Politico: Climate Is a Risky Issue for Republicans

While the Washington Post misreported the story, the Politico gets the global warming and national politics story (mostly) right.

In “Generational test for Republican,” the online political publication points out the risks to Republicans of down-playing the seriousness of the climate issue. The article includes new data from Republican pollster Whit Ayres from voters in the 49 most competitive House races:

Ayres illustrates how independents — who were responsible for ousting the GOP majority in 2006 — are unmistakably supportive of swift action to cut carbon emissions and require cuts in carbon dioxide emissions by cars, factories and power plants.

Ayres seemed most surprised that independents and, to a lesser extent, Republicans wanted the U.S. to act even if China and India, two big polluters with rapidly growing economies, did not.

Who ever would have guessed that the voters are more sensible than their leaders?

The swing district independent voters said they were much more likely to support a candidate who votes to cut carbon emissions.

The analysis of how climate change plays out for Republican presidential candidates is cogent, if alarming:

Republican voters were surprisingly supportive of efforts to combat global warming but also made it clear they were much less likely to hold members of Congress accountable if they failed to act anytime soon.

That helps explain why the leading presidential candidates seem in basic agreement that global warming exists but are very cautious in talking about the issue or solutions. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), an early supporter of global warming legislation, is the big exception.

Republicans are split in three camps: a small but vocal group who think global warming is basically a hoax (26 percent of GOP voters in the Ayres poll said it does not exist); a big group that includes GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani who agree the Earth is warming but are reluctant to embrace plans opposed by business or viewed as burdensome government regulation; and a growing number who are pushing for specific, market-based solutions now.

Sad that the two most likely Republican nominees, Romney and Giuliani, are both pretty much in the Bush camp. No doubt they’ll also soon be doing speeches from the Luntz playbook — “technology, technology, technology, blah, blah, blah” — in an attempt to neutralize the issue politically. Let’s hope their opponent and the media do not let them get away with such meaningless rhetoric.

The Politico tarnishes what would otherwise be a first-rate piece of analysis by repeating conventional myths at the end:

Politics aside, it is not clear whether the public is ready to stomach the pocketbook costs of curtailing greenhouse gas emissions.

People want cleaner air, but are they willing to pay 30 percent more for natural gas to heat their home, or higher energy bills overall? Will they drive smaller cars or pay more to gas up their Durango? Probably not.

That is why even the most ambitious plans presented by the Democratic presidential candidates are setting goals so distant that they won’t be met until most of these contenders might be dead.

Wow! Four myths in three paragraphs:

  1. The public seems more ready for higher energy costs than conventional wisdom suggests.
  2. Higher energy prices do NOT automatically mean higher energy bills — that is why smart energy plans, like Obama’s and Clinton’s have a very strong emphasis on energy efficiency.
  3. How about, instead of smaller cars, we drive smarter cars, like hybrids and then plug-in hybrids. Will the public go for that? Probably.
  4. The third paragraph is just dead wrong. Obama’s plan starts with a mandate “of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.” And Clinton’s would increase fuel efficiency standards to 55 miles per gallon by 2030. Not really that distant for someone becoming President in 2009.

These tired myths need to be retired.

2 Responses to Politico: Climate Is a Risky Issue for Republicans

  1. Ronald says:

    The article did talk about Republicans who are coming around to global warming as true and something that humans need to do something about it. Then from the comments of the people who read the article, most were quite sure that global warming was not something caused by human’s machines and land use methods and is not something humans can or should do anything about.

    A poll of Republicans might give one view, but the vocal Republicans would revolt if the party went to the side of human made global warming. Not the first issue to divide a political party and the fights will be a lot of things as well as interesting.

  2. Shannon says:

    I also covered the liability to Republicans here: It’s interesting how mainstream climate change has become in such a shirt few months; fore example, Time Magazine notes the heavy influence climate is expected to have in the 2008 elections and provides an eco voting guide. In another year the issue could be the #1 votegetter. Watch out for Republicans- they are going to promote Nuclear power as the solution to climate change.