Senate Republicans, in an effort to send a message to global leaders heading to Paris for the UN climate talks, recently passed two resolutions to block implementation of Obama's EPA plan to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants. The votes came on the same day that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that October broke global temperature records by the largest margin ever recorded. Following suit, the House also passed two joint resolutions to kill the Clean Power Plan.
The votes will be largely symbolic, as President Obama will almost certainly veto the measures to ensure the Clean Power Plan's implementation. But in another attempt to undercut the Paris agreement before it is made, Senate Republicans--70 percent of whom question or deny the science behind climate change--also said any financial commitments made by the United States to help other countries curb carbon emissions would not be approved by Congress.
Republicans' longstanding efforts to block action on climate change eclipse symbolism. Now, it isn't just bad policy to oppose climate action; it's bad politics.
Americans are more certain about the science behind climate change than ever before: three quarters of Americans--including 59 percent of Republicans--now say climate change is happening. The shift in Republican voters' support for action on climate change has been stark in the last year, opening the door for Republicans to come along. Instead, they risk splitting from a growing number of their own base on yet another issue important to the country.
In addition to alienating voters, blocking the Clean Power Plan and refusing to invest in renewable energy jobs also means forfeiting economic gains. Contrary to conservative rhetoric, meeting our national carbon reduction goals and transitioning to clean energy will grow our economy. According to a report from NextGen Climate America, a clean energy economy would create more than 1 million additional jobs and increase GDP by $145 billion by 2030, all while saving families money on energy bills and increasing household disposable income.
President Obama has taken significant steps to transition away from dirty energy and invest in renewables. From the Clean Power Plan, rightly heralded as the most important action any President has taken on climate change, to the Methane rule, a first-of its kind limit on an extremely potent greenhouse gas, the United States' transition to a clean energy economy is well underway.
But the United States' commitment to addressing climate change through strong domestic policies is as essential as our commitment to advance a global climate agreement in positioning our country as a global leader in the fight against climate change.
Because a global climate deal will require long-term U.S. commitment, GOP presidential candidates have the potential to undermine America's role in a global climate agreement. More than two-thirds of the candidates in the crowded Republican field question or deny the science behind global climate change. And only two candidates, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, have put out a stand-alone energy plan, but neither mention "climate change" or renewable energy. To the extent the Republican candidates have addressed environmental issues at all this campaign season, their focus has been on criticizing President Obama's actions and calling for expanded drilling, mining, and logging.
While U.S. leadership is not the only factor at play in continued global climate efforts, the U.S. has been essential in initiating climate negotiations. And continued commitment from the United States to honor international agreements will be crucial going forward.
In the next month, world leaders have the opportunity to strike a historic agreement that could help prevent the most devastating impacts of climate change and spur economic growth in the clean energy industry worldwide. If Republicans succeed in allowing that deal to be struck without U.S. involvement, it will not only be a weaker deal, but it will also undercut U.S. leadership in global climate efforts and leave our nation behind the world in the rapidly growing clean energy industry.
Americans are as supportive of action as they have ever been and the rest of the world is ready to step up. Republicans have a chance to turn the page on their obstructive history on climate action in the next month, and that decision will be instrumental in whether America remains a world leader on addressing climate change.
Carol Browner, former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, is a Board Member with the Center for American Progress.
This post is part of a "Dangers of Denial" series produced by The Huffington Post, in conjunction with the U.N.'s 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris (Nov. 30-Dec. 11), aka the climate-change conference. The series will put a spotlight on politicians and their supporters who actively deny the existence of or greatly downplay the gravity of climate change. To view the entire series, visit here.