The Christian right is why the US will not tackle climate change

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Young Earth creationism, scientists portrayed as part of an anti-Christian conspiracy, viewed environmentalists with the utmost suspicion. Growing up as an evangelical in the US Christian Right world and attending Christian schools, I know firsthand how extreme they are and how aggressively they defend “alternative facts”.

Understanding this is important as COP26 (the twenty-sixth annual conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) takes place in Glasgow. Because the Republicans, who have just won the elections outside of the year (which is a bad sign for the mid-term congressional elections in 2022), together with ex-President Donald Trump represent the culmination of a decades-long process of radicalization in their party, which was initiated by the thoroughly authoritarian Christian rights.

This is not your grandparents’ Republican Party. At least ten GOP members, who were elected to office just this week, attended Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6th. With the aim of preventing President-elect Biden from taking office by spreading open lies about alleged electoral fraud, the rally culminated in a violent uprising against the federal government. Christian symbols and prayers were a ubiquitous feature of the events of that infamous day.

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God will solve the climate crisis

The views of the Christian Right on the environment are extremely worrying. For a moment, consider these actual quotes from US national lawmakers – all Republicans – on climate change.

Illinois representative John Shimkus quoted a literal interpretation of the story of Noah’s Ark in our Lord’s year 2010 as evidence that concerns about climate change were misplaced. “I believe that God said the earth would not be destroyed by a flood,” said Shimkus.

In office since 1997, he retired last year and was replaced in the House by another Republican, Mary Miller. As a born-again Sunday School teacher and Christian homeschooling advocate, Miller was instantly shameful when she made a passionate speech at the Stop the Steal rally saying “Hitler was right” about the importance of indoctrination of children.

Miller is expected to be opposed to what she calls “radical ideas like the Green New Deal and other extreme environmental laws.”

Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe (in office since 1994) notoriously carried a snowball to the Senate level in 2015 to “refute” global warming. Oh, and he also compared the Federal Environment Agency with the Gestapo.

“God is still up there. The arrogance of people to believe that we humans would be able to change the climate, what he does is outrageous to me, ”he said in 2012.

Michigan representative Tim Walberg said this about climate change in 2017: “As a Christian, I believe that there is a Creator in God who is much greater than us. And I am confident that he can take care of it if there is a real problem. “

I grew up with this kind of rhetoric and worse. For example, claims that we don’t have to act to save the environment because Christ will come again soon anyway.

Of course, with the destruction from climate change becoming harder to deny, Republicans are turning increasingly to economic arguments to deter us from taking the matter seriously. But their attitudes and those of their constituencies have remained the same.

Democracy in Crisis

Although the majority of Americans disagree with them on almost everything, for structural reasons Republicans have disproportionate power in the US – and the current Democratic leadership did not use this moment to push through reforms that could make US politics more equitable and democratic .

Republicans regularly support racist initiatives to suppress voters at the state level and have implemented a number of such measures in response to the election of President Biden. As a result, Republicans can – and often do these days – win the presidency because the president is elected indirectly through the electoral college rather than directly through the people while losing the referendum.

The Democratic Party is the only major party in which most of the elected members are at least concerned with environmentally friendly policies. However, they are likely to lose control of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.

It is also quite possible that the Democrats will lose the presidency in 2024. Trump himself could be back in office; he remains the authoritarian figure that ordinary Republicans seek leadership from. Even if he doesn’t, another Republican president could (again) initiate US withdrawal from the Paris Accords, as Trump did and for which Biden publicly apologized at COP26

American democracy is in a serious crisis. As long as this is the case, the US simply cannot be relied on to act responsibly on the world stage.

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