Friday, May 27, 2011

Tim Polluty and the GOP Climate Trasher Brigade

As part of his official 2012 presidential campaign rollout, Tim Polluty, er... Pawlenty, claimed he would be telling "hard truths". Oddly though, his idea of hard truths seems to be red meat for conservative activists. Pawlenty has fled from the hard truth of needing to address climate change.

An article by AP reporter Dina Cappiello from today highlighted how Pawlenty is hardly alone among Republican politicians who have abandoned more reasonable positions in favor of pandering to their base.

Today there are generally two flavors of Republicans when it comes to the issue of climate change - (1, which I will refer to here as know-nothings) the ones who dispute the science and so obviously oppose any action to address the issue and (2, which I will refer to here as do-nothings) the ones ambivalent about or even partially accepting of the science yet still opposing serious action to address the issue.

Cappiello examines how certain politicians have raced into their positions now that the political climate change among so many conservatives has made disbelief in human impact on climate an article of faith. Republicans are obviously quite far from Theodore Roosevelt, but 20 years later they are distant from the limited efforts by George H W Bush. Even just a few years ago as Cappiello points out that there would be Republicans who would support some sort of positive climate change action like emissions trading programs. But no more, and the race is on for many, including Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, to disavow such a recently held stance. But to where to move one's stake?

Gingrich is an expert at flip-flopping on this issue. He has decided to go fully know-nothing and dispute the science.

Romney is well-known for repositioning himself, and he has put himself into the solidly into the know-nothing camp, though more literally "know-nothing". Rather than trying to challenge climate science directly by claiming he knows better than the scientists he simply ignores all the scientists with an "I don't know" view. If only there were experts from states Romney holds dear like Massachusetts or Michigan where he could become a little educated on the science.

Pawlenty has gone the "so sorry" route with regard to policy actions. Though not as confrontational and dismissive as Gingrich, Pawlenty claims that while warming is real, human influence on climate is negligible.

Such shifts to being know-nothings (or you might say wannabe know-betters) are not so surprising if you figure these are shameless politicians aiming to ingratiate themselves to ignorant but loud elements of their party. Somewhat interesting though are those who veer only into do-nothingism.

Huntsman has already shown that he may not make his political career a race to the right with his couple years as Ambassador to China in the Obama administration. Despite opposing action, he has rejected the science denial and attacking of the experts in the field.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie has put himself in basically in the same position as Huntsman by saying he accepts the fundamental facts humans are altering the climate, though his lip service to needing to do something about it is belied by his plan to withdraw his state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. But despite going the wrong way on policy, Christie is a rare example of a Republican leader becoming more correct on the science. Not long ago Christie had been one of the know-nothings saying he just could not figure it out. Not sure how he came to recognize and accept the broad consensus from the experts on the science, but I will take it as a positive sign.

My hope is that some Republicans keeping attached to reality can help get the larger part of the party back in that direction and that the tension of accepting a problem and not working toward any serious solution cannot hold. That first part is just a matter of time - climate change simply will not be something that can be ignored forever, though it might be long enough to dig us into a massive hole. The second part though sounds pie-in-the-sky. You can see from the deficit/debt issue, from among many, that a big problem does not mean a meaningful effort toward a solution is imminent. And many Democrats (like those at least recently of North Dakota) have readily claimed acceptance of the science while throwing roadblocks in the way of action. But there is no way there would be action if the majority of our leadership has their heads in the sand.

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