What the GOP contenders got right about climate change
The marathon second Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley California will be remembered for many revelations: Jeb Bush smoked pot 40 years ago and isn’t proud that he did; Donald Trump has personally seen vaccines lead to autism; Carly Fiorina is a rhetorical wrecking ball. What it will likely not be remembered for was a passing exchange about climate change.
Well into the spectacle’s third hour, CNN moderator Jake Tapper addressed a question about what should be done about climate change to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Tapper prefaced his question by asserting that President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State George Schultz favors action to address climate change as an “insurance policy.”
Rubio, followed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, addressed the question. In turn, each expressed skepticism about the actions that have been proposed to date to address climate change.
Now, for some, their responses were discouraging. Think Progress proclaimed that “they screwed it up” while Slate borrowed one of Sen. Rubio’s observations that “America is not a planet” and observed that it was “the only thing that Marco Rubio got right about climate change.”
From where I sit, as a member of the climate-action-inclined right, I can’t help but be more sanguine about the exchange than either Think Progress or Slate.
What did not happen, which certainly could have happened, was an embarrassing episode in which the candidates proclaimed climate science junk. In fact, save for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s abortive attempt to interject, all three candidates to address the issue focused their attention on the limited effectiveness of and value of current efforts to address climate change.
Climate activists may not have liked the tone, but the senator and two governors were not incorrect. Current efforts to address climate change are remarkably costly and will only have a limited absolute impact on carbon emissions. Quietly, activists themselves recognizes this. แผนที่จากดาวเทียม That’s why so many are working hard to introduce carbon taxes.
The Washington Post characterized the shift in rhetoric among the Republican candidates as being from one of “climate know-nothingism” to “climate do-nothingism.” But when it comes to the likes of the Clean Power Plan and the latest round of Environmental Protection Agency regulations, do-nothingism has a certain wisdom to it, since both measurers will cost tremendous political and economic capital to implement and will accomplish very little in the way of curbing climate change.
Think Progress, not content to note that the Republican Party field could see their way to climate action in the event that such action did not stunt the economy, did not look kindly on the cost-benefit analysis approach taken by the candidates. Instead, it cited the always reliable outlet Vox and asserted that carbon regulations “will make a difference in fighting climate change, albeit a small one.”
As pyrrhic victories go, winning the battle for this round of prescriptive climate regulations at the expense of the political will necessary to implement a meaningful and comprehensive strategy will make a difference in fighting climate change – albeit, a negative one.
For those sincerely interested in addressing climate change, the second Republican debate was certainly not a cause for celebration. But nor was it a cause for despair. America’s most influential political party tends to do the right thing, but only after it has tried everything else.