Mitt Romney’s Coal Complex
By Raymond T. Pierrehumbert
By now we know that Paul Ryan has more or less declared himself to be a full-blown climate change denialist. But what are we to make of Mitt Romney?
Perhaps we should call him a Climate Clown, since he seems to think global climate catastrophes are a laughing matter. Romney used the bully pulpit of his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention to ridicule President Obama’s aspiration that the Obama administration might someday be seen as a turning point in the effort to combat global warming. Alas, it is an aspiration that has not been fulfilled (not yet, anyway), but it was a good aspiration to have, not something to ridicule, still less to ridicule by implying that halting global climate catastrophe would do nothing to help American families.
It gets worse. Commenting on the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, Romney joked, “I exhale carbon dioxide; I don’t want those guys following me around with a meter to see if I’m breathing too hard.” I’m sure Romney is smart enough to realize that the carbon dioxide he breathes out is a wash, since it came quite recently from the atmosphere via agriculture into the food he ate and metabolized and is only being returned whence it came. I’m sure he knows the difference between the kind of emissions the EPA would regulate and the kind it would leave alone. But why let facts get in the way of a good joke—especially when you can use it to score points with people in your base who really can’t tell the difference between burning fossil fuels and exhaling? Another joke Romney has trotted out on several occasions is his quip that “the problem is called Global Warming, not America Warming.”
Last time I checked, America was part of the globe, so if the globe warms, America warms with it, and every ton of carbon dioxide America adds to the atmosphere adds to the collective warming we all suffer. There is indeed a serious issue lurking in the joke, regarding the crucial task of how to engage China in joint efforts at emission reductions. Surely a necessary part of that is showing that America is willing to do its share, especially given that America still bears a far greater responsibility for the amount of carbon dioxide accumulated in the atmosphere than does China. But Romney isn’t interested in such things, and he offers no path forward for engaging China. He is only interested in using Chinese emissions as a bludgeon to kill off any efforts toward reducing U.S. emissions. Why think seriously about how to address an important problem like this when you can just dismiss it with a joke?
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