Jul 25 2016

The Grand Old Party: Not so Grand for the Environment

The Republican Party just released its platform on July 18th, which details its principles and policies to help guide the public during this election season. In order to get a heads-up on what Donald Trump—the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) presidential nominee—might do if elected President, Live Science examined the party’s platform, as well as the scientific research behind each stance. Then, they put together a handy guide that details each issue, the RNC’s stance on it, and the scientific research that either backs it up or contradicts it. For the sake of objectivity, they will be going through the same process for the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) platform that was released on July 21st.

Photo Credit: Joe Brusky

Photo Credit: Joe Brusky

What the comparison reveals is a long list of ways that the RNC plans to derail environmental conservation efforts. It is clear when reading the RNC’s statements that they see no imminent threat to the environment caused by human actions. Therefore, they see no need to enact legislation to protect it. Their statement on the Keystone XL pipeline is as follows: “The current President’s job-killing combination of extremism and ineptitude threatens to create a permanent energy shortage. We are committed to approving the Keystone XL Pipeline and to streamlining permitting for the development of other oil and natural gas pipelines.” The pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska—its coverage would total 2,639 miles. The science behind whether or not the Keystone XL pipeline hurts the environment does not coincide with the GOP’s stance. In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commented on the proposal, stating that if the pipeline were to run at full capacity, its yearly greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be equivalent to putting an additional 5.7 million cars on the road. The project would also require the tar sands to be processed at a carbon reservoir in Alberta, which would release large amounts of GHGs into the atmosphere. This would make it pretty unlikely that the international goal of preventing the Earth from warming more than 3.6° F would be met.

The scariest part about their new platform is the fact that they refuse to acknowledge just that—facts. Under the GOP’s “Protecting our Environment” section, the first line actually claims that “the environment is getting cleaner and healthier.” Not according to countless studies conducted by the UNEP, NASA, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, to name a few. Although they do acknowledge the need for renewable energy, they don’t seem to be in any hurry until the already-established oil, nuclear, and natural gas companies have come up with their own technology to do so.

By National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps [Public domain]

By National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps [Public domain]

After reading the GOP’s platform, it is clear to me that there is a blatant disrespect on their part for the scientific community as a whole. The GOP has long fought to discredit any scientific findings that don’t align with their political agenda. Whenever science—which is so heavily peer-reviewed and self-correcting—interferes with their opinions, they simply refuse to listen. Science says that gravity is a real thing? That doesn’t threaten their beliefs, so they allow that to be put in the textbooks. Science says that climate change is a real thing? They stand behind Lamar Smith, a Republican chairman, as he accuses the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of rushing and not properly peer-reviewing a study they published about climate change. The fact that a Republican chairman, with his only scientific background being that he took basic science courses in college as part of his non-scientific degree in American Studies, can rightfully challenge an entire group of some of the most educated and accomplished scientists out there is worrisome and insulting to science as a whole.

The whole purpose of checks and balances is so that no one branch can become too powerful. But is that Constitutional system really working that well if one branch continuously attacks and attempts to dismantle the role and authority of the other?

 

 

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