Climate change denialism has become much more difficult lately, as evidence in the form of heat waves, increasingly strong hurricanes, wildfires and the like continue to grow. And in most countries, as a recent article from the New York Times notes in its opening paragraphs, political fights over efforts to combat global warming are focused on the “how”–not on the immediacy or existential nature of the threat.
But then there’s the good old USA, and the GOP.
The article’s headline is “Weaponizing Public Office Against Climate Action,” and it documents yet another drawback of American federalism–the ability of Republican officeholders in Red States to actually bolster fossil fuel companies at the expense of the climate. It isn’t just in Texas, where we’ve become used to the deranged antics of Gov. Greg Abbott. (Abbott has actually prohibited state agencies from investing in businesses that have cut ties with fossil fuel companies.)
The Times investigation revealed a “coordinated effort by state treasurers to use government muscle and public funds to punish companies trying to reduce greenhouse gases.
Nearly two dozen Republican state treasurers around the country are working to thwart climate action on state and federal levels, fighting regulations that would make clear the economic risks posed by a warming world, lobbying against climate-minded nominees to key federal posts and using the tax dollars they control to punish companies that want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Over the past year, treasurers in nearly half the United States have been coordinating tactics and talking points, meeting in private and cheering each other in public as part of a well-funded campaign to protect the fossil fuel companies that bolster their local economies.
Last week, Riley Moore, the treasurer of West Virginia, announced that several major banks — including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo — would be barred from government contracts with his state because they are reducing their investments in coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel.
This is–rather obviously– insane. It’s as if an immensely wealthy patient diagnosed with terminal cancer were to decree that none of his monies could ever be used for cancer research or for the production of cancer treatments–and should instead be invested in Roundup and other cancer-producing products.
Mr. Moore and the treasurers of Louisiana and Arkansas have pulled more than $700 million out of Ti, the world’s largest investment manager, over objections that the firm is too focused on environmental issues. At the same time, the treasurers of Utah and Idaho are pressuring the private sector to drop climate action and other causes they label as “woke.”
And treasurers from Pennsylvania, Arizona and Oklahoma joined a larger campaign to thwart the nominations of federal regulators who wanted to require that banks, funds and companies disclose the financial risks posed by a warming planet.
Reporters traced these efforts to a little-known nonprofit organization based in Shawnee, Kansas, identifying the State Financial Officers Foundation, an organization that once focused on cybersecurity, as the “nexus” of these actions . Following the election of President Biden, who pledged to make addressing climate change a significant element of his agenda, the Foundation began pushing Republican state treasurers–elected officials responsible for managing their state’s finances–“to use their power to promote oil and gas interests and to stymie Mr. Biden’s climate agenda, records show.”
The Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute and the American Petroleum Institute are among the conservative groups with ties to the fossil fuel industry that have been working with the State Financial Officers Foundation and the treasurers to shape their national strategy.
The Times notes that Democratic treasurers in Blue states support efforts to combat climate change; they encourage banks and investment firms to acknowledge the risks that climate change poses to returns for retirees and others. But they haven’t created anything like the national campaign being orchestrated by the State Financial Officers Foundation.
Rational people–a category that rather clearly excludes these Republican treasurers–understand that global warming is already damaging agriculture and causing extreme weather events that devastate communities and cost taxpayers billions in recovery and rebuilding. Instead, they insist that efforts to reduce emissions threaten employment.
These GOP treasurers have turned climate science into yet another issue in the Republicans’ unrelenting and suicidal culture wars.
But here’s the thing: It’s one thing to recognize that the economic health and quality of life in Blue states is superior to that of Red States. Americans can shrug–or move. However, we can’t create environmental silos–the stupidity and/or cupidity of these GOP officeholders affects the future livability of the entire globe.
The GOP proudly asserts that it isn’t “woke.” (We’ve noticed.)
The opposite of wakefulness, of course, is sleep. In this case, it’s a coma…..