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Republicans Attack the Pope

Last week climate change denier, US Senator from Florida and GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio offered comments in response to the Papal encyclical on climate change by Pope Francis.

Rubio said first that he finds it “ironic that a lot of the same liberals who are touting the encyclical on climate change ignore multiple pronouncements of this pope on the definition of marriage and the sanctity of life.”

Rubio’s lead-in, in other words, is Nixonian: shifting from an indefensible position on climate change by blaming “liberals”, as though they should be placed in context, against the moral authority of the church before agreeing with the pope on the urgency for action to stop global warming.

Then, Rubio added: “I have no problem with what the pope did.”

Really. Although Rubio says he has “no problem” with the pope, he hasn’t acknowledged climate change in the past. His record is clear. Marco Rubio won’t even sit down to listen to climate change scientists who have asked for meetings with him, for years.

He immediately follows, “He (the Pope) is a moral authority and as a moral authority is reminding us of our obligation to be good caretakers of the planet. I’m a political leader and my job as a policymaker is to act in the common good.”

Reading carefully: Rubio is not only making a distinction between moral and political authority, he claims the moral authority of the pope is passive compared to political authority. An interesting view for a follower of Christ’s teachings.

Moreover, if what a politician does, is to “act” in the common good, as opposed to moral authority which is passive , how is it not in the common good to be “a good caretaker of the planet”?

As though some distant part of his brain had alerted him to the danger of spreading false dichotomies among likely American voters, Rubio slightly reworked his theme on the run, “And I do believe it’s in the common good to protect our environment. But I also believe it’s in the common good to protect our economy.”

This is Marco Rubio veering back to the Jeb Bush and GOP meme on global warming and the encyclical: that the pope should stay with religion and not meddle in economics, the realm of politics.

Finally, Rubio remembers the bullet points on the Fox News cheat sheet, “There are people all over this planet and in this country who have emerged from poverty in large respect because of the availability of affordable energy. It creates industries. It makes the cost of living lower. And we have to take that into account as well.”

If Marco Rubio had paid any attention at all to the environment during his political career — from the perspective of West Miami built haphazardly in former Everglades wetlands — he would understand that harm to the environment weighs most heavily on those least capable of bearing the costs: the poor, the needy, and the powerless. But Rubio, as state legislator in Florida and Jeb Bush loyalist, did not pay attention: while in the state legislature he did not just do the bidding of powerful economic interests that comprise Florida’s shadow government; he lead from the front.

The Republican notion on climate change — compelling civilization to walk forward while looking down at our shoelaces ignores the facts that Pope Francis offered in his encyclical: unless we deal with the causes of global warming now — right now — we face a global economic catastrophe that will first affect the poor but leave no one standing.

“We have to take that into account as well”, ie. the argument that short-term economic priorities trump long-term security is the famous refuge of climate change dodgers. The reason: implicit in “take that into account as well” is delay and driving debate back into the high weeds of uncertainty.

Almost on cue, the Obama administration yesterday released the first analysis of imminent costs to the US economy from global warming. “In the absence of global action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the United States by the end of the century may face up to $180 billion in economic losses because of drought and water shortages, according to a report released Monday by the White House and Environmental Protection Agency. White House officials said the report, which analyzes the economic costs of a changing climate across 20 sectors of the American economy, is the most comprehensive effort to date to quantify the impacts of global warming.” (NY Times)

In his response to the papal encyclical, his own words demonstrate why Marco Rubio is unqualified to be president. To much of the world, it is a surprise that climate change deniers like Rubio are U.S. senators at all.

Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at afarago@bellsouth.net

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Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at afarago@bellsouth.net

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