Republicans Resist Climate Action Amid Deadly Heatwaves

Republicans Resist Climate Action Amid Deadly Heatwaves

Heatwaves are currently sweeping across Europe and the US in what will surely amount to one of the hottest summers in recorded history, as last week alone saw 359 daily high-temperature records across the country. The prolonged heat is expected to put millions of people at risk nationwide. Meanwhile, President Biden’s Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, created in August 2021 to help prepare the US healthcare system for a crisis of this exactness, is flat-out broke. Congress has not provided the Biden Administration’s modest funding request for $3 million. Though the House has indicated support, finding a path to the 60 necessary votes in the Senate remains elusive.

Grantham Imperial: Dr Friederike Otto speaks to BBC World News about the heatwaves, 18 July 2022, July 19, 2022.

Reuters: 1,000 die in Portugal heatwave, wildfires burn Europe, July 19, 2022.

NBC: Heat Wave Worsens As 75 Million Americans Are Under Alerts, July 22, 2022.

Why This Matters

The Biden Administration’s failure to obtain funding for the office is evidence of a larger issue: No climate-related Congressional effort will succeed so long as the GOP continues to be unwilling to legislate on climate change. With most Americans now in support of climate action, Republicans have shifted the party’s rhetoric. Instead of outright denialism, they’re appealing to nationwide economic concerns about everything from inflation to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as a means to undermine the need for urgent climate action.

In the context of extreme heat, expected to intensify as the summer progresses, the GOP’s party line will most harm marginalized communities in US cities. "Heat is costing us so much,” urban heat expert Kathy Baughman McLeod told CNN. "It is an infrastructure crisis. It’s a health crisis. It’s a social and equity crisis.”

CBS: Climate change elevating risk of dangerous weather, July 25, 2022.

MSNBC: Republicans Need To Wake Up To Climate Crisis | Zerlina, July 21, 2022.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: Sen. Whitehouse on the Financial Risks of Climate Change in a Senate Budget Committee Hearing, March 30, 2022.

An Institutional Crisis

It’s also a "small d” democratic crisis. When it comes to climate, Congressional action has wilted in the face of unwavering GOP opposition, where even blue-state Republicans won't embrace climate legislation. But also, climate and clean energy legislation’s last hope in the 50-50 Senate rested largely on Senator Joe Manchin, a right-leaning Democrat from coal-rich West Virginia (also the pro-coal industry Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair). Just last week, Manchin stated he wanted to wait until later in the summer to consider the previously agreed-upon climate provisions he negotiated for the Senate Budget Reconciliation Bill. Together, these forces have effectively killed any hope for climate legislation to pass this year.

CNBC: How The Supreme Court May Threaten Democracy, June 27, 2022.

CBS: Senator Kamala Harris questions Amy Coney Barrett on climate change, October 16, 2020.

Now This: How the GOP Has Changed on Climate Change, July 16, 2021.

PBS: What Sen. Joe Manchin’s rejection of new spending means for the climate change fight, July 15, 2022.

VICE: Inside the Blockade of Joe Machin’s Coal Profits, June 12, 2022.