The pope’s pleas to take action on climate change will fall on deaf ears with many Republicans when he speaks before a joint session of Congress.
Pope Francis has already made the issue a prominent part of his visit to Washington, using brief remarks at the White House on Wednesday to call climate change “a problem which can no longer be left to (a) future generation,” and he praised President Barack Obama for efforts to curtail U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
“When it comes to the care of our common home, we are living at a critical moment of history,” Pope Francis said.
It’s those type of comments that have prompted Republican Rep. Paul Gosar to vow to skip the Pontiff’s address to lawmakers on Thursday, though most Republicans largely plan to remain reverential during his swing through Washington, agreeing to disagree with the pope on climate change without drawing too much attention.
And lawmakers said this week that the pope’s statements about the moral imperative of tackling global warming won’t change Republicans’ nearly-universal skepticism about climate science and their opposition to most comprehensive policies to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.
“I’ll certainly listen respectfully, but I don’t think that his speech is going to change my mind on it,” Sen. John Barrasso, who rejects mainstream climate science, told POLITICO.
The pope’s historic speech dovetails with a Hail Mary campaign by greens to persuade Republicans to back policies aimed at fighting climate change. But Democrats agreed that the pope’s pleas are unlikely to change the stalemate in Congress any time soon.
“Progressives are usually right, but too soon. Politics is not for sprinters; it’s for marathoners,” Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, a Catholic Democrat, said during an event hosted by the Center for American Progress Monday.
“I think we have to be realistic about how quickly social change and opinion move,” Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday.
It remains to be seen how much time the pope will devote to climate change when he speaks to Congress on Thursday. Some observers predicted he would reserve most of his climate-related comments for a speech on Friday at the United Nations, where he can make the case for an ambitious international climate change agreement. Ahead of the visit, Audible.com released a free recording of the pope’s climate change encyclical.
In their respectful welcome to the pope, most Republicans are employing a strategy aimed at limiting the political blowback that accompanied Rep. Gosar’s public pronouncement that he would boycott the speech because of the pope’s climate advocacy. Despite Republicans’ disagreement with the pope on climate change, none have announced plans to join Gosar’s boycott of the pope to protest his climate activism. A Gosar spokesman had said other Republicans have expressed interest in joining the boycott but would not name any of the members.