Breaking: Murkowski concedes Alaska primary defeat

But no, ‘dirty air’ Lisa is not a “climate change victim” even though her opponent is an anti-science ideologue

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska conceded late Tuesday in her Republican primary race against Joe Miller, a lawyer from Fairbanks who was backed by Tea Party activists, Sarah Palin and other conservatives.

Mr. Miller shocked the political establishment here and in Washington last week when he emerged with a narrow lead, 1,668 votes, after the primary vote, on Aug. 24. His victory makes him the presumed favorite to win the Senate seat from this heavily Republican state.

That means the GOP candidate for Senate from the state that’s Ground Zero for climate change is a hardcore science denier who recently said “We haven’t heard there’s man-made global warming.”

Last week, Jeffrey Birnbaum of the conservative newsletter EnergyGuardian (subs. req’d) leapt to the beyond-dubious conclusion, “Murkowski is a climate change victim”:

As the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Murkowski toyed with working with Democrats on a climate change bill. The mere hint -and that’s all it ever was – that she might look at drafting a compromise global warming bill may well have frozen her reelection chances.

It’s a warning to all Republicans and probably some Democrats, too: Beware of climate change, at least as a legislative issue.

Conventional wisdom has blamed her not-yet-official defeat in a Republican primary Tuesday on 1) opposition from the powerful Sarah Palin, 2) opposition from the Tea Party, 3) the senator’s many connections to the GOP establishment and 4) her support for Alaska’s over-reliance on federal largesse.

One other cause of her troubles has been underplayed, but will become timely soon.

Alaska is not typical when it comes to energy. The state is awash in oil and Murkowski was probably ill-advised to even allow the words “climate change” to pass her lips except in a derisive tone….

Climate change can kill – at least in the political sense – and Murkowski may soon stand as a martyr to the cause. Other politicians will certainly take notice.


First off, Alaska is not typical when it comes to climate change.  Anybody who lives in the state can see the warming and its impacts — even Palin has written “That’s not to say I deny the reality of some changes in climate “” far from it. I saw the impact of changing weather patterns firsthand while serving as governor of our only Arctic state.”  So expressing concern about climate change in the issue is hardly a political loser.

Second, Lisa “dirty air” Murkowski did plenty of EPA-bashing on the climate issue.  Her big mistake was taking this election for granted and not spending money to explain to voters where she stood on various issues and how extreme Miller was — a mistake that, say, John McCain didn’t make in his primary campaign.

Third, even if very many voters were aware of her supposedly non-hard-line on climate, the notion that any substantial number were actually voting on this issue is beyond dubious, especially when there are so many other more widely known factors, as the NYT reports:

Yet many voters had mixed feelings about her because she supports abortion rights and has voted for several Obama administration measures.

Many voters also disliked the fact that she was initially appointed to her seat in 2002 by her father, Frank H. Murkowski, when he was governor.

She didn’t vote with Obama on any climate initiative.

Fourth, this was a Republican primary in a hard red state with only some 100,000 votes cast — and Murkowski is going to lose by under 2000 votes.  Even if one could imagine that the main reason say, a few thousand Palin-ites showed up and voted for Miller who were otherwise not going to vote or who would have voted for Murkowski if she had been tougher on climate — that would merely tell us something we already knew.  The Tea Party folks are virulently anti-science and you need to be the same if you want to win them over, which ain’t news:

The real question is when will progressives create a political movement that punishes politicians who ote against climate and clean energy action.

11 Responses to Breaking: Murkowski concedes Alaska primary defeat

  1. mike roddy says:

    I second your last sentence. Democrats are afraid to use Neanderthal positions about science and fossil fuels as campaign issues. Either they are getting bad advice from staff or they are afraid to anger the fossil fuel lobby. Both positions will brand them as weak and out of touch, which seem to be their main electoral problems these days as well.

  2. Dave E says:

    “the powerful Sarah Palin”?–I really hope not. Unfortunately, I’m probably only contributing to her “power” by creating yet another mention of her.

  3. Ed Hummel says:

    For what it’s worth, we just finished the seventh month out of eight this year of well above normal temperatures in central Maine. Only June was near normal because of some rain systems that kept this summer from having even worse drought conditions than we actually have. My “year round stream” has been bone dry since mid July for only the third time in 30 years that I’ve been living here. And it was by far the earlist that it has gone dry. the other two times have occured within the last 10 years. In fact the region has record low river and pond levels that have oldtimers’ heads scratching. This comes after record rainfall last summer which almost drowned crops and led to much loss because of fungal diseases in fields which never really dried out. Of course those are exactly the extreme condiitons that researchers have been harping on for years, but it’s still hard to get through to hard core deniers that it’s more than just “natural cycles”!

  4. Colorado Bob says:

    CALGARY, Alberta — Oil sands operations are polluting the Athabasca River system, researchers said Monday, contradicting the Alberta government’s assertions that toxins in the watershed are naturally occurring.

    In a study likely to add more fuel to the environmental battle over Canada’s oil sands development, researchers said mercury, arsenic, lead and cadmium are among 13 toxins being released into the Athabasca, which flows north through the region’s major oil sands operations.

    The findings of the study, coauthored by University of Alberta biological scientists Erin Kelly and David Schindler, should be a signal for the Alberta provincial government to finally consider limits on oil sands development, Schindler said.

  5. Brian M says:

    “The real question is when will progressives create a political movement that punishes politicians who ote against climate and clean energy action.”

    At this point…. never. A political movement that “punishes” people is a fairly questionable goal anyhow. Seems too much like trying to be just as much of a jerk as the other guys are. Progressives are probably too “nice” to group together in any consistent manner in order to “punish” anybody for much of anything.

    Frankly, before I worry about trying to get people to change their minds, how about we get people who supposedly agree already to do something. I would settle for a political movement that actually held people accountable for doing the things they say they are going to do! Progressives continue to vote for people who, during campaigns, claim that they will vigorously promote this change or that policy, but who fail to push for either once they are part of the money train.

    In short, worry not about the other guy, but get your house in order. You want to punish people, punish the people you support who fold like cheap lawn furniture at the merest suggestion of so much as a debate.

  6. Sasparilla says:

    Regarding #7 Michael T – I heard an interview with Lomborg yesterday on the BBC and basically, when you stand back and look at the forest view he really hasn’t changed his tune.

    He says climate change is real and manmade (and said he’s always thought that when the commentator pounded on his change of heart).

    He says that we shouldn’t deploy green solutions (wind turbines etc.) right now because they are too expensive and inefficient.

    He is saying we should invest (on a global scale) $100 billion a year into green technology R&D via a carbon tax (both the global issue and the tax itself are not realistic things that can happen in todays world). Then after (who knows how long) this drives the prices of green power technology down (except you often get prices down by widespread production & deployment – which won’t happen in his vision) below fossil fuels then we deploy them.

    So basically he hasn’t changed his tune a bit – he’s still spewing the same don’t do anything now message that the Koch Brothers and Exxon and the Coal companies want – then later on at some point on into the future (when its too late) we’ll take care of things.

    The fact that we’re rapidly approaching various climate tipping points which will take control out of our CO2 emissions hands and that we’re living on borrowed time as it is – doesn’t seem to even be on his consciousness.

    Just another prescription from Bjorn to do nothing for now and ensure we smash through the feedback / tipping points and result in the premature deaths of billions by the end of this century. But he gets some “all about Bjorn” time…

  7. BillD says:

    Colorado Bob @5 concerning pollution from Aberta

    David Schindler is clearly one of the most highly regarded aquatic scientists in the world with numerous awards and prizes and publication in Science. It will be very difficult for the provincial government to downplay one of his publications.

  8. Dana says:

    It’s way too early to be predicting a Miller win in this election. Alaska really isn’t that red – remember their other senator (Begich) is a Democrat.

    The first poll between Miller and Democratic candidate McAdams only gives the Republican an 8-point lead, and not many people know much about McAdams, who’s actually much more of a prototypical Alaskan than Miller.

    In fact there’s been speculation that some Democrats crossed over to vote for Miller in the primary to give themselves a winnable general election.

  9. Michael Tucker says:

    Alaska has a large group of registered Independent voters and they did not vote in the primary. That is how Alaska ends up with the occasional Democratic public servant and it is not clear yet how the general election will turn out. I don’t think that favoring climate change legislation is a vote killer but I do think it is suicide for ANY candidate to be in favor of increasing taxes OR increasing the cost of gasoline, diesel, or electricity to limit greenhouse gasses this November.

    You can say that climate change threatens the environment just don’t spend any money on it. Does anyone seriously think that we will end up with a bill to limit greenhouse gasses by 2012 if unemployment is still at 9 or 10% nationally? No action to put people back to work and no action on greenhouse gas limits. The bills that have been passed since the new president came to office have had NO effect on my life or economic security AND have done nothing to limit global warming. The health care bill may eventually, one day, improve my life but it is nothing to brag about yet. In an election it is about “what have you done for me now”; not in the future. I will NOT vote for a Republican but you must admit the Democratic selling points are very weak.

    Oh…Lomborg is not a climate scientist, he is a business professor. Should anyone expect sound investment advice from Dr James Hansen?