You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Even China's Communist Party Accepts That Climate Change Is Real. Republicans Still Don't.

Feng Li/Getty Images

Via Mother Jones, the team at Climate Desk put together this fun supercut of Republicans citing China as an excuse to ignore climate change:

The video makes the simple but important point that the U.S.-China climate change deal turns the most pragmatic conservative argument against limiting our own greenhouse gas emissions—that it would amount to unilateral economic surrender—on its head.

But I think the significance of that point runs deeper than the damage done to one conservative excuse for inaction. The key thing about the "why should we act if China won’t?!” excuse is a failure of moral imagination. You only say something like that if you're extremely confident that the world's developing economies won't turn around and embarrass you by seeking to limit their own emissions—that they share your particular cynicism, nihilism, or denialism.

It’s not just that China is mature enough to grapple with climate science and the GOP isn't, but that conservatives are so far down these rabbit holes that they've convinced themselves no other rational, developing economy (i.e. non-U.S. and E.U.) would treat this as a problem that needs solving.

But it is a problem that needs solving, even to the calculating, self-interested leaders of the Communist Party of China. Irrespective of the science, there was always some chance that the right’s claims about the political economy of climate change (or, more accurately, the Chinese government’s views about the political economy of climate change) would be vindicated. They have instead been refuted.

That’s because the problems that climate pollution causes are real, and even the least accountable governments in the world understand that they need to be addressed—even if not for the purest, most idealistic reasons. Once you accept the alarming implications of climate science, then trying to avert them becomes ineluctable. And the only way to explain away how wrong conservatives were here is to conclude that they had actually internalized the view that climate change isn't a big deal, and might just be a big hoax.