Republicans' fake wish granted: Obama calls GOP bluff, gets China to act on reducing carbon emissions

Landmark climate agreement between U.S. and China is excellent news for Republicans -- if GOP were actually sincere

Published November 12, 2014 5:52PM (EST)

Mitch McConnell                               (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
Mitch McConnell (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

The big news this morning was the announcement of a landmark climate agreement between the United States and China in which both countries will commit to drastic reductions in their carbon emissions. I encourage you to read Rebecca Leber on why this agreement, while just a first step toward averting global climate change-caused catastrophes down the road, is a significant accomplishment and a sign that the global community is ready to take collective action on climate change. This is a huge part of Barack Obama’s broader environmental agenda (which is shaping up to be one of the most significant parts of his presidential legacy) and is an obvious success for a White House that really, really needed some good news.

But you know who else were big winners in this international pact on climate change? Republicans! Specifically, the Republicans who said that the only way President Obama could show leadership or achieve meaningful progress on climate change was to convince huge fossil fuel consumers like China to play along. And Obama did exactly that. So congratulations, Republicans – you win again!

Let’s take a quick look at the brave GOP politicians and lawmakers who set this high bar for significant action on climate change that the president just cleared, and celebrate them for their forward-looking vision on how to best tackle this grave threat to global security.

Here’s Senate majority-leader-in-waiting Mitch McConnell speaking on the Senate floor last summer, describing the futility of reducing carbon emissions domestically. Without significant cooperation from China, McConnell argued, such action would be “essentially meaningless.”

And here’s Shelley Moore Capito, the Republican senator-elect from West Virginia, saying at her October debate that Obama’s “leadership” on climate issues would be contingent upon convincing other polluters, like China, to follow him.

CAPITO: You know, the president says we need to lead on this. Well, if the president’s leading the globe on this issue, and China and India and Japan and all the other nations are not following, then he’s just taking a walk. And he’s taking a walk at the expense of the men and women in the West Virginia coal fields.

And here’s heavily muscled Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal saying in September that instead of “unilaterally” reducing our own carbon emissions and putting ourselves at a disadvantage, the best thing to do would be to “work with our major trading partners and competitors. Let’s have China at the table, let’s have Europe at the table, let’s work together to address these issues.”

Well, it’s all happening, you guys! Leadership! Meaningful agreements! Economic competitors at the table! There’s a long and proud history of Republicans standing athwart any policy that would reduce emissions unless China could be persuaded to change its own course, and now they’re actually seeing that change happen. They must be so excited.

By Simon Maloy

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