President-elect Trump. Never thought I'd write that. But here we are, staring down four long years (at least) of a Trump White House and the god-knows-what that comes next. It's hard to know what to worry about, where to apply one's energies. A white nationalist with the ear of the president. An enemy of the Voting Rights Act leading the Justice Department. Anything involving Rudy Giuliani.
Scarier still was one of the earliest announcements from the incoming Trump administration: The president-elect had chosen Myron Ebell, one of the most notorious climate deniers out there, to lead his transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency, which is leading the US government's fight against climate change. If that doesn't chill you to the bone, I don't know what will.
That any Republican, any reasonable person at all, can still deny the overwhelming science of climate change and the urgent need to act boggles the mind. It's a subject I tackle in my latest story for Rolling Stone magazine—one that, sadly, couldn't be more timely.
Gospel of the Climate Deniers
Why do Republicans still reject the science of global warming?
Rolling Stone | November 3, 2016
ONE DAY IN 2009, Henry Waxman, the Democratic congressman representing Santa Monica and Malibu, paid a visit to one of his Republican counterparts, a ruddy-faced Texan named Joe Barton. After Democrats had won back the House of Representatives the previous year, Waxman staged an intraparty coup and seized the chairman's gavel of the Energy and Commerce committee, which oversees most legislation on the environment. He vowed to address what he saw as the gravest threat facing the planet: climate change. As an opening gesture, Waxman approached Barton, the committee's top Republican, about finding a way to work together on the new legislation.
Barton, a guy who once called Al Gore "totally wrong" about global warming and advised people to "get shade" to adapt to rising temperatures, was incredulous. Waxman recalls Barton asking why he should work on a solution for a problem he didn't believe existed. Waxman pressed on, but Barton wouldn't budge. "It would be like me working with you to try to eliminate U.S. support for Israel," the Texan finally said.
The comment stopped Waxman cold. Aid to Israel is, of course, an article of faith in both parties. You commit political seppuku to suggest otherwise.
Waxman, who retired from office two years ago, realized something important in that moment. For the modern-day Republican Party, protecting fossil fuels wasn't a pet issue; it was a religion. The Church of Carbon. And he didn't have a chance in hell of persuading someone like Barton to join his cause. "It has always been amazing to me that the Republicans as a party have taken the view that climate change – if it even exists – is not caused by man-made pollutants, and it's not really much of a problem," Waxman says. "It's an open hostility to science and evidence and facts that are becoming more and more undeniable."