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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Republican National Convention

Air Date: Week of

President Trump gave his closing speech for the Republican National Convention from the south lawn of the White House. (Photo: Screenshot of 2020 Republican National Convention)

The 2020 Republican National Convention featured testimonies from people across the country. Climate change was rarely mentioned in the convention with a few exceptions where curbing carbon emissions were represented as a menace to the American economy. Environmental Health News Editor Peter Dykstra joins Bobby Bascomb to discuss what was said about climate change in the 2020 Republican National Convention.


CURWOOD: From PRX and the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios at the University of Massachusetts Boston, this is Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood.

Well, the Republican National Convention is now in the history books and for more here’s Living on Earth’s Bobby Bascomb.

BASCOMB: The RNC this year was held against the back drop of wildfires raging in California and hurricane Laura battering the Gulf Coast – they types of natural disasters that scientists tell us are becoming more common and destructive with climate change.

The threat of climate change though, was barely mentioned in the prime time RNC speeches.

Mr. Trump did talk about renewable energy before a small group of supporters at the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

He explained the difference between himself and his Democratic opponents.

TRUMP: We've achieved American energy independence and we're now number one in the world by far. [CLAPS] And I saw where I saw where these phonies, you know, they want to end everything we've done they want to end it they want to go to wind they don't even know if they want to go to wind. I think they want to just basically close up our country because they take away our strength, but they want to do something, but there is no such thing. Solar can do it. I love solar so fun, you know, very very heavily expensive, very expensive but they want to go to other forms of alternate alternative energy and I think that's okay. Except we don't have them and it's not going to power these massive factories. So we need an hydro, I love it. It's it's one of my all time favorites. hydro hydro I love I have to tell you, that's the great dams. You don't see that too much. You know why the environmentalist say you can't build a dam there. But now we can because we've done we've done things that nobody thought were possible. Like example, the Keystone pipeline we got that approved the Dakota Access Pipeline they were all bogged down. Right, right? We got it approved.

BASCOMB: For more on the Republican National Convention I'm joined now by Peter Dykstra. Peter is an editor with environmental health news that's ehn.org and dailyclimate.org. Hey there, Peter. So what was your take on the RNC this year?

DYKSTRA: Or what didn't I see? Hi, Bobby. There's very little direct mention of environmental virtue in here. A lot of the attacks on past environmental policy and on Biden and Harris's potential future environmental policy dealt with excessive regulation, which of course, was a big focus of the first term for Trump and Pence. Much of that was presented through a lobstermen, a logger and a farmer who came on almost ensemble form as the anti regulatory village people.

BASCOMB: Right? Yeah, there was a lobstermen from Maine named Jason Joyce, who used his time to talk about environmental extremists and his opinion, he was really upset about the Obama administration setting aside ecologically sensitive Atlantic canyons were endangered whales and other species live and he said that it affected his industry it affected lobstering. Let's listen to him.

Jason Joyce spoke on the second night of the republican Convention about the struggles faced by the fishing industry. He thanked President Donald Trump for choosing to remove protections to Atlantic Canyon. (Photo: Screenshot of 2020 Republican National Convention)

JOYCE: I make my living from lobster fishing, oyster farming and providing eco tours in the beautiful waters near Acadia National Park, where I have over 200 years of family history. I live in an island with 370 residents and lobstering is how we provide for our families. Main's lobstermen, are true environmentalist. We practice conservation every day. If we didn't, we'd be putting ourselves out of business. Four years ago, the Obama Biden administration used the Antiquities Act to order thousands of square miles of ocean off limits to commercial fishermen. They did it to cater to environmental activists. Although Main's lobstermen don't fish there, Obama's executive order offended us greatly, it circumvented the Fisheries Council's input. President Trump reversed that decision reinstating the rules that allow stakeholder input and he supports a process that seeks and respects fisherman's views. As long as Trump is president, fishing families like mine will have a voice but if Biden wins, he'll be controlled by the environmental extremist who wants to circumvent long standing rules and impose radical changes that hurt our coastal communities.

DYKSTRA: Of course, now your self respecting lobsterman or no self respecting lobster would find themselves in an area of sea mounts and deep canyons, that's what that Obama created national monument was for. One thing we didn't hear that we could have heard from the good captain, is that there are multiple studies telling us that climate change and warming ocean waters could take lobsters completely off the menu in Maine, possibly within 30 years, as it's largely already done in Long Island in Southern New England. The convention also featured a dairy farmer complaining about regulations and a Minnesota timberman doing the same.

BASCOMB: Right? The logger, his name is Scott Dane. Let's hear what he had to say.

DANE: Under Obama Biden radical environmentalists were allowed to kill the forest. Wildfire after wildfire shows the consequences. Managed forests the kind my people work in are healthy forests. Under President Trump, we've seen a new recognition of the value of forest management in reducing wildfires and we've seen new support for our way of life. Where a strong back and a strong work ethic can build a strong middle class.

Scott Dane, a Gilbert Logging representative, spoke at the Republican National Convention about the logging industry and expressed his support for President Trump. (Photo: Screenshot of 2020 Republican National Convention)

DYKSTRA: Mr. Dane seemed kind of cheesed off by environmental regulation and in general. Another thing that was happening with forests at the time, are those massive and tragic blazes out in California. The prescription for solving them was reiterated this week by President Trump, when he once again said that all we needed to do to control massive wildfires is to rake the forest floor.

BASCOMB: Yeah, that's a not a commonly held View From what I understand. Well, you know, Peter, last week we talked about the Democratic Party platform and the fact that the Dems kind of hid their environmental ambitions there, instead of putting them front and center in the Primetime speeches. But the republicans this week they actually didn't put out a new party platform and from what I understand, it's the first time since 1854, when the Republican Party was formed, that they didn't put out a new platform. Instead, they decided to keep word for word, the exact same party platform that they adopted in 2016. What do you make of that?

DYKSTRA: To me, the only thing you could make of that is that the republicans don't see any platform problems that need fixing that goes for the environment as well. Several times they bashed what they call the current administration in the platform, even though the current administration is the Trump administration when they meant to say, the Obama administration.

BASCOMB: Right, yeah, it was rather confusing to read at some points. They did put out a 50 bullet point plan for the next term that included things like deregulation for energy independence and keeping our water and air crystal clear, as they call it and working internationally to clean up oceans. You know, from what I saw, these were literally one sentence long points, there was nothing to say how they plan on doing any of those things,

DYKSTRA: Right, no roadmap for seeing them through. Of course, if you have a platform, not knowing whether or not you're going to maintain control of the Senate, that's an issue as well that has to be in the back if not the front of everybody's mind. And as far as crystal clear water goes, that's going to be harder to achieve if you're rolling back big sections of the Clean Water Act. As for energy independence, there's precious little mention of clean energy as a role to that not just coal and oil and gas.

BASCOMB: Well, it was an interesting week. In any case. What are your take homes from it?

The Republican National convention kept the same party platform and slogan “Make America Great Again” from 2016. (Photo: Screenshot of 2020 Republican National Convention)

DYKSTRA: Well, a little historical digression. Back in 2016, there was a guy destined to be a major environmental player who spoke for six minutes at the convention. That was a young congressman from Montana former Navy SEAL and Eagle Scout. That's Congressman Ryan Zinky. He didn't speak about the environment, he spoke about the military but a few months later, he found himself as Trump's first Secretary of the Interior until parallel corruption scandals broke out about alleged cronyism and wild spending for things like $139,000 for new doors for the Interior Secretary's office. That's Ryan Zinky for you. He lasted a little less than two years. There's one other little irony that I think went largely unspoken in the Republican Convention it was held in a beautiful venue called the Mellon auditorium on Pennsylvania Avenue, right next to the Trump International Hotel, by the way, it's a federal property but it can be rented out by anyone in America. It was rented out by the Trump campaign. The landlord's there are the Environmental Protection Agency it's in their building. And that building is named the William Jefferson Clinton Federal Office Building. That turns out to be a venue where the Trump campaign bashed the EPA and bashed every Democratic president in recent memory.

BASCOMB: And of course, the William Jefferson Clinton building is probably more better known as former President Bill Clinton.

DYKSTRA: That would be President Trump's second favorite Clinton.

BASCOMB: Alright, Peter. Well, thanks so much for watching these past two weeks and keeping us informed.

CURWOOD: That's living on earth Bobby bascom speaking with Peter Dykstra.



Click here to watch the four days of the Republican National Convention

E&E News | “Trump Ignored Climate. 5 Things Are Happening Anyway.”

NPR | “Fact Check Trump’s Address to the Republican Convention, Annotated”


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