variety of subjects from elementary to graduate school). He spent four years in the Peace Corps in Swaziland (now Eswatini), followed by marriage to Cynthia Walter, the birth of their first child, and a PhD all at the University of Chicago. They moved to Southwest Pennsylvania where Cynthia taught ecology and he taught philosophy while they raised two daughters. They moved to Dover in 2019 to be near their two grandsons in Maine. He has consistently found the Dems to be a group that publicly and privately follows their stated values: compassion, honesty, integrity, respect the dignity of all people, expanded freedom, responsible citizenship, promoting civil society, and protecting our environment. And they are great fun to be around. A winning combination!

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