POLITICS
06/02/2017 05:15 pm ET Updated Jun 02, 2017

Actually, Mike Pence, Climate Change Has Nothing To Do With A 'Liberal' Agenda

His disingenuous comments ignore the GOP politicians who have spoken out on climate issues.

Vice President Mike Pence appeared on “Fox & Friends” Friday to tout President Donald Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement combatting climate change, and painted the issue as one of partisan politics. 

“For some reason or another, this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left in this country and around the world,” Pence said. “It’s long been a goal of the liberal left in this country to advance a climate change agenda.” 

Pence’s remarks entirely ignore the consensus among climate scientists that humans have significantly contributed to global warming. And in framing the issue as one of right versus left, he also brushes aside the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change, including food shortages, floods, fires and irreparable damage to wildlife.

He’s also disregarding that some of his fellow Republicans have also urged action on what he describes as the “climate change agenda.” 

Pence’s comments, of course, echo a familiar refrain from the right. Many conservatives have attempted to paint climate change as a partisan issue promoted only by the left, or simply punt on the issue by pleading ignorance. But the reality is that it’s not just Democrats who are concerned about global warming.

Recent polls also show that many Republican voters — including those who sided with Trump in the 2016 election — believe man-made climate change is real and is something to be concerned about. A HuffPost You/Gov poll earlier this year found that 61 percent of Americans supported staying in the Paris Agreement, including 31 percent of Trump voters surveyed. A Morning Consult/Politico poll conducted in April found that most Americans are concerned about climate change, including 50 percent of Republicans. And a March Gallup poll found that 68 percent of Americans believe humans are causing global warming. 

There have also been efforts on the right to make climate change action a priority for the GOP. Nineteen House Republicans signed on to the Republican Climate Resolution calling for congressional action on global warming, and many of those same members have joined a bipartisan caucus focused on climate issues. Bob Inglis, a former GOP congressman from South Carolina, formed RepublicEn, a conservative climate advocacy group. And as Reuters reported, college Republicans at campuses across the U.S. are increasingly in favor of actively combatting global warming, suggesting a generational shift looming for the party.

And, contrary to Pence’s comments, there are plenty of moderate and right-leaning politicians who have publicly warned of the dangers of rising global temperatures.

Here are just some prominent figures on the right who have acknowledged that climate change is a real and pressing threat to humanity, and are advocating for action: 

2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Trump’s secretary of state has previously expressed support for the Paris Agreement, and reportedly lobbied Trump to stay in the deal.

After Trump’s announcement, he said he hopes the U.S. will reduce greenhouse gas emissions despite leaving the accord.

“I don’t think we’re going to change our ongoing efforts to reduce those emissions in the future either, so hopefully, people can keep it in perspective,” he said. 

Energy Secretary Rick Perry

Perry, the former Republican governor of Texas and GOP presidential candidate, also supported staying in the agreement. He advocated for “renegotiating” the U.S.’s commitment rather than fully withdrawing.  

Perry, however, expressed support for Trump’s decision following the announcement.

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)

“One man cannot destroy our progress, one man can’t stop our clean energy revolution, one man can’t go back in time. Only I can do that,” Schwarzenegger said in a video on ATTN following Trump’s announcement, referencing his role in the “Terminator” films. “Like all the great movements in human history, our clean future starts with a grassroots movement in our communities, our cities and our state.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.)

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)

Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.)

“The Paris Agreement isn’t perfect. But by abandoning it, America is relinquishing that seat at the table. It calls into question our commitment to protecting and preserving the environment. And it forfeits our ability to drive countries like China and India to reduce their carbon footprint and compete on a level playing field. Ultimately, this disappointing decision diminishes America’s leadership role on the world stage.”

Former GOP congressman and founder of RepublicEn Bob Inglis

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) 

“United States innovation and business leadership have been key drivers to lowering our carbon emissions over the last 20 years, and we should continue to have an influential seat at the table as the rest of the world addresses these issues. Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is misguided, and harms the ongoing effort to fight climate change while also isolating us from our allies.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

Murkowski addressed Trump’s decision on Thursday, KTOO reported:

“My hope is that with the president’s decision to go this route it does not mean that we fall back as a nation on our efforts to address and mitigate on the impact that we see from a warming climate,” she said. “Because we see it here in this state and it is real and I think we’ve got an obligation to help address it.” 

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)

Alexander is one of few Senate Republicans who has acknowledged the existence of man-made climate change.

According to the Times Free Press, Alexander said in a statement Friday that while he doesn’t think withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is catastrophic for climate progress, he believes the “most important thing the United States can do to solve our energy and climate challenge is to double funding for basic energy research.”

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) 

“The President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement is disappointing and concerning, particularly given the widespread and non-partisan support from business and political leaders for remaining in the Agreement.” 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Although Graham expressed support for the decision to leave the Paris accord, he has previously acknowledged the gravity of climate change.

“I have come to conclude that greenhouse gases and carbon pollution is not a good thing,” Graham said in 2010. “Whatever political push back I get, I’m willing to accept because I know what I’m trying to do makes sense to me. … I am convinced that reason, logic and good business sense, and good environmental policy, will trump the status quo.”

ExxonMobil chief Darren Woods

Woods, who has donated to GOP campaigns, wrote a personal letter to Trump last month urging him to stay in the agreement. As the Financial Times reports:

Mr Woods argues that staying in the accord will mean the US keeps “a seat at the negotiating table to ensure a level playing field” for all energy sources, and can argue for “the most cost-effective greenhouse gas reduction options” and support for innovation

Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris

Liveris, whose company gave $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, was the “driving force behind a letter from 30 major company executives backing the deal,” Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon

The frequent GOP donor also urged Trump to uphold the U.S.’s commitment to the international pact. 

Defense Secretary James Mattis

Earlier this year, Mattis cited climate change as a national security threat.

“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” he said in written testimony to the Senate Armed Forces Committee. “It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.” 

Former Defense Secretary and GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel

Hagel has also said global warming should be considered a security threat.

“Preparing for climate change is about risk — even if we do not understand every aspect of the scientific predictions, we know that the consequences of not acting may be significant,” he wrote in a 2015 Time op-ed.

Former Secretary of State George Schultz 

Schultz, who served as the head of the State Department under Ronald Reagan, warned of the dangers of climate change in 2013.

“If you wait until you’re boiling, you may have missed your moment. You have to look and see what’s happening, and act on the basis of that,” he said.

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