Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, Republicans continue to live in their own, made-up world.
Case in point: The current wildfire situation in San Diego, California.
Firefighters in the region are currently battling record-high heat in an attempt to quell fires that have consumed nearly 10,000 acres since Tuesday morning. In total, nine separate fires have engulfed the area causing the displacement of thousands of San Diego County residents as well as closing schools, colleges, and attractions in the region. Several homes have been destroyed by the blazes as well as an eighteen-unit apartment complex in the coastal town of Carlsbad. As of early Thursday afternoon, there had been nearly 20,000 evacuation notices sent to the residents of San Marcos, CA as a 700-acre fire there threatened the local community. With temperatures set to reach triple digits for the third straight day of a mid-May heatwave, San Diego County firefighters were set to face another challenging day in a region that has been scorched by year-long drought conditions.
For nearly three decades, Republicans have been doing their best to misinform the public about climate change. And, it has worked. According to a March Gallup Poll 42% of Americans think that the dangers of climate change have been over-exaggerated. However, if we were to break down this poll by party preference we would find that 68% of Republicans believe the dangers of climate change have been over-exaggerated while only 18% of Democrats believe the same. The poll also found that 60% of Americans believe that climate change is occurring with 29% of Americans being unsure. To put this another way, nearly 1 out of 3 Americans are uncertain as to what scientists think about climate change.
They honestly have no idea that 97% of scientists not only believe climate change is occurring, but that man’s involvement is a major cause for its acceleration.
For Fox News executives, Republican government officials, the oil and natural gas industry and lobbyists, and of course everyone’s favorite Bond villains the Koch Brothers, this data can only mean one thing: Mission Accomplished. The American people remain woefully ignorant regarding climate change, even though the facts are staring them in the face. For example, the UN World Meteorological Organization has reported that 13 of the 14 warmest years on record have occurred this century. In California, 2013 was the driest year on record and 2014 is on pace to be even drier. Now, despite what Republicans might tell you, this is not an issue unique to the blue states. The deep red state of Texas is currently experiencing drought conditions that may very well provide the state with its worst drought since the 1950s. Of course, you won’t hear Republican Governor Rick Perry mention the term “climate change” any time soon. And, just this past week we experienced what Mother Jones Magazine called the “oh s#&%” moment of climate change when it was revealed that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will inevitably melt and cause a ten-foot rise in worldwide sea levels, which has the potential to occur within the next century.
For Republicans, they can only deny basic facts for so long. Of late, Florida Senator Marco Rubio has painted himself into a corner by denying climate change and mocking science. For someone with presidential aspirations hoping to appeal to a nation-wide audience, continuing to insist that the world is 6,000 years old no matter what Neil DeGrasse Tyson or the accepted science of the day says, is not the way to attract swing voters. The problem that Rubio and other potential Republican presidential candidates will face will be how to pander to their science-denying base all while attempting to not alienate scientifically-literate voters. What they will find, albeit too late, is that these two outcomes are mutually exclusive.
Which brings us back to the current events of the day. There is no doubt that climate change is impacting the current wildfires in San Diego. In fact, even Fire Chief Michael Davis said as much when he said, “This is May, this is unbelievable. This is something we should see in October. I haven’t seen it this hot, this dry, this long in May.” Republicans will try to spin this as the annual San Diego wildfire season. They’ll point to the 2007 wildfires in San Diego County and point out that this is an event that seems to happen every few years. However, they cannot argue with Chief Davis’ statement. The timing of these fires is extremely unusual this early in the year. However, that is exactly what happens when you have the driest year on record, combined with a heat wave in mid-May. Republicans can deny science all they want, but until they actually acknowledge that climate change is a real threat to this nation then they have no chance of winning back the presidency. They will continue to deny it, even when there is direct evidence in plain view, just like there is in San Diego County.
Should any Republican presidential nominee chooses to run on an anti-climate change platform, then his 2016 White House bid will meet the same fate as the San Diego countryside: It will go up in flames.