Is Joe Romm right about conservatives and climate change?

Joesph Romm is an outspoken critic of the seeming conservative rejection of mainstream climate science. He has cited polling data (e.g. here, here, here) which reflect a deep partisan divide in the United States on the issue. I myself have noted the disturbing disconnect between the official 2008 Republican platform and the GOP’s Presidential candidate’s ostensible position on the issue [and the less said about Jim Inhofe's minority office for the Environment and Public Works Committee, the better]. I’d like to think that one of the most challenging issues of our time isn’t being dismissed by a large minority in this country on the basis of ideology.

Unfortunately, two recent articles appearing in the NRO and The Weekly Standard seem to reinforce this idea.

Stephen Spruiell and Kevin Williamson writing for the National Review Online ask:

For instance, the bill grants NASA $450 million, but it states that the agency must spend at least $200 million on “climate-research missions,” which raises the question: Is there global warming in space?

I’m not even sure where to start with this. Let’s allow for the moment that this was some botched attempt at humor and not a serious question (although who can tell these days?). Are Messrs. Spruiell and Williamson implying that NASA’s sole focus should be on space exploration? If so, I’d like to remind them of the first objective laid out in the National Aeronautics and Space Act, which established the Agency in 1958 [emphases mine]:

The expansion of human knowledge of the Earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space.

Perhaps Spruiell and Williamson are aware of NASA’s directives and simply don’t care, but are only interested in highlighting what they, given the context of their article, consider to be frivolous spending. This brings up one of the classic denialist paradoxes- On the one hand, many “skeptics” claim that “the science isn’t settled” sufficiently and that before we begin mitigating greenhouse emissions, we need more research, more data, and more certainty. At the same time, funding for the very thing that is claimed to be desired on the part of the “skeptic” is declared either motivation for profit (which is perversely amusing) or derided as wasteful “pork” that serves no legitimate purpose. Like the self-contradictory claims that climate change is both a crypto-communist plot to funnel money from the first world to the developing nations and at the same time an immoral demand that the developing world be deprived of the wealth fossil energy provides, the lack of coherence doesn’t seem to a problem for the “skeptics”. If Spruiell and Williamson do consider our knowledge of the climate system sufficiently thorough, perhaps they can push to eliminate a substantial source of waste over at NRO?

Also this week, Fred Barnes in the Weekly Standard asserts [h/t TPM, emphasis theirs]:

Obama sounded like Al Gore on global warming. The more the case for man-made warming falls apart, the more hysterical Gore gets about an imminent catastrophe. The more public support his bill loses, the more Obama embraces fear-mongering.

And essentially offers Talking Points Memo the following justifications for his claim: 1) It’s wintertime. 2) The planet hasn’t been warming monotonically. 3) Do your own research, punks!

Are there any prominent conservative groups working to battle the antiscience forces in their own movement? Is this really a fair encapsulation of conservative opinion on climate change? If so, is there any hope of getting domestic regulation in place that will allow the US to join a binding international treaty to cap greenhouse emissions?

[Let me know if this poll doesn't work. It's the first one I've tried since WordPress partnered with Polldaddy- TB]

[UPDATE: Tim Lambert saw the TPM post about Barnes as well.]

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7 responses to “Is Joe Romm right about conservatives and climate change?

  1. Nice topic. I suggest you focus on how left of center scientists and activists are jumping off the warming fear wagon.

    See:

    Politically Left Scientists and Activists Now Rejecting Climate Fears

    http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=d6d13c1f-802a-23ad-4c36-08153ac22b33&Issue_id=

    Excerpt:

    [The link'll do just fine there, Marc. Keep that in mind, or your posts will be considered spam. Your boss has enough web space that you don't need to use mine for your laughable attempts at propaganda.

    That being said- a retired meteorologist who embarrasses himself when he opens his mouth about what data go into climate science, a geologist who explicitly accepts anthropogenic warming but disliked Gore's movie, and Alexander Cockburn(?!) are your examples? You guys truly are scraping the bottom of the barrel over there at the minority office. What's the phrase I'm looking for? Oh yes: "LOL." -TB]

    [UPDATED to add: I took Giegengack's quote to mean that he was in the "real, but not as bad as some say" camp. After a bit more looking, I can't tell what he believes, but it would certainly be fair to put him in the "rejects the mainstream/IPCC take" category. In other words, the jig is up and we all better pack it in. - TB]

  2. Well, there is the Republicans for Environmental Protection, or “Green Elephant”.

    [Thanks, I hadn't heard of that specific group. I was aware of scattered environmentalist Republican groups who are trying to move the discussion forward, and there are (as no doubt most of us have heard from time to time) Republican-leaning religious groups who have framed the issue as the Christian duty of "preserving Creation".

    I'm trying to think of someone or some group who carries significant weight in conservative circles vice McCain (as he was considered by many, many conservatives to be a RINO and evidenced his "flexibility" on the issue any number of ways over the course of the campaign). It seems that from individuals like Gingrich, Krauthammer, Will, et al. and from magazines like the Weekly Standard, National Review, American Conservative, Opinion Journal, etc. the conservative party line remains aggressively anti-regulation/anti-mitigation with large helpings of denialist talking points mixed in. I'll keep looking, although I probably need to establish a criteria for what I consider "significant" influence if I'm going to get anywhere. - TB]

  3. The conservatives I know, and I know a whole lot of ‘em, think global warming is a ploy invented by Al Gore in an effort to get himself elected President. They also think Ms Palin is the only politician with a good head on her shoulders (and what a nice head, too — wink wink) NOT my opinion, just what I hear around the ‘hood.

  4. 1) I assume you’ve seen NewYorker article,but if not, search for Kristol and read the next few paragraphs.

    2) Alternatively, the day after Palin was nominated, I found mudflats in AK, and never regretted that. If people think Palin has a good head on her shoulders, they should follow Mudflats for a while…. Almost beyond belief, especially as Alaska is more like a socialist petro-state than anything else. Shades of Huey Long.

    [Mudflats and the ADN were indispensable during the election season. - TB]

  5. Well, there`s obviously a fairly deep partisan divide, but is it narrowing? I`d say that there is plenty of evidence that it is, including the prominent indication of support by libertarians and conservatives for carbon taxes over cap and trade.

    More here:

    http://mises.org/Community/blogs/tokyotom/archive/2009/01/10/neocons-conservatives-libertarians-and-exxon-join-jim-hansen-in-calling-for-rebated-carbon-taxes-in-lieu-of-massive-cap-trade-rent-seeking-and-industrial-planning.aspx

  6. When Eli was but a young bunny, the environmental groups were mostly Republican, Sierra Club types, philosophically motivated by stewards of the earth ideas. Sadly they were driven out by the Elmer Gantry strain of Goldwaterism (Goldwater himself was more of the Sierra Club group, but his family was old money, at least in Arizona terms)

  7. I suspect that you polling this blog with respect to conservative political considerations, is unlikely to turn up a true reflection of anything other than what this blog’s readers think about conservatives.

    [And something leads you to believe that this blog doesn't have conservative readers? -TB]

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