01/23/2015 12:54 pm ET Updated Mar 25, 2015

Alternate Universe

In the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address, freshman Senator Jodi Ernst of Iowa pledged that her party would steer the country in a better direction.

Just where would the Republican itinerary lead us?

Since Senator Ernst failed to mention global warming, it's safe to assume Republicans will continue attempting to change the country's course by sidetracking the Obama Administration's climate change initiatives. It is an envisioned shift that reflects their resistance to the steady flow of peer-reviewed scientific studies. The research documents climate-related environmental degradation -- and the urgent need to take remedial action.

Ernst expressed fear for our children's fate if we continued on our present path, even as she ignored arguably the greatest threat to future generations in the form of climate change. Indeed, she offered few specifics about her greatest concerns. Instead, she spent much of her time nostalgically reminiscing over her threadbare but close-knit upbringing down on the farm.

Not only was climate change a non-issue for her and her party. Ernst made no reference to anything remotely related to the environment other than urging approval of the long stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline. The project is the party's overblown, job-inflated polluting poster child. Keystone opponents attribute the Republican congressional majority's fixation with the pipeline primarily to two factors: the lawmakers' eagerness to ingratiate themselves with their fossil fuel industry allies -- and to a desire to pressure Obama to sign off on a project that will alienate the Democrats' environmental base.

What other changes in direction do the Republicans have in mind? The party has made it clear it wants to relax regulatory safeguards for clean air, drinking water and the conservation of federal lands, moves in conflict with majorities in public opinion polls.

The GOP is heading toward an ideological confrontation with Pope Francis because of the Holy Father's activist stance toward global warming and environmental reforms in general. In doing so, the party is in the process of placing itself at odds with one of the world's most charismatic and influential public figures. It is a course of action that most Americans are unlikely to follow.

The Republicans want to scale back subsidies for renewable energy, which they consider too technologically backward to replace fossil fuels in any significant way for the foreseeable future. Their lack of enthusiasm for renewables' potential is not shared by the American public who overwhelmingly support intensifying efforts to bring those clean energy sources into the mainstream.

The GOP leadership is contemplating altering our foreign policy by scaling back President Obama's recent move to ease our strained diplomatic relationship with Cuba. No matter that a majority of Americans, including those of Cuban descent, favor a relaxation of tensions.

Senator Ernst asserts that her party wants to change the direction of the country. But the polls suggest that if the Republicans proceed on their current course, it won't be long before the public applies the brakes.