We are used to Republicans denying climate change and we get that it's entirely a political move at this point. Some 97% of climate scientists have determined that human-driven greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet and a new Sierra Club report shows that if Trump were to get elected, he would be the only world leader to deny climate science.
On Monday, the Republican National Committee demonstrated they will have Trump's back when it comes to outrageous environmental standpoints by adding the word 'clean' to their description of coal. Their draft platform, which will be adopted at the Cleveland convention next week, now informs us that coal is an “an abundant, clean, affordable, reliable domestic energy resource.”
This is dirty politics, and it's not like the word just snuck in there. At one point during the committee meeting, David Barton, a delegate from Texas, specifically asks for the edit to me made, stating that the Democratic party doesn't understand all these things about coal. The amendment was quickly adopted, no explanation of coal actual cleanness was needed (although there was some discussion about technical difficulties at the meeting).
Watch for yourself:
When it comes to climate change, Republicans are used to living in denial, so it's not overly shocking that they wouldn't hesitate to accept this amendment in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Not only is the coal industry in an economic downfall, with production at a 35-year low according to the Energy Department, but efforts at producing any sort of large-scale "clean coal" project with limited carbon dioxide emissions have failed miserably up to this point. A blow-by-blow account of one of these failures at the Kemper "clean coal" plant in Mississippi was recently published by the New York Times' Ian Urbina.
Urbina wrote that the plant, which was "supposed to be a model for future power plants to help slow the dangerous effects of global warming" is "more than two years behind schedule and more than $4 billion over its initial budget, $2.4 billion, and it is still not operational."
The stalled situation at the Kempler plant, which is attempting to capture and bury carbon dioxide, is not the end-all discussion of clean coal, but it shows how relying on such a strategy to mitigate climate change and and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is extremely risky, especially when so many other alternative energy sources exist. But since the Republicans in charge of the party are in the business of denying climate change, this minor detail doesn't really matter to them. If clean coal could actually produce energy in a cost-effective, environmentally friendly manner, it could literally be an Earth-saver as emissions from coal-fired power plants are a major contributor to the steady rise in atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions and will continue to be for a long time at the current rate of change unfortunately.
According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, carbon dioxide emissions from coal combustion represented 24.5% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012.
"Worldwide, coal supplies 29.7% of energy use and is responsible for 44% of global CO2 emissions," states the organization.
And the buck doesn't stop with carbon dioxide emissions either. As Slate's Phil Plait pointed out, "coal has a lot of other things in it besides carbon, including mercury, sulfur, and more. These pollutants get into the air and cause a lot of problems, including thousands of premature deaths every year."
All it takes is a look at China's coal industry to see the extent of coal's power to pollute, both locally and globally.
Meanwhile the draft of the Democratic committee platform recently became even more robust when it comes to climate change, thanks in large part to the rise of Bernie Sanders and his progressive environmental agenda. Because of this, Hillary Clinton could end up running on the strongest climate platform in U.S. history.