Opinion

Republicans have ignored the environment for far too long

The appreciation and respect for the natural world and our environment shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It’s well known that we need a healthy environment with functioning ecosystems to provide life as we know it on Earth. Whether it be clean water and air, stable land for food production, healthy oceans, thriving wildlife or plentiful forests, each and every one of us relies on this habitable planet. 

Throughout the course of the 21st century, the topic of environmental stewardship and conservation has become highly politicized. The idea of environmental protection and concern for nature is often associated as being a liberal issue, with the cliche environmentalist being a vegan hippie who cares more about trees than people. Although this stereotype has not been widely inaccurate, it has been harmful in directing people on the true importance of protecting our environment. 

While liberals and Democrats may be associated with environmentalism, it’s important to note that the vast majority of Americans are at least somewhat environmentally-conscious and believe that the U.S. should do more to protect the environment. According to a Pew Research study, 74% of Americans said they believe the United States should do whatever it takes to protect the environment. Despite this statistic, Republican politicians across the country have for too long ignored the needs of the environment and placed corporations ahead of both nature and even their constituents. 

Nearly every single scientist on the planet has used extensive scientific research to prove the existence and threats of climate change. People around the world experience harsh consequences of a warming climate, including intense droughts, extreme weather events, coral bleaching and extreme heat waves. 

Despite this, Republican politicians continue to deny climate change, often stating that regulating carbon emissions will hurt industrial jobs. While one can see considering the livelihoods of those in the fossil fuel industry, it’s important to note that the clean energy sector is already far greater in terms of how many people it employs than that of fossil fuels. These reasons are due to dropping technology costs, growing demand for new energy sources, renewability of wind and solar power, and booming investments.

Stunningly, the clean energy sector provides over five times as many jobs in America than the fossil fuel industry. Making an economic argument against climate change simply isn’t fair because the numbers don’t act in climate change deniers’ favor. 

For Wisconsin, a clean energy economy would bring tremendous benefits. A recent study from COWS, a UW-Madison think tank, found that transitioning to renewable energy would generate approximately 162,000 jobs for Wisconsin and generate $570 million in tax revenue. Additionally, it’s important to note that Wisconsin lacks rich fossil fuel deposits, despite generating three-fourths of its electricity from coal and natural gas, causing our state to have one of the largest energy deficits in the entire country. 

Coal is shipped from outside the state, and as of 2016, Wisconsin spent $14.4 billion on coal and other outside fossil fuels. Instead of spending taxpayer dollars on harmful fossil fuels that contribute to climate change and air pollution, Wisconsin can produce its own energy. By doing so, not only would our environment be richly safer, but our economy would grow tremendously by creating thousands of jobs and saving government revenue for more efficient needs such as our education and infrastructure.

In addition to denying the existence effects of climate change and halting the growth our economy in transitioning further into a clean energy society, Republicans (most notably in the current Trump administration) have pursued actions to drastically halt the critical regulations that protect our environment. Not only has Trump distanced the United States from the international efforts to combat climate change (such as withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement), the President has drastically endangered environmental policy in the United States.  

Not only did Trump hire Scott Pruitt and then Andrew Wheeler (two men with long ties to the fossil fuel industry) as heads of the EPA, but Trump has also lifted regulations on the fossil fuel industry, making it easier for the biggest polluters to extract fossil fuels and pollute.  

While it is important to make sure that environmental regulations don’t interfere too strongly with American industry, Trump has gone after the very basic foundations of environmental conservation in America. Few politicians have been so heinous and reckless on their environmental stances as President Trump. Trump is appealing to his fellow republicans colleagues who are bought by the fossil fuel industry and is ignoring the needs of the entire country by leading an assault on our magnificent array of nature and the health and safety of our environment.

In Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers has pledged to make environmental protection one of the top priorities of his administration, a stark difference from previous governor Scott Walker. Evers announced in February that he would join the U.S. Climate Alliance, which would join 21 other governors in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Additionally, Evers wants Wisconsin to have safer drinking water and more protections for public natural lands.  

Every Democratic presidential candidate for 2020 has addressed the need for environmental protection and action on climate change, many including Senator Bernie Sanders fighting for these issues for decades. 

Since the vast majority of Americans are in favor of protecting the rich variety of nature and are in favor of proper management of natural resources, Republicans are going against their constituents and are failing to protect the interests of those they serve. If the Grand Ole Party has any dignity, they’ll side with their constituents and aim to protect the environment in a practical fashion that allows economic growth and nature to flourish instead of waging war on the environment we need and cherish.

Dominic is a sophomore studying political science and environmental studies. What are your thoughts on the way Republicans have dealt with climate change and environmental issues? Send all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com. 

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