President Obama and other world leaders began crucial climate change talks in Paris on Monday at the annual Conference of Parties, or COP21. "Never have the stakes of an international meeting been so high, since what is at stake is the future of the planet, the future of life," French President Francois Hollande told the United Nations. Despite 150 leaders from around the globe coming together to discuss an international effort to combat global warming, many GOP presidential candidates still contest that climate change is caused by human activity and how great a threat it is to humanity.
Though most Republican politicians have finally accepted that climate change isn't a hoax, the party still has a difficult time accepting the scientific proof that it's not a naturally occurring phenomenon. Rick Santorum, for instance, said that the idea that rising temperatures are directly related to CO2 emissions is "just patently absurd" in 2011, and in September, he misquoted a United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report to say that "about 57 percent [of scientists] don't agree with the idea that 95 percent of the change in the climate is caused by CO2." The study actually states that it's "extremely likely" (meaning scientists have a 95 percent confidence level) that humans are causing climate change.
Similarly, Rand Paul minimized the problem in November's GOP presidential debate, saying:
While I do think man may have a role in our climate, I think nature also has a role. The planet's 4.5 billion years old. We've been through geologic age after geologic age. We've had times when the temperature's been warmer, we've had times when the temperature's been colder. We've had times when the carbon in the atmosphere's been higher.
Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz also deny that climate change is a catastrophic problem caused by human activity. Climate change is no longer a political ideology. It's been scientifically proven that greenhouse gas emissions are having drastic impacts on the Earth. It's very worrisome that people seeking to be president of the United States deny these facts.
As Obama said at COP21, "we are one of the first generations to feel the impact of climate change, and one of the last to do something about it." Having a denier take over the White House and undo the work currently being done to slow global warming would not only be detrimental to America's climate change efforts, but also to the world's, as the U.S. needs to set an example for other countries struggling to cut back on emissions.
These Republicans' refusal to accept the looming threat of climate change is a problem that extends beyond the environmental movement, though. It sheds light on how they would analyze all kinds of issues as president. Refusing to listen to experts and scientists, ignoring clear data, and downplaying a major international crisis is not a responsible way for anyone, let alone the country's leader, to approach something. If they're willing to reject scientific data about the climate, how can Americans expect them to listen to experts about other national and global issues? Presidents aren't trained in every field, and therefore must rely on advisers and other experts to guide them through various problems. A president who refuses to do so will cause irreparable damage.
By denying a scientifically-proven global problem, Republican candidates have shown that they value their personal beliefs over facts, and are incapable of evolving. As the world learns more about certain issues and new data comes to light, politicians have to be able to adapt and respond in an effective way. Ignorance is not bliss.