Climate Change Skeptics Don’t Have To Be a Barrier

I wanted to follow up on one of my previous posts about anthropogenic climate change skeptics, like myself.   Meg Bostrom, co-author of a 2009 report on the current climate conversation, makes an interesting point in a recent Washington Post column.  It’s a point I’ve made in this blog, although admittedly she does it much more compellingly:  you don’t have to believe that a) climate change is caused by humankind or b) that humankind can reverse climate change, to effect meaningful policies to protect our environment and move the world to a less fossil-fuel dependent place.

Bostrom states, “There is good reason to think that those who are worried about climate change would make greater progress–especially among Republicans, who profess increasing skepticism about warming–if they focused less on arguing the scientific reality and more on building support for specific solutions that all sides can agree on.”

I am not a Republican, especially as defined by tea partiers.  But I don’t feel that we do anyone any favors by hyping opinion over science and/or silencing those in the scientific community who may have real challenges to the sentiment that humans are causing what appears to be the indisputable fact that the earth is warming.

Nor do we have to, according to Bostrom, in order make a difference in the green agenda–an agenda I fully support.  Bostrom reports that according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, over 70 percent of Republicans favor requiring better fuel efficiency for cars, trucks and SUVs.  Here are some other stats regarding Republicans:  64% want more federal funding for research on wind, solar and hydrogen technology; and 55% favor spending more on public transportation.

Her recommendation is that “green” folks stop assuming that “we must first achieve unanimity on global warming science” before any real progress can be made in the country toward progressive ecological policies.  It may mean that cap-and-trade does not have a prayer right now, “but that doesn’t mean we can’t make progress on the many solutions that people agree on across party lines,” she says.  And, I might add as someone who does not define himself as a doctrinaire anything–including “liberal”–that this inclusive, up-beat stance allows someone like me, who balks at the absolutist-sounding science of anthropogenic climate change with its shout-down-opposition tactics, to advocate for policies that will make our environment cleaner and move us toward a world where we don’t have to rely on fossil fuels for power.

Having said this, I can’t help send out a green groan toward my own Republican Senator,  Orrin Hatch–you know, the ancient one who is now trying to woo the tea partiers who may bounce him out of the Senate just like they did last election to his colleague Robert Bennett.  Hatch is riding the reactionary wave of tea partiers to slam not only “junk science” but any effort at all to join in the anti-pollution efforts that are common ground to all of us.  Professor Barry R. Bickmore, in a column today, reports that Hatch’s slumming webpage “Climate Change 101” touts highly questionable science itself.  Apparently, there is a section which uses “fraudulent data” by one Christopher Monckton, a man with no scientific training but who nevertheless is affiliated with the “Science and Public Policy Institute.”  This to poo-poo not only studies that suggest man has helped create global warming, but that we need to develop alternative power sources and factor the environment into all of our policies.

Lest one think that the professor calling the senator on his blarney is simply riding a partisan hobby horse, the professor is not only a Republican himself but teaches geological sciences at the flagship university of one of the most conservative religious organizations in the country:  the Mormon Church. True to true conservatism–something we haven’t seen since the GOP was hijacked by the religious and reactionary far-right, Bickmore has a novel suggestion to Hatch and his Party-of-No colleagues:  “Instead of wallowing in anti-scientific doubt-mongering, why can’t Republicans start garnering support for solutions to the climate change problem that don’t involve massive increases in government revenue and control?”  He then cites Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC)’s suggestion of a “carbon tax swap,” in which “a tax is put on carbon emissions but payroll and income taxes are reduced by an equal amount.”  This, proponents contend, would encourage Americans to curb their emissions and (are you listening, Senator Hatch?), not increase government spending.

This option isn’t exactly my style, but at least it’s a productive alternative, something Republicans these days never seem to proffer.

We can work together to solve real problems that our country faces if we start looking for common ground. That goes for both the Republicans and the Democrats.  Just doing one shining, substantial thing in a bi-partisan way would propel this country into a new era of soaring hope for the future. 

Copyright, David G. Pace, 2010

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