Republicans have insisted that any American program to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions is pointless, since China and other countries will never, ever agree to curtail their own emissions. As Chinese coal has reduced its energy intensity and announced a cap and trade system, and countries having accounted for more than 90 percent of global emissions having submitted emissions targets, this prediction is looking bad. But they are not content to sit back helplessly and watch their prediction fail. Leading Republicans have been doing everything they can to persuade other countries to burn every molecule of carbon they can find. Some of them may even crash the Paris talks in an attempt to blow up the negotiations. Now the Hill reports that Oklahoma senator James Inhofe, the Environment and Public Works Committee chairperson, and Kentucky representative Ed Whitfield, the House Energy and Commerce Committee energy and power subpanel chairperson, are considering a trip to Paris. “I don’t know if I’ll repeat what I’ve done several times before, which is to go over and be the bad guy, the one-man truth squad, and tell the truth, that they’re going to be lied to by the Obama administration,” Inhofe explains.
Inhofe’s version of the truth, as he has explained in his book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, and numerous public speeches, one of which posited that the existence of snow falsifies climate science, does not comport with the conclusions of leading experts in the field. Normally, when you are conducting international diplomacy, you want to have the face-to-face work handled by figures who are impressive, or at least cogent. But the Republicans’ peculiar form of anti-diplomacy calls for unusual tactics and unusual characters.
The Republican goal in Paris is not to persuade other countries that they’re right, or even that their ideas have any contact with reality at all. It is merely to persuade those countries that the Republican Party mortally opposes any limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, regardless of scientific or diplomatic developments, and that it will carry out this agenda if it takes power. Foreign diplomats are accustomed to political systems in which even the conservative parties accept the conclusions of climate science, and may suspect the Republican threats to destroy an international climate agreement amount to crazy bluster they wouldn’t actually carry out. Inhofe and Whitfield’s role is to persuade them that, yes, the Republicans really are this crazy.