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How Republicans Learned To Reject Climate Change

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
NPR has a fantastic piece up - How Republicans Learned To Reject Climate Change, it's well worth a read, especially if you're not a Republican.

Two or three years ago, Republicans such as Sen. John McCain and Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Charlie Crist played nearly as prominent a role as Al Gore in advocating a robust regulatory response. No more. Climate hasn't yet become as partisan an issue as, say, health care and taxes. But it's getting there.


post #2 of 6

Gallup's annual update on Americans' attitudes toward the environment shows a public that over the last two years has become less worried about the threat of global warming, less convinced that its effects are already happening, and more likely to believe that scientists themselves are uncertain about its occurrence. In response to one key question, 48% of Americans now believe that the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated, up from 41% in 2009 and 31% in 1997, when Gallup first asked the question.

1997-2010 Trend: Percentage of Americans Who Believe the Seriousness of Global Warming Is Generally Exaggerated

2003-2010 Trend: Are Increases in the Earth's Temperature Over the Last Century Due to Human Activities or Natural Changes?


 It's been very cold so far this winter in most of the U.S. and many places at middle latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. Washington, D.C., London and Seoul have already shoveled themselves out from major snowfalls. And over the course of 2009, average temperatures across some parts of the U.S. were cooler than the average temperature for a baseline period of 1951-1980.

THis cold weather has led many to believe the AGW has stopped. Many also now believe that AGW was just a natural cycle.



A pattern of high sea-level pressure over the Arctic has led to weaker westerly winds that typically pin cold air closer to the North pole. According to John M. Wallace, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Washington, the weakened jet stream has allowed cold Arctic air to creep into more southern latitudes over the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia.

This pattern of pressure is called the "Arctic Oscillation." The oscillation comes in two phases: a "negative phase" where there is relatively high pressure over the North pole and low pressure at the mid-latitudes (at about 45 degrees North); and a "positive phase" in which this pressure system is reversed. This winter, the Arctic Oscillation has been in an extremely negative state. This has caused unseasonably cold air masses to sweep over what are normally temperate latitudes, and unusually mild air masses to be brought in over much of the Arctic itself, Wallace explained.he bottom line is, I don't find it extraordinary," Wallace said. "With or without anthropogenic (man-made) warming, you're going to have big variations in these patterns."

People tend to think short-term. If something doesn't impact them immediately, they deny its existence. Also, people don't think  globally. If something don't impact them directly, they deny its existence.

I believe these are a few reasons why AGW skepticism has increased recently. 


Edited by QTgogreen - 3/29/10 at 2:44pm
post #3 of 6

John McCain is the best example of this.  He co-authored a carbon cap and trade bill just a few years ago.  When he chose Sarah Palin as his VP candidate, his campaign forced her to basically reverse her global warming denial position and state that we need to address climate change (but I believe she waffled, saying the cause of the climate change didn't matter, not that it was anthropogenic).  Now McCain vehemently opposes any carbon regulation.  And coincidentally I'm sure, he has a teabagger running against him in this year's primary election.

Tim Pawlenty is another, summarized here:


Dec. 2006: Pawlenty lays out an ambitious clean energy program for Minnesotans to reduce their use of fossil fuels 15 percent by 2015. Cutting greenhouse gases, Pawlenty said, would “be good for the environment, good for rural economies, good for national security and good for consumers.” He also calls for a regional cap and trade program.

May 2007: Pawlenty signs the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007, requiring the state to reduce its emissions 15 percent by 2015 and 80 percent in 2050. At the signing ceremony, Pawlenty said Minnesota was “kicking-starting the future” by “tackling greenhouse gas emissions.”

Oct. 2007: Pawlenty declares that the climate change issue is “one of the most important of our time.” He also brushes off “some flak” from right-wingers who doubt climate change science.

Sept. 2008: During the election, Pawlenty backs away from his own cap and trade program, says such a system would “wreck the economy.” He then tells hate radio personality Glenn Beck (a climate change denier) that human activity only contributes “half a percent” to climate change.

Nov. 2009: Pawlenty backs away from acknowledging that any human activity is the cause of climate change.

Problem is that the extreme right-wing has taken hold of the Republican Party.  GOP politicians know they can't win primary elections without getting support from the teabaggers, so they've shifted far to the right.  And global warming denial is an extreme right-wing position, because unfortunately the extremists tend to be anti-science, and certainly anti-government and anti-regulation.

Fox News has contributed a lot to the Republican transition on this issue.  During the heavy snowstorms this winter, they ran many stories talking about how the storms disproved "Al Gore's global warming theory".  The likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh constantly call global warming a hoax/fraud/etc.

Our only hope is that Republicans are becoming so extreme that they'll lose elections.  This November they'll certainly gain some seats in Congress, but there's a good chance in 2012 they'll get crushed.  If they continue to move to the right, the economy continues to recover, people see health care reform was a good idea (no death panels!), etc., they may see the consequences of moving too far to the right in 2012.  In which case we may see some serious action on climate change after that point.  One can only hope.

post #4 of 6
The article mentions Schwarzenegger, who has been one of the few Republican politicians with a consistent global warming realist position, but who's at the end of his term.

Meg Whitman will be the Republican candidate seeking to replace him, and isn't as bad as most, but worse than Schwarzenegger.  She wants to suspend AB 32 (the state's carbon regulation bill) for a year, calling it "a threat of significant economic harm" even though it's supported by many businesses in the state, including the one she used to be CEO of - eBay.  150 businesses including eBay wrote

In summary, we believe that tackling climate change is the pro-growth strategy. Ignoring it will ultimately undermine economic growth

But at least she doesn't seem to be a global warming denier.  Jerry Brown - the California Democrats' gubernatorial candidate - is a very strong proponent of fighting global warming.  As the state's attourney general,

Brown has used threats, petitions, negotiated deals and a series of lawsuits to pressure automakers, county governments and the Bush administration to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.

So hopefully he wins in November.  They're basically tied in the polls right now, with Brown previously leading but Whitman currently leading because she's been running a ton of television ads.
Edited by dana1981 - 3/29/10 at 1:12pm
post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
Someone in the last thread I visited was just talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger and how he drives a Hummer (which I didn't know; or forgot?). I guess he converted it to hydrogen but still.

I agree that in some cases the best we can hope for is that certain politicians simply aren't global warming deniers. That's kind of depressing but more realistic I guess then hoping everyone jumps on board 100% with global warming issues.
post #6 of 6
Yeah apparently he even convinced them to bring Hummers to the market to begin with, which I didn't know.  But he has converted his.

He currently has four Hummers, three of which run on vegetable oil, biodiesel and hydrogen

Interesting story about how he distanced himself from Hummer as his image became more 'green'.
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