Say what? A conservative coalition on climate change? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
It may be hard to remember, but there was a time, not that long ago, when it was “okay” for a Republican to advocate for climate action – even if it raised the eyebrows of the hard-right deniers. Mitt Romney’s recent comments notwithstanding, doing so in today’s political climate (hey, is that a pun?) is in direct violation of the populist anti-science agenda that the GOP has blindly swallowed since the election of Barack Obama and the ascendancy of the Tea Party.
With the exception of Mitt Romney, the current field of GOP presidential contenders are falling all over themselves to deliver a common message: global warming is nothing more than a plot by evil liberals to control your life, propagated by an evil cabal of junk scientists.
Apparently Climate Earth is a liberal.
Of course, nature and climate have no political agenda. And making arguments in a wide swath of generalities does little to move the conversation forward, whether it be Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann’s unfortunate “understanding” of climate science or my snarky indictment of all conservatives as climate change deniers and cranks.
There is, in fact, a middle ground – even if it has been largely abandoned by many.
A return to conservatism
Former Republican congressman Bob Inglis, a six-term South Carolina Representative who lost his seat last year to Tea Party-backed Trey Gowdy, has recently announced his plans to form a conservative coalition on climate change. The coalition will consist of fellow Republicans who share his belief that global warming is real, caused primarily by human activity, and that something should be done about it.
“Conservatives typically are people who try to be cognizant of risk and move to minimize risk. To be told of risk and to consciously decide to disregard it seems to be the opposite of conservative,” Inglis said. “What I hope to do is be a part of an effort that calls conservatives to return to conservatism and to turn away from the populist rejection of science.
A market-based approach
Inglis’ focus is to find a private sector, “free enterprise” solution to climate change instead of the “big government” approach based on cap-and-trade schemes. Inglis opposed the Waxman-Markey American Energy and Security Act that narrowly passed the House in 2009. “We’re looking for ways for the free enterprise system to solve the problem, rather than having big government do it,” says Inglis.
Making it stick
Inglis acknowledges he has an uphill battle getting many of his fellow Republicans on board, saying he expects it will take at least two election cycles for his message to resonate amongst his erstwhile conservative colleagues.
“Basically, for me it’s not going to be a priority,” said Republican Rep. Ed Whitefield, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce energy and power subcommittee. Whitefield cited a letter written by retired engineer J. Hunter Chiles III where he states that “CO2 is NOT the major warming gas,” further arguing that water vapor constitutes 85 percent of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Of course, this is hardly a revelation to anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of climate.
Chiles fails to mention or does not understand how water vapor and CO2 differ in their interaction in the atmosphere, irrespective of their aggregate totals. This oft-repeated misconception serves as an example of the disinformation and misunderstanding of climate science that runs rampant throughout the public discourse.
But even in this polarized political landscape there are Republicans eager to be a part of Inglis’ coalition. “I would welcome that,” said New Hampshire Rep. Charles Bass, “I’ve been a proponent of a climate change agenda for Congress. Like Inglis, however, he is opposed to any idea of a government sponsored cap-and-trade program. “That kind of approach obviously overshot the target and was unacceptable to the Republicans. So some other approach has to be used,” he said.
Condemnation vs. coalition
For many, there seems little room in the middle when it comes to climate change; and that is but a dangerous perception.
If, for the GOP rank and file, Big Government is no solution to issues like climate change and energy sustainability, that is a conversation we must have. All possible solutions must be seriously considered. Politics, it is said, is the art of the possible. It is coalition, not condemnation. I may not agree with Inglis’ ideas for solutions, but I welcome his effort to make solutions possible.
Despite his objections to cap and trade, Inglis has been forthright in his defense of climate science. Testifying as an ex-Congressman last November before the Energy and Environment subcommittee for which he once served as ranking member, he welcomed that fact that the positions of his former colleagues on climate change would be on the record for future generations.
For many it will be a record of recrimination and condemnation, a rejection of science and the basic conservative principles Inglis seeks to engage in addressing the risk of climate change.
Our children will know where we stood on climate change when we had a chance to do something about it.
- Prominent Former Global Warming Skeptic & Conservative Tackles GOP’s “rejection of proven science” (planetsave.com)
- Survey reveals fresh climate change info (chimalaya.org)
- Romney reaffirms stance that global warming is real (kajunman.wordpress.com)
Tom is an online publisher, editor, and freelance writer. He is the founder of GlobalWarmingisReal.com and the History Blog Project, as well as publisher and site director for the HippieMagazine.com here on the Important Media network. Tom also contributes to numerous environmental blogs including TriplePundit, Ecopolitology, Sustainablog, Planetsave, and Revmodo. Tom's work has led him to Europe, Africa, Latin America, Canada, the South Pacific, and across the United States. His home base is San Francisco, California.