Clothesline in Winter

Clothesline in Winter

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Non-Political Post About the Presidential Challengers

These are weird times for observers of global environmental trends.  Here in America, we’ve got one political party that almost unanimously denies the warnings of climate science regarding man-made global warming, and one that almost unanimously accepts the science in virtual secrecy.

You might think that’s normal, or even healthy.  One says yes, one says no.  Call it 50/50, right?

Actually, no.  Here’s why:  As much as we love America, it’s pretty much all alone when it comes to climate denial among politicians.  I did some rough calculations this morning, and found that fourteen countries with 60% of the world’s population had 79 major political parties, and about 250 mid-majors.  Extrapolating to the rest of the world, we’ve got 132 major political parties, and around 500 including the smaller ones.
Long, long ago: McCain '08 supported carbon limits
Let's call it 500 global political parties.  How many of them do you think dismiss human-caused climate change?  Well, I couldn’t find a single one, except our very own GOP.  And I’m not alone.  Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, says that although other countries’ parties may occasionally contain pockets of climate skepticism, there is "no party-wide view like this anywhere in the world that I am aware of."

Wow!  Just to make sure we’re on the same page, that means 99.8% of all political parties in the world are looking at American primary debates and wondering: What could they possibly be thinking?  How did the wealthiest nation in the world end up with one of the most powerful political parties in existence denying a body of scientific evidence that the rest of the world acknowledges?

Now, wading into politics is a sure-fire way to lose friends, I know.  But the CR isn’t shilling for any party.  Consider:  I am registered as an Independent; the only party I’ve ever been a member of is the GOP; and two weeks ago I spent the afternoon handcuffed in a sweltering police paddy wagon for protesting on a Democratic President’s front steps. 
Maybe I have about an average level of credibility in assessing where the candidates stand on global warming, no?  Here’s a look at the GOP contenders:

The Pure Climate Deniers

Perry shooting record Texas wildfires from far above
Rick Perry:  “The ‘theory’ of climate change is a hoax concocted by data-manipulating scientists to keep research money coming in to their projects.”  No matter that Perry’s home state is breaking every climate record possible. No matter that every Texas climatologist tells him otherwise. He’s sure.

Michelle Bachmann:  "The big thing we are working on now is the global warming hoax. It's all voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax.”  This language doesn’t leave her much wiggle room, does it?
Herman Cain: “It's a scam … scientifically manufactured results. This is conclusive.” No further information necessary.
The Converts to Climate Denial

Newt Gingrich:  In 2008, Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi sat on a loveseat, and filmed a call for action on climate change.  He now has wriggled out of his “loveseat predicament” with this semi-confession:  "Obviously it was misconstrued, and it's probably one of those things I wouldn't do again."

Ron Paul:  In 2007, Paul argued that climate change pollution was an important matter of property rights, and that carbon polluters should be taxed.  But now he calls climate science a fraud: "The greatest hoax I think that has been around for many, many years if not hundreds of years has been this hoax on the environment and global warming."

Sarah Palin:  In 2007, as Alaska Governor, Palin formed a sub-cabinet to prepare and implement a climate change strategy for the state.  And in 2008, VP-candidate Palin said:  "A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location.”  But now, she calls climatology “junk science and doomsday scare tactics pushed by an environmental priesthood that capitalizes on the public’s worry.”
The Believers who Promise no Action

Mitt Romney:   “I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world’s getting warmer," Romney said in June.  "And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that." In response, Rush Limbaugh pronounced Romney’s political death:  “Bye-bye, nomination,” said Limbaugh. “Another one down.”  (Note:  Romney is still opposed to any effort to put a price on carbon pollution.)
Huntsman warned GOP against anti-science extremism
Jon Huntsman: “All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring. If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer, we’d listen to them. I respect science.” 

But now he’s joined the rest of the GOP field by repudiating his 2008 support for solutions: “A carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system….”  No action on climate until the economy is better, he now says.
So there you have it:  three pure deniers, including the front-runner; three converts to climate denial; and two believers who oppose any action to address global warming.

In fairness, the GOP isn’t entirely closed to believers in climate science.  Republican strategist Marc Morano summed up the party reality this way:  "You can believe in the science of global warming … if you keep your mouth shut about it and you advocate no quote-unquote solution to the problem.”  
Well, I guess that rules me out as the surprise candidate to oppose Obama next year.  I suppose I’ll have to stick to writing the Clothesline Report till 2016.

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.

J. Elwood


  1. It's been interesting to watch the narratives unfold through the Republican debates and campaigning. Thanks for this piece.

  2. Ron Paul has made many Pro climate science statements. While in certain venues he changes what he says (a skill that has been mastered by all politicians, our current president in particular) i think this doesn't quite give him the credit he deserves.

  3. Peter:
    I'm trying to give Ron Paul some credit. So I went to his website. You'd think that would reliably convey his real views, right? Here's how the site quotes the candidate:

    "You know, the greatest hoax I think that has been around in many, many years if not hundreds of years has been this hoax on the environment and global warming. You notice they don’t call it global warming anymore. It’s weather control."

    There may be 1,000 reasons to like Ron Paul. But if you care about climate change, I don't think this can be one of them. And remember, more than most politicians, Paul probably believes what he says. So you're not likely to ever get action to save the ecosystem from President Paul.