Republicans-A.W.O.L. on Climate

This Wednesday, October 7, at 7PM Gonzaga University is holding a candidate forum on Zoom on the topic of climate change. (Sign up here.) Invitations went out soon after the August primary election to nearly all candidates on the November ballot anywhere in Spokane County for county, state legislative, and U.S. congressional offices. I have copied the invitation list in the box below. Note that the asterisk by a name indicates “Did not accept invitation.” Twenty-two invitations went out to candidates. Thirteen candidates indicate they will attend. Nine of the eleven “Prefers Republican” candidates declined to appear.Laura D Carder and Bob Apple, both running for office in LD3, deserve honorable mention as “Prefers Republican” candidates who plan to attend.

From their local leader, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, right on down, most Republican candidates refuse to show up to discuss what a growing majority of Americans rightly believe is the gravest long term threat we face as a nation and as a world. Why is that? You would have to ask them–but you won’t get a straight answer–except from the man who leads the national Republican Party. From him, a man without a filter who is accustomed to saying the quiet part out loud you hear, “Climate change is a hoax!” 

McMorris Rodgers’ dodge on climate change is honed to fine art, a system of political messaging that would lull a charging grizzly into oblivious slumber. Along with all other local Republicans, CMR has just two pivots when asked about climate change, Forest Management! and Hydropower!. Ask her a direct question, “Do you understand the science that underpins concerns about global warming?” and you will get a brief flash of signature toothy smile and a pivot. “Save the dams!” is her go-to response when the region is not on fire and blanketed in smoke. Then she briefly murmurs the words “carbon free” as if to suggest she understands climate science. When we’re wheezing in a pall of smoke as we’ve done frequently in the last five years, CMR’s preferred pivot turns to forest management and blame aimed at historical fire suppression, evil “environmentalists,” and regulation. If one presses her to acknowledge that the climate has already changed so much that grassland, forests, and whole towns are on fire, I suppose CMR might turn for help to Sue Lani Madsen’s recently published idea, “Could cows help fight western wildfires?” Like all such responses there may exist a kernel of truth in that argument, but as a substantive “help” such a response should be greeted with derision. 

Not one of these local Republicans who declined the forum invitation has the educational background to comprehend the science on which our understanding of climate is built. Many current Republican candidates and their supporters accept as a matter of doctrine that the earth is only a few thousand years old. With that time frame taught as a matter of faith, it is a real challenge to interpret evidence from ice cores that gives us a window on climate and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations that go back hundreds of thousands of years. “Young earth ‘theory'” is common among Evangelicals, those christians for whom the Bible is considered wholly inerrant. A young earth is by no means universal Christian doctrine. After all, this climate forum is sponsored by Gonzaga University, a Roman Catholic institution. Conversely, Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ education was entirely at institutions (except for a late stint at U of WA) that teach the young earth as a tenet of faith. 

These nine Republicans’ unwillingness to attend this forum is a glaring statement of science denial. Do not let them dodge this, as McMorris Rodgers has dodged it her entire career. These are the same people who often squirm in response to the growing scientific evidence around the Covid-19 pandemic. We risk our very lives and the lives of grandchildren by letting these Republicans off the hook on these issues.

Sign up and attend the climate forum on Wednesday. It should be interesting. As you watch keep in mind these are the candidates willing to discuss climate change in a public forum. The nine Republicans (check the asterisked names in the box below) acknowledge by their absence that they have nothing to contribute. Either they deny the existence of the problem and do not understand the science that underpins it or, as members of a Republican Party that is beholden to myth, they dare not let on that they understand. They hope we won’t notice. None of these nine Republicans can be trusted to represent us. 

Here’s the link to sign up:

Keep to the high ground,