A Republican Congress Will Use New Tactics to Undermine Climate Progress

A Republican Congress Will Use New Tactics to Undermine Climate Progress

Even as the Biden Administration works at COP27 to galvanize countries to follow their lead, they may have a challenge at home that will be felt around the world. Tonight, Republicans are expected to win control of one or both Houses of Congress, throwing a wrench in President Biden’s climate agenda.

130 congressional Republicans still deny the existence of human-caused climate change, despite the fact that 60% of Republicans between the ages of 23 and 38 say that climate change is having an effect on the US, and 36% believe humans are the cause.

CBS: Inside the Republican Party’s Generational Divide Over Climate Change, February 1, 2021.

Washington Post: Meet the young conservative trying to make Republicans care about climate change, October 22, 2019.

Republican candidates this year have promised to slash climate action policies. In Pennsylvania, Gubernatorial candidate Dough Maristriano, is promising to eliminate land regulations, and in Georgia, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is insisting that carbon is healthy, and arguing that “people die in the cold.”

Now This: Marjorie Taylor Greene Thinks Global Warming Is Good for Us, June 16, 2022.

WW0: How To Climate Change, September 23, 2020.

Why This Matters

Robinson Meyers, a writer at The Atlantic, warns that growing climate concerns among voters won’t stop a Republican congress from attacking President Biden’s climate record, either. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), passed without any Republican votes, has proved popular among voters, but a red congress may try to frame it as “a legislative boondoggle,” Meyers writes, akin to Obamacare. The same fate could await President Biden’s two other major climate accomplishments, the CHIPS and Science act, and the bipartisan infrastructure law, as well as climate legislation enacted on a state level. According to TIME magazine, nearly half of US states will backslide on climate policy following today’s elections, with Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin being particularly at risk.

Washington Post: What the GOP promises to do if they take back Congress, November 7, 2022.

Now This: House GOP Releases Climate Strategy Ahead of 2022 Midterms, June 3, 2022.

Republican legislators may also undermine climate policy by taking aim at the Biden administration as a whole. Meyer hypothesizes that legislators may rely on “budgetary showdowns” and “endless [government] shutdowns” to thwart Biden’s chance to implement the IRA’s important tax provisions. Robinson also suggested that a Republican-led house could attempt impeachment, a side show that could distract from the country’s urgent climate goals.

Despite the rhetoric, it is unlikely that Republican leaders will fully repeal the IRA, in part because the Republican Senate will likely be too narrow, but also because the bill economically benefits red congressional districts. California’s 23rd district, represented Kevin McCarthy, likely the next Speaker of the House, ranks number one for planned and operating grid-battery projects.

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

WWO: Republicans For Change, February 4, 2021.

The New Playbook

Republican legislators’ latest strategy for blocking climate action is demonizing what they call “woke capitalism,” the practice of taking climate change into account when making investments. Investment firms like BlackRock now face punishment by conservative politicians for accounting for climate-related risks.

Fox Business: This Wall Street 'scam' must be investigated | Ramaswamy, July 17, 2022.

Many have enacted boycotts against financial institutions deemed "overly woke” as a result of their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) campaigns. In Kentucky, policymakers voted to allow state officials to stop doing business with any financial institution that refuses to invest in fossil fuels. Texas prevented Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase from bond offerings because they had halted investments in certain fossil fuel developers and coal mines. In West Virginia, state officials have decided to boycott six major financial institutions, including BlackRock, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase because of their hesitance to work with the fossil fuel industry.

Bloomberg: The Rise and Fall of ESG Investing, June 10, 2022. 

CNBC: Sen. Tom Cotton Targets ESG Investing | BlackRock is a climate cartel, July 14, 2022.

FINANCE MARK: BlackRock CEO Larry Fink | We are not the environmental police, June 5, 2022.

CEO of BlackRock Larry Fink, however, argued in a 2020 letter that ESG investing was to the benefit of BlackRock’s clients. “Our conviction,” Fink wrote, is that “climate-integrated portfolios can provide better risk-adjusted returns to investors,” than investments that ignore the risk of climate change. Still, critics argue that for many banks, ESG investing amounts to little more than greenwashing. In 2021, the world’s biggest banks invested $742 billion, in spite of their pledges to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. GOP criticism of ESG, then, seems to be political theater meant to galvanize voters, and slow climate progress.

But with banks on board or not, the financial risks posed by climate change are becoming clear, as both Florida and California are suffering insurance crises following devastating natural disasters. In Florida, it is becoming more difficult for homeowners to obtain insurance at all, as some companies have begun to fold, and others say they no longer offer policies in the state. Already, Floridians who do have insurance pay three times more than the national average.

Forbes: Insurance Sector Struggles Amid Climate Change, May 17, 2022.

ABC: Hurricane Ian expected to cost Florida $258 billion, September 29, 2022.