The GOP’s Most Dangerous Climate Advocate Is Going to the United Nations Talks in Glasgow

The GOP’s Most Dangerous Climate Advocate Is Going to the United Nations Talks in Glasgow
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP

On Friday, the Washington Post reported a list of Republicans in Congress who will be attending United Nations climate talks in Glasgow later this month. Per the Post, the group includes Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana, the ranking GOP member on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis; Rep. John Curtis of Utah, who formed the new Conservative Climate Caucus earlier this year, and Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas.

Sorry, I’m just… sorry. Did I hear that right? Dan Crenshaw? That guy?

After decades of GOP members of Congress flat-out going to war against climate science, a Republican who accepts climate science is still somehow considered a Big Deal. (Big outlets, like clockwork, still love to profile these types.) At first glance, Crenshaw would seem to fit this bill: Last year, he authored an op-ed in the conservative outlet National Review last year titled “It’s Time for Conservatives to Own the Climate-Change Issue.” One could argue that his trip to the talks, known as COP26, is merely a way to try and bring the rest of the GOP up to speed.

But a closer look at how Crenshaw has positioned himself on climate in recent months makes it clear that in Glasgow, he’s going to be a fox in the henhouse. Sure, he might not question the fact that climate change is happening, but he’s not exactly following the science on how serious the problem actually is.

In one wildly misleading video published in May of this year on Facebook (of course), Crenshaw cherry-picks “data and science” from the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, misreading the report’s textual and scientific conclusions to downplay the seriousness of the threat of climate change.

“I’m not arguing that climate change isn’t real, or that it’s not caused by manmade emissions,” he says. “What I am saying is that we don’t need to be scaring our children to death.”

He’s also openly mocked renewable energy, calling wind and solar “silly solutions” and falsely claimed that wind turbines were responsible for the Texas blackouts. (Crenshaw is one of several Texas Republicans funded by oil and gas interests who used the blackouts as a way to bash wind.) Not only did he vote against the Build Back Better Act — which contains key climate provisions that align with the Biden administration’s Paris Agreement commitment — but he’s blasted banning oil and gas production as both costing jobs and also, somehow, hurting the environment (?).

So if Crenshaw thinks climate change is happening, but isn’t such a big deal, and wind and solar suck, and fossil fuel money is just fine to accept, what sorts of solutions could he possibly be going to Glasgow to propose? One possible avenue: We’re just going to have to get used to this whole climate change thing.

“Adaptation can solve this problem,” Crenshaw says in his Facebook video, despite all evidence to the contrary. This attitude dovetails closely with what we’ve seen recently from other GOP leaders like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. It’s essentially a plan to throw money at the multibillion-dollar disasters striking with increasing regularity while doing nothing to reduce the risk.

Another idea he could be going to the talks to promote is, somehow, more fossil fuel investment. In that same National Review op-ed, Crenshaw advocated heavily for carbon-capture technology (which is great on its own, but needs to be part of a much larger solution), extolled “the massive carbon-reducing effect of natural gas” (better than coal but still wildly problematic), and trotted out fossil-fuel-funded talking points on how the world’s demand for fossil fuels is going to keep rising.

“Even if we were to implement a carbon tax, such a policy might inadvertently increase emissions as our cleaner, better-regulated American oil-and-gas industry potentially cedes market share to less clean Russian and Saudi producers,” he wrote. “At the risk of stating the obvious, the developing world won’t stop demanding energy just because we decide to tax ourselves more.”

Crenshaw’s whole position on climate is something much more dangerous than just ignoring the problem. By positioning himself as someone who accepts the science (I use “accepts” very loosely here), he’s able to leap over Democrats’ usual point that the GOP is filled with deniers. In doing so, it means he is being taken seriously–even if his proposals aren’t in good faith.

“You aren’t, you liar,” he tweeted in May in response to Sen. Ed Markey’s tweet about negotiating a bill with “climate deniers,” in reference to the Build Back Better Act. “We aren’t denying climate change, we are just pointing out that your ‘solutions’ will hurt people, and do nothing to prevent climate change.”

In fact, it’s Crenshaw’s supposed solutions of more oil and gas and hand waving at adaptation that will put more lives on the line. What the vast majority of research has shown is that the world needs to change course completely and end fossil fuel use rather than hope unproven technologies to capture carbon will save the climate — and us.

“It is still possible to forestall many of the most dire impacts, but it really requires unprecedented transformational change — the rapid and immediate reduction of greenhouse gases,” Ko Barrett, the vice chair of the IPCC, said on a press call when the group launched its latest report earlier this year.

We asked Crenshaw’s office if he accepts science from the IPCC and the International Energy Agency’s report this year showing we need to dial down coal, oil, and gas use and stop new fossil fuel exploration next year. We also asked if he’s proposed or is working on other legislation in place of the reconciliation bill he voted against that would meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the U.S. negotiating position at Glasgow. We’ll update this post if we hear back.