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Ron DeSantis is the same old Climate Republican

Ron DeSantis shaking hands with then President Donald Trump in May 2019.

Ron DeSantis shaking hands with then President Donald Trump in May 2019.
A photo: Evan Vucci (AP)

Two years go by quickly when it comes to politics. While the country is in many ways still recovering from the 2020 election, former President Donald Trump made his 2024 official announcement last week and speculation began in earnest about who would be the Republican presidential nominee. Looking ahead to 2024, it’s great to see what could have changed in the Republican Party when it comes to candidates’ messages about climate and energy, and what has remained the same.

The last time Donald Trump went head-to-head with Republican opponents, climate denial was the main goal of the game. In September 2015 CBS examined the crowded republican field out of 17 initial candidates and found that few recognized that climate change is happening and/or that humans play a role. Even in this sea of ​​deniers, Trump’s sound bites and tweets about climate change — like his infamous claim that global warming was “made by and for the Chinese” — put him on the decidedly crazy end of the spectrum. It is always easy to ridicule views that seem extreme when they are dressed in Trumpisms, and the climate is no exception.

Then he was elected, and these views became real politics. It’s hard to overstate how damaging Trump’s silly views on science have become, combined with the hammer of the long-running Republican Party wish list to repeal Obama-era climate policy. cartoon movement like expanding the path of the hurricane with a marker helped sow doubts in science and government and spread disinformation. All this time his administration was systematic dismantling of environmental structures at the federal levelcarrying out the age-old Republican Polluter Service Program.

Trump 2024 announcement does not mention climate change, but has spoken extensively about energy policy and “energy dominance” – a term his administration used frequently. Unlike in 2016, when his outlandish statements about China were on the fringes of the Republican perspective, this terminology has become common among GOP politicians and right-wing think tanks such as Heritage Foundation. Many of the points he made in his original speech—that the Biden administration is increasing energy costs, that under the control of the Republican Party America can achieve “energy independence”—refer to the fact that the Republican Party, as the larger party also repeating throughout the energy crisis. In other words, when it comes to climate change and energy policy, Trump’s speech seems almost boring, routine — a far cry from his 2016 frenzy.

Will anyone resist him? From a potential field, Ron DeSantis, who is positioned as one of the first candidates and Trump’s strongest challenger, probably also has the strongest environmental track record, at the very least. at first sight. As governor of Florida since 2019, DeSantis has had to deal directly with the effects of climate change, and in some ways has reacted aggressively by creating a fund to help local communities. adapt and resist rising sea levels in Florida. He also made promises object to offshore drillingand vetoed some bad policy against renewables; By Trump standards, DeSantis is practically Bill McKibben.

In some ways, DeSantis does look like the future of the Republican Party: He appears to be acknowledging that some climate change is happening and is putting real resources into mitigating and tackling some of the most egregious pollution problems. (These movements deserved his praise for “go[ing] Bold on Climate Change back in 2019 by the Orlando Sun-Sentinel.)

Some argue that any president who acknowledges the reality of climate change and is committed to some solutions is better than one who outright denies it. But how do I written before, the right’s seeming pursuit of reality in recent years is nothing more than a smokescreen allowing the Republican Party to continue doing nothing about the causes of climate change. After all, outright climate denial has been overwhelmingly financed and supported by oil and gas interests; those same interests have largely focused on “solutions” that help them continue to extract fossil fuels while portraying themselves to the general public as working to solve climate change and help the energy transition. It is only logical that the politicians they continue to fund take this position.

And for all his seemingly pro-environmental views, DeSantis is clearly not interested in addressing the causes of rising sea levels. He stated that he was “not in the church pews of the global warming left”, and signed the law Last year, Florida cities were banned from completely phasing out fossil fuels. He also used the same words as Trump when it comes to fossil fuels. criticize the Biden administration for failing to “unleash American energy” by hurting domestic oil and gas—a common right-wing view that also very much wrong.

The dangerous thing about Republicans going from denial to this false acceptance is that it’s much harder to respond to on the campaign trail. For the past decade, calling for the condemnation of climate deniers in the Republican Party has been a leftist strategy. However, it appears that the Democrats have not properly crafted an adequate response to a DeSantis-style candidate who may be able to conscientiously flaunt the climate by stating that he is concerned about “energy independence.” Recognition that climate change is a reality, but no steps are being taken to address its underlying problems, is hardly better than categorical denial. In fact, refusing to acknowledge that we need to phase out fossil fuels is itself anti-scientific. But given that the Democrats themselves were only able to pass a climate bill this year, it’s hard to see a way they can convene in time enough to push back against a candidate who is more climate-savvy than an outspoken denier.

After all, if the Republican Party manages to woo its nominee for office, it won’t matter if we call one a denier and another more climate-smart, or if one invested in sea level rise and the other exploited it. map of hurricanes in Sharpie. When it comes to the planet, both of their presidencies are likely to be very similar: working to remove any barriers to further expansion of the fossil fuel industry, in the service of the same dark money forces that are also driving the party’s march towards fascism. And a “moderate” like DeSantis may find it harder to resist on his way to power.


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