What causes a politician to accept the science of a given topic (for example, climate change) and then change their mind abuot it years later, after the science and the scientific consensus gets even stronger?
Is it as simple as agreeing with everything that comes out of the mouth of the people who fund you? Is it a fear of not getting elected by your base constituency (illogically, according to polls on the issue)? Is it a genuine misunderstanding of the state of the science?
I don’t know, but Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich must.
Mitt Romney & Climate Change
“As governor of Massachusetts, and later as a 2008 GOP presidential candidate, the Republican said he believed that man-made pollution was contributing to a planetary warming trend,” The Week notes.
However, sometime in October or a little earlier, Romney seems to have changed his mind, saying, “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet.”
In Romney’s 2010 book, No Apology, he wrote, “I believe that climate change is occurring. … I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor.” On June 3, he said, “I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that.”
What changed since then?
It’s true that Romney has always been a bit “squishy” on climate change, as Kate Shepherd of Mother Jones writes. Following the quote above from No Apology is this quote: “I am uncertain how much of the warming, however, is attributable to man and how much is attributable to factors out of our control.”
But I think flip-floppy is actually a better description. In June of 2011, Romney said that we in the U.S. should “reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors.”
In October, that changed to: “My view with regards to energy policy is pretty straightforward. I want us to become energy secure and independent of the oil cartels. And that means let’s aggressively develop our oil, our gas, our coal, our nuclear power.” No sign of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions there.
Sure, he has been squishy, but he has also flopped big time. But, then again, that’s what Romney is known for. Presidential primary contender Jon Huntsman labeled him a “perfectly lubricated weathervane.”
My verdict: Romney will say (and do) whatever to succeed in politics, even if that means ignoring the scientific consensus on an important issue.
Newt Gingrich & Climate Change
I think everyone who follows politics and many who don’t have seen this video:
Global warming and climate change leader? Not so fast.
I actually just noticed, while sitting paused on this line to search for some quotes on how Gingrich has changed, a wonderful post on this matter over on Think Progress. Brad Johnson lays out exactly how Gingrich has flipped and flopped. I love this line: “Gingrich’s positions on global warming and federal climate policy have twisted in the wind over more than two decades, with his positions mostly coinciding with whether the party holding the presidency is a Republican or a Democrat.” Anyway, no need to go dig up each quote anymore — here’s the bulk of Johnson’s piece:
1989: Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA) co-sponsors the ambitious Global Warming Prevention Act (H.R. 1078), which finds that “the Earth’s atmosphere is being changed at an unprecedented rate by pollutants resulting from human activities, inefficient and wasteful fossil fuel use, and the effects of rapid population growth in many regions,” that “global warming imperils human health and well-being” and calls for policies “to reduce world emissions of carbon dioxide by at least 20 percent from 1988 levels by 2000.” The legislation recognizes that global warming is a “major threat to political stability, international security, and economic prosperity.” [H.R. 1078, 2/22/1989]
1992: Gingrich calls the environmental proposals in Al Gore’s book Earth in Balance “devastatingly threatening to most American pocketbooks and jobs.” [National Journal, 9/5/92]
1995: Gingrich’s budget shuts down climate action, killing the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment, NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth program, and NOAA global warming research. Carl Sagan asks, “Is it wise to close our eyes to a possibly serious danger to the planetary environment so as not to offend such companies and those members of Congress whose reelection campaigns they support?” [Los Angeles Times, 7/16/95]
1996: At a speech for the Detroit Economic Club, Gingrich mocks “Al Gore’s global warming,” citing “the largest snowstorm in New York City’s history”: “We were in the middle of budget negotiations; the football games were coming up and we noticed on the weather channel that an early symptom of Al Gore’s global warming was coming to the East Coast. And it does make you wonder sometimes, doesn’t it, how theoretical statisticians in the middle of the largest snowstorm in New York City’s history could stand there and say, ‘I don’t care what it’s doing. It’s going to get very hot soon.’” [FDCH Political Transcripts, 1/16/96]
1997: As Speaker of the House, Gingrich co-sponsors H. Con. Res. 151, which notes carbon dioxide is a “major greenhouse gas” that comes from “products whose manufacture consumes fossil fuels” and calls on the United States to “manage its public domain national forests to maximize the reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” [H. Con. Res. 151, 9/10/1997]
2007: Gingrich calls for a cap-and-trade system with tax incentives for clean energy. “I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, that there’s a package there that’s very, very good. And frankly, it’s something I would strongly support.” [Frontline,2/15/07]
In a debate on climate policy with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Gingrich says “the evidence is sufficient that we should move towards the most effective possible steps to reduce carbon-loading of the atmosphere,” and that we should “do it urgently.” [ThinkProgress, 4/10/07]
2008: In an advertisement made for Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, Gingrich sat with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and said that “we do agree our country must take action to address climate change.” [We Campaign, 4/18/08]
2008: Defending himself to his conservative base, Gingrich then rejects climate science: “I don’t think that we have conclusive proof of global warming. And I don’t think we have conclusive proof that humans are at the center of it.” [Newt.org, 4/22/08]
In a Washington Post chat, Gingrich rejects a cap-and-trade system, saying it “would lead to corruption, political favoritism, and would have a huge impact on the economy.” He says he supports “tax credits for dramatically reducing carbon emissions.” [Washington Post, 4/17/08]
In a later post, Gingrich says, “I do not know if the climate is warming or not.” He also rejects Warner-Lieberman, a cap-and-trade system with tax incentives for clean energy, as “leftwing”: “I disagree with leftwing solutions like Warner-Lieberman, which ignore the economic and national security implications of their attempts to protect the environment.” [Newt.org, 5/5/08]
“Last week, liberals in Congress voted for the equivalent of a $150 billion tax increase,” Gingrich wrote, of a decision to block oil shale development in Colorado. “The answer to high energy prices,” he said, is “so simple it could fit on a bumper sticker: Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less.” [Human Events, 5/20/08]
2009: In his appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Gingrich attacks President Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal, claiming the president “mentioned in passing, using code words, so nobody would recognize it, he is for an energy tax.” [C-SPAN, 2/27/09]
In a Newsweek column, Gingrich calls Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal “anacross-the-board energy tax on every American.” [Newsweek, 4/4/09]
Gingrich’s 527 organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future (ASWF), launches an anti-cap-and-trade campaign. “I hereby petition Congress to reject any and all legislation (or regulatory action by the EPA) that would enact new energy taxes and/or establish a national cap and trade system for carbon dioxide that would, as President Obama has said, cause electricity and other energy prices to ‘necessarily skyrocket.’” [ASWF, 5/28/09]
2011: Gingrich proposes abolishing the Environmental Protection Agencybecause of its “attempts to regulate greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, and thereby the entire American economy.” [ThinkProgress, 1/25/11]
On Fox News, Gingrich says: “I actually don’t know whether global warming is occurring.” [Fox News, 11/9/11]