Indeed, if I was applying that typical debunker's approach to the current crop of GOP presidential candidates–especially the ones who have zero chance of actually being elected–I certainly would have a merry time of it. Consider this tripe uttered by Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo in debate last May:
First of all, the whole issue of global warming, for every single scientist that tells you it's happening and that it's our fault – and they'll stack up to here in this reports – I can stack up another group of reports that say just the opposite. I don't believe that – well, I'll tell you this, I don't know whether or not we are responsible, we the human race, are responsible for global warming. It certainly could be happening, it certainly could be a natural phenomenon.”Or consider an even more bonkers statement from Texan Ron Paul on Real Time with Bill Maher:
I don't think everybody knows everything about global warming, because you have reputable scientists on both sides of that argument. … [If the government were to play a role] then you have to deal with the volcanoes and you have to deal with the pollution of China. So, do you want to invade China to make sure they don't pollute? And what are you going to do about the volcanoes? They are all contributing factors to global warming.”Um, Ron, last I checked, volcanic eruptions cause cooling, not warming.
But in truth, as I recently surveyed the various presidential candidates' stances on global warming–helpfully compiled here–I actually found considerable grounds for optimism. Even when it came to the Republicans…no, especially when it came to the Republicans.
Let's start with the Dems, because on global warming they're easy to peg. True, some are more wonky than others when it comes to their plans for dealing with the problem. Some give actual numbers in discussing how strong they want emission cuts to be, while others are more vague. There are also some oddities: For example, Joe Biden voted against increasing vehicle fuel efficiency standards in 2003. (Say it ain't so, Joe.)
This is the bottom line, though: No Dem currently in the race disputes the science, or questions whether global warming is a serious problem.
The Republicans are tricker. There's much more of a tendency to support drilling in ANWR among this bunch, for instance. And there's a petty but pervasive dishonesty that they seem to utter repeatedly. Even those GOP candidates who do admit human causation of global warming tend to suggest we're merely “contributing” to the problem, when in fact the science says we're driving the problem. I find this slightly annoying–but once again, this post is centrally about my optimism, not my personal peeves. So let me explain the grounds for it.
The Republicans, I think, break down into a couple of groups. First come the really out there guys, like Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo. They're deniers–but forget about them for a second. They're never going to be elected.
Next come the moderates–and the viable candidates. Some of them are even close to Arnold Schwarzenegger in terms of the seriousness with which they approach the climate problem. John McCain has been a climate policy pioneer. Rudy Giuliani, too, takes the problem seriously and admits its human causation. And Mitt Romney also accepts the science–at least as far as human “contribution” goes, grrr–and wants the U.S. to achieve energy independence as a matter of national security.
And what of the rest of the GOP candidates?
If you look at the statements on global warming that have been made by Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, and Duncan Hunter, I still find grounds for optimism–indeed, this is my chief grounds for optimism. Sure, these guys might appear to question the science to some extent. But they too say we need to do something.
Indeed, a message that seems to resonate for many of these Republicans is this concept of energy independence–which is closely tied to foreign policy and U.S. national security. Perhaps that's why even typically “conservative” Republicans are now coming around about the need for massive changes in the way we get energy and power our societies. I mean, would you believe that a quotation like this could come out of the mouth of right winger and anti-evolutionist Mike Huckabee?
We ought to be moving rapidly towards energy sources that don't have a greenhouse gas effect. Aggressively set the goal that within a ten year period, we should move a way from a fossil fuel culture to one that has alternative energy resources.”Finally: The only candidate I haven't mentioned so far, Fred Thompson, just seems like a weirdo–he sees fit to crack stupid jokes about climate science, yet he voted against drilling in ANWR. Go figure.
In any event, I doubt all the Republican candidates would support strong caps on greenhouse gas emissions (though some of them would). But the more viable candidates seem more likely to support such caps. Moreover, when you look at the GOP's entire talent pool, it's hard to find anyone (anyone serious, anyway) who hasn't effectively succumbed to the global warming zeitgeist–they all realize it's a problem; they all realize it's about energy; they all realize that our society needs big changes. Any one of them, I think, would do more than George W. Bush if elected.
Except for Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo–and maybe Fred Thompson. Who knows.
So yeah: I'm optimistic. I suspect a Democrat is going to win in 2008 anyway. But if we do get a Republican, I would still finally expect to see some serious action on global warming.
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