Today, 19.7% of electricity in the United States comes from nuclear power, an energy source that produces no climate altering emissions and is so synonymous with wealth that one of the world’s best known fictional billionaires owns a nuclear power plant. If you think that’s impressive, slightly more – 19.8% – of our electricity comes from renewables, which have created mini economic booms around the country, particularly for private equity firms. America’s top automaker by market capitalization makes exclusively electric cars and its historic market leader in car-making is abandoning the internal combustion engine.
Outside the United States, politically conservative parties are fighting climate change. Germany’s conservative party supports climate emissions rules. Canada’s Conservative leader supports an “opt-out” provision on carbon taxes but says the country needs to get carbon neutral. At a recent summit, Japan said it would cut its emissions target in half, insisting it can seriously reduce emissions by 2030, while Britain said it will cut emissions by more than 75% by 2035. Both are run by right-wing political parties.
Factories are big business but so, too, is environmental remediation. Companies are lining up to accept dollars – be they government dollars or market ones – to develop and deploy tools to slow climate change. Many are preparing to develop new sea walls to protect low-lying areas or creating new technologies to detect weather events.
But the Republican Party, the sole significant right-wing party in the United States, has made opposing environmental improvement into a social issue. Social issues drive political parties, and by making its core belief that climate change is fake and we need to protect the coal industry, the Republicans have put themselves at odds with what voters want, what the planet needs, and what capitalists crave.
Republicans didn’t do anything to help the coal industry, of course. By the end of the Trump administration, there were 24% fewer people working in coal than there had been four years earlier. Coal mining and coal power are both more automated now while building new renewable power plants is far cheaper than building fossil fuel plants. Coal is on its way out as a job engine and as a cost saver, the two things Republicans profess to love so deeply. The only reason they’re still so aggressively pro-coal is because Democrats are against it.
The modern Republican Party’s sole ideology is opposition to anything Democrats like or want to accomplish, even if Democrats back measures historically popular with Republicans. Republicans conceived both the health care exchange system and carbon pricing but became fierce opponents when they were adopted by Democrats. As Democrats favor more free market solutions, Republicans turn away from the market, demanding federal intervention in the economy to prop up their interests or harm their opponents.
Activists like slogans such as “planet over profit,” but the truth is that we can have both (whether we should have both is another conversation altogether). Republicans are not stopping climate progress to protect the rich, they’re stopping it to protect the sliver of the rich that supports them and, perhaps more insidiously, they’re stopping it because they’ve so thoroughly convinced millions of American workers that there’s a direct correlation between things that are good for the planet and economic misery. It’s absolutely not true. The alliance of climate activists and wealthy investors may seem unusual but the Republican Party is so detached that it has lost even the wealthy it promises to protect.