opinion | As climate disasters multiply, Republicans rethink denial

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Each day seems to be bringing us one step closer to the climate apocalypse.

Drought in the West. Fire in the Southwest. Power outages are coming to the Midwest. Monkeypox and other strange diseases spread. Food prices soared. Migration and crime exploded. Giant spiders come with their cubs who can parachute from the sky. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will fill Lake Wobegon, forecasting a seventh consecutive “above average” hurricane season.

It may feel as if the End is Near. But fear not: Republicans are getting into action.

After a quarter century of Republican climate rejection, Maxine Joselow and Jeff Stein of The Post revealed this exciting news last week: “House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) plans to unveil a strategy Thursday outlining how Republicans will tackle climate change, energy and environmental issues.”

But there are only a few minor problems with the two-page results released by the DPR’s GOP “Energy, Climate & Conservation Task Force”. The strategy doesn’t, uh, actually mention the word “climate”. It also makes no commitments to reduce greenhouse gases emission. The only indirect acknowledgment that climate change is a thing is the call to mine more rare minerals of the kind used in batteries. And that strategy includes a burst of proposals to increase oil and gas production.

The Sierra Club’s legislative director, Melinda Pierce, called the plan “Mccarthy’s latest attempt to ignite greenhouse gases for the American public.”

Honestly, the guy in charge of the Republican task force, Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), said the group plans to outline a more complete climate change strategy later this year. In an interview, he told me that “global emissions as a result of our strategy will fall much more than they would under Biden,” who has set a target to cut US greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. There are no climate denies. , Graves also said he wanted to “try and change the trajectory and try to hit that 1.5 degrees Celsius target” — the Paris accord’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

It would be a great achievement if Graves could persuade his fellow Republicans to experience a major change in climate — and I hope he has gigawatts of power when he tries. For now, his colleagues continue to operate under what might be called the REM climate policy: It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

Your avoid-of-view approach works pretty well when it comes to climate debates about theoretical sea-level models and arctic ice projections. But now the crisis is real and there are, with food shortages, power outages and the pestilence has afflicted us.

Last week, Evan Halper of The Post wrote that “a large swath of the Midwest” is one area that faces a summer of rotating blackouts like those seen in California and Texas — a by-product of “climate change-driven extreme weather,” among other things.

The World Health Organization reported last week that climate change is accelerating outbreaks of monkeypox, Lassa fever, Ebola and other diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of health threats increased by climate change includes anthrax, dengue fever, plague and rabies, along with disease-causing fungi in soil and algae and cyanobacteria polluting water.

Prices of wheat and other commodities surged, in part due to extreme weather. (India recently banned wheat exports due to heatwave shortages.) UN Secretary-General António Guterres said last month that global food prices had increased by almost a third in a year, and the number of people who were severely food insecure had doubled in two years.

The Southwest’s drought is the most extreme in 1,200 years, a study found this year. Two months of fires in New Mexico have consumed more than 600,000 acres. Tropical Storm Alex has flooded Miami.

And that’s just a taste of what’s to come. Studies show we can expect more climate-related lung disease, heart disease, cancer, infertility, migration, armed conflict and violent crime. As a result, we can also expect more depression, anxiety, suicide, and addiction.

Faced with so many disasters, it was only natural that people would try to look the other way. “It’s an important defense mechanism that allows people to go about their day pretending that this isn’t happening,” says LaUra Schmidt, who founded the Good Grief Network, which uses a 10-step program inspired by Alcoholics Anonymous to help people “metabolize collective grief, environmental anxiety, and other severe emotions that arise in response to a frightening planetary crisis.”

But as climate disasters shift from abstract to immediate, far-sighted strategies are starting to fail. “This is a defense mechanism until at our doorstep, until a fire breaks out here,” said Schmidt.

That time has come. A belated decision by the Republican Party to abandon denial and join the struggle could surely brighten up our doomsday.

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