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Handling the GOP’s hot potato

Especially susceptible is their argument that global warming will cost more to fix long term, than the economic damage it is already doing. American commerce and communities were slammed with record economic losses due to weather disasters last year – including tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the decimated Texas cattle herds, millions of acres of drowned farmland along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and the heat scorched Southern peanut crop.

The U.S. endured a jaw-dropping 14 major weather disasters in 2011, each costing $1 billion or more in damages, totaling $53 billion. Extreme weather is now increasing prices on everything from beef, to cotton clothing, and peanut butter. Add to that the tragic loss of human life, and the on-the-ground impacts of climate change are becoming hard for voters to ignore.

Of more concern to Republican candidates: About half of Americans (51%) now believe that extreme weather will cause a natural disaster in their own community in the next year, bringing loss of life, water shortages, wildfires, damage to crops and other hardships.

If the global warming public opinion pendulum swings decisively against Republicans in this election – or at the midterms or in 2016, it leaves the GOP with little maneuverability. With the party’s purse strings tightly tied to big oil, coal, and natural gas interests, the Grand Old Party cannot change its position on climate change without taking a huge hit to campaign coffers.

Strangely, the more climate change evidence has become irrefutable, the more Republican politicians have entrenched against it, and the shriller their position has become. With 97 percent of all scientists now saying that global warming is happening and human-caused, according to the National Academy of Sciences, and with the weather proving out that assertion, the die is cast.

It could prove a long hot summer – and century – for Red State Republicans heading home to campaign with constituents whose lives are being made miserable, and whose economic fortunes are being ruined, by scorching temperatures, drought, deluge, and waves of tornadoes.

Blue Ridge Press senior editor Glenn Scherer lives in Vermont. © Blue Ridge Press 2012.

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