Pope Francis put the Republican party's orthodoxy in a tizzy last month when he issued his encyclical, "on care for our common home." That message said, that the Earth " … cried out because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse… ." Saying that degrading the environment is a moral issue, the Pope called for global action to deal with climate change, which he plainly attributed to human activity.
Republicans consider it an article of faith to deny that human activity has anything to do with climate change, largely due to the influence of the energy sector of the economy, and also in part to the issue's association with a very prominent Democrat, Al Gore, and so the responses they offered to the Pope's call were predictable.
Jeb Bush declared, "I don't get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my Pope." Former senator and repeat presidential candidate Rick Santorum went on record, saying that the church should "leave science to scientists," evidently ignorant of the Pope's background as a scientist. Marco Rubio had long been on record as denying the impact of humans on the environment. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had difficulty with the topic, as his state recently experienced catastrophic flooding. Cruz is on record as saying " ... the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat earthers." Forbes magazine, as conservative a journal as can be found, said of Cruz, "(his) statement is not just wrong: it's also arrogant." Somehow that pretty much summarizes most of the climate deniers running for office. Former preacher Mike Huckabee, whose disagreements with the Pope extend past scientific fact, fired off his reaction to the encyclical. "A beheading is a far greater threat to Americans than a sunburn." At last count, about 9,940 people will die from skin cancer caused by sunburn this year, so assuming Mr. Huckabee was thinking about ISIS, his reckoning is somewhat off the mark by more than 9,930.
In fact, it's very hard to find a serious Republican presidential candidate who actually supports the idea that humankind has anything at all to do with global warming. Ex-New York governor George Pataki might be the only one. He has a better chance of winning the lottery than his party's nomination, so if you're a betting person, you'd be safe betting that the eventual Republican presidential nominee will be at odds with the Pope and the scientific community on at least one issue.
Whether or not you believe that human activity has something to do with climate change, you really cannot deny that politically motivated policy decisions have great impact on the country, and to the degree that those decisions can and do exacerbate or ameliorate the condition of the poor and the planet, those decisions have a moral component that has nothing to do with being a Christian conservative like Huckabee or Carson, a Jewish progressive like Bernie Sanders, or an atheist (no Presidential candidate will admit to being one. It's far better being gay than godless in American politics).
Susan Milligan observed that one Republican, conservative governor Mike Kasich of Ohio, understood that connection between legislation and morality. Kasich's words should be inscribed inside the eyeballs of every candidate for public office, from Presidential candidate to Carroll County Commissioner: "Put yourself in the shoes of a mother and a father of an adult child that is struggling. Walk in somebody else's moccasins. Understand that poverty is real … when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he's probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer."
For now, the Republican Presidential candidates don't.
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Mitch Edelman writes from Finksburg. Email him at email@example.com