Recent GOP Debate Makes One Thing Clear: The Current Republican Presidential Candidates Will Not Solve the Climate Change Crisis


Let me start by apologizing to Alexander Diaz, a student at Catholic University of America, and other young Americans for the appalling but extremely telling answers our generation received during this week’s Republican debate when asked about climate change. During the debate Alex asked the following astute question:

“Polls consistently show that young people’s number one issue is climate change. What would you do as President of the United States and leader of the Republican Party to calm their fears that the Republican Party does not care about climate change?”

The Fox News co-moderator, Martha MacCallum, then asked the candidates “for a show of hands” in response to her question: “Do you believe that human behavior is causing climate change?”

Sadly, none of the eight candidates on the stage vying for the Republican primary nomination raised their hands. Alex (and the rest of us) deserve each candidate’s answer on this profoundly important topic.

Acting like, well, a spoiled schoolboy, Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, hastily then interrupted the moderator by outright avoiding the question and, instead, announcing:

“We’re not school children! Let’s have the debate.”

When asked again if that meant he was raising his hand he responded by saying “I don’t think that’s the way to do it” before railing on about the “corporate media’s treatment of Republicans versus Democrats” and talking about how he’s responded to hurricanes in our state rather than answering the actual question. The moderator and other candidates then repeatedly asked him if that was a “yes” or “a hand raise,” yet he remained silent. Silent to a generation, our country, and the world beyond.

Sadly, the governor of the state widely seen as ground zero for our climate crisis here in the United States, a place where large portions of our region face extinction from sea level rise, not only missed an incredible opportunity to show leadership on the most important topic on young people’s mind but, by repeatedly avoiding the question, he sent the clear message that he does not believe that humans are causing climate change nor is he interested in addressing the foundational cause of the problem: fossil fuel use and its resulting pollution.

Amidst the DeSantis comments, fellow candidate Vivek Ramaswamy was so eager to share his answer to Alex’s question he could not control himself, gleefully and smugly blurting out “my hands are in my pocket!” before taking over the answer by saying the following:

“It’s a hoax. Let us be honest as Republicans. I am the only person on the stage that’s not bought and sold for so I can say this! The climate change agenda is a hoax. The climate change agenda is a hoax. The anti-carbon agenda is the wet blanket on our economy. More people are dying of bad climate change policies than they are of actual climate.”

And, in the event it was not already crystal clear, later in the discussion Ramaswamy reiterated his position that oil and gas production should be increased, not reduced or eliminated as we transition towards sustainability, by touting: “drill, frack, burn coal, and embrace nuclear!”

If you were looking for hope from the Republican field, no matter how limited, then it came in the form of former South Carolina Governor and United Nations Ambassador under the Trump Administration Nikki Haley’s (the only female candidate in the race) comments when she said;

“Is climate change real? Yes, it is. But if you want to go and really change the environment, then we need to start telling China and India that they have to lower their emissions.”

The limited discussion on climate change from a group of supposed prospective leaders, like the rest of the “debate,” was disappointing and often even condescending to listeners intellect. As a country our leaders, no matter their political affiliation, need to be far better than what I watched and heard, especially on the reality of our climate change crisis and its foundational cause.

If you want to be disappointed by the Republican candidates, click the image below so you can watch the full five minute “climate change” discussion:

The good news is that under President Biden’s leadership, the bipartisan supported Inflation Reduction Act passed and was signed into law about a year ago. That bill, supported by both Republican and Democrat legislators, included the promise of an initial $400 million green energy stimulus package, much of which is in the form of tax credits. The IRA is by far the biggest step towards shifting our economy from one based upon fossil fuels to one fueled by sustainable energy.

The best news is that according to a study by the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and Goldman Sachs, the bill’s tax credits have been so popular over the past year that the actual impact is now estimated to be approximately $1.2 trillion. And, while even that staggering amount will not solve our climate crisis, it’s most certainly a positive step into the future and a far better reflection of where we need to go than was evident in last week’s rhetoric-filled Republican debate.