Where Climate Change and Geopolitics Collide

In a rare moment of enlightenment, Republican John Boehner recently stated "I'm not qualified to debate the science over climate change." In the past, Boehner was a staunch 'climate denier' that professed, "The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical." Boehner's revelation could possibly be attributed to undeniable evidence presented in the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change 5th Report, which surmised that "98 percent of the world's climate scientist have determined with a 95 percent confidence that the observed increase in global average surface temperatures was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations."

Unfortunately, Boehner's brief moment of awakening did very little to stop him from jeopardizing the future of America by continuing to prorogate the politically driven myth that "every proposal put forward by the Obama administration to address America's role in global climate change involves hurting our economy and killing American jobs."

In particular, Boehner's has been obsessed with President Obama's efforts to circumvent the political gridlock on Capitol Hill by issuing an executive order that directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce the amount of carbon pollution emitted by existing power plants, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The driving force behind Boehner's snake oil rhetoric can be traced to intensive pressure from the fossil fuel industry, which has desperately resisted any actions that would reduce their record profit margins or subsidizes. Boehner's mythical statements can also be linked to the longstanding conservative ideology that advocates the necessity for the U.S. to preserve its fossil fuel energy economy or risk the possibility of an economic downturn that could prompt geopolitical fallout with other industrialized nations.

In defense of the Republican Party's opposition to the overdue EPA carbon pollution regulations, Boehner sights a study conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commence that claims the EPA regulations could cost the U.S. economy approximately 224,000 jobs and $289 billion in higher electricity costs through 2030. Interestingly, this haphazard study was produced by a conservative pro-growth organization without knowing the regulatory details of President Obama's proposal, or peer-reviewed by an independent panel of economists to validate its results.

In contrast, an EPA analysis of the proposed regulations reveals that a 30 percent reduction in existing power plant greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, using emissions from 2005 as a baseline, would result in $90 billion dollars in climate and health cost-savings. Inline with the EPA analysis, The World Resources Institute suggests that a 26 percent reduction in existing power plant carbon pollution by 2020, at an approximate cost of $4 billion a year, would provide $25-$60 billion per year in cost-savings, save thousands of lives, and prevent environmental degradation. On top of that, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of reducing power plant emissions that are harmful to human health, and a 2014 Yale inquiry reveals that 68 percent of America supports setting strict carbon dioxide limits on existing coal-fired power plants.

Furthermore, the precedent for setting a multi-state carbon pollution limitation on existing power plants was established by the Northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2005. According to Kelly Speakes-Backman, a commissioner of the Maryland Public Service Commission, the RGGI has been cost-effective, reduced power plant carbon pollution, and provided significant economic benefits for the region.

Another factor overlooked by conservatives encompasses the opportunity to fortify America's energy security by transitioning to an independent renewable energy economy. Presently, the U.S. has only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, but uses 20 percent of the world's oil. Consequently we are increasingly dependent on foreign oil supplies and economically vulnerable because of crude oil prices fluctuations caused by escalating oil demands from developing nations. In the last 24 years, crude oil prices have risen from approximately $20 per barrel to being consistently over $100 per barrel. According to a 2014 Congressional Budget Office report, a viable solution to address America's oil addiction entails the development of 'green' energy sources, practices, technologies, and manufacturing, which in turn would foster America's energy security, create a half-million new jobs by 2025, and strengthen America's geopolitical position as a world leader.

Simply put, a little simple math and foresight illuminates how the Republican Party's 'business-as-usual' approach will eventually lead to greater economic hardships and intensified geopolitical risks for future generations than a progressive and sustainable transition to a diversified renewable energy economy.