Romney Calls For More Scientific ‘Debate’ On Climate Change, But Opposes Any Serious Effort To Cut Carbon Pollution
Politico received an email from a Romney campaign staffer asserting that the Democrats’ concern about the threat from global warming is supposedly at odds with their spending priorities:
“If armageddon is coming from climate change,” the staffer asks, “wouldn’t your first priority be shoring up defenses to protect natural resources, have Guard and Reserves and ships and planes for disaster relief?”
That brings to mind the old saying: If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like your thumb.
As is typical from the anti-science crowd, when they aren’t blocking action — or mocking action — on man-made global warming, they are saying it is too late to do anything. Politico reports:
Here’s what this week’s official Democratic platform says on the issue: “The national security threat from climate change is real, urgent, and severe. The change wrought by a warming planet will lead to new conflicts over refugees and resources; new suffering from drought and famine; catastrophic natural disasters; and the degradation of vital ecosystems across the globe.”
It is what it is, the campaign staffer said — but how can a party both have such a bleak vision and support $487 billion in reduced defense budget growth over the next decade?
First off, the vision is bleak only if we listen to the do-nothing crowd. While we can’t avoid serious global warming at this point, we still have time to avoid “Armageddon” — the end times battle for humanity!
Second, while other countries now out-invest us in what will be the biggest job creating sector of the century — clean energy — we appear to have a lock on defense spending. The very modest proposed cuts in defense would mean that instead of U.S. military spending that is “bigger than that of the next 17 countries combined,” as the Economist put it, we might only have a military budget that is bigger than the next 15 countries combined.
Darn you Canada and Turkey! Of course, even that assumes those other 15 countries don’t slash their military budgets over the next decade, which many will as the growing reality of climate change necessitates vastly greater spending on mitigation and adaptation
The Romney campaign email does underscore the clever fallback position that the right-wing has when reality trumps their denial in the coming years. They’ll just acknowledge that we were right all along that climate change is a national security threat and that it necessitates solely a national security response. Why exactly we would need more “defenses to protect natural resources” — which are typical codewords for keeping the shipping lanes open to the Persian Gulf oil — is somewhat of a mystery.
In a related story, Team Romney has responded to a questionnaire on science policy from “Science Debate,” which is cosponsored by many leading U.S. scientific organizations.
Unfortunately, Romney seems to have taken the “debate” part more seriously than the science part and channeled GOP word-meister Frank Luntz. So when Romney was asked his position on climate change he replied:
I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.
“We must support continued debate” — no profiles-in-courage award for Mitt.
Actually our scientific understanding of climate change and human causes has gotten ever stronger in recent years — see It’s “Extremely Likely That at Least 74% of Observed Warming Since 1950″ Was Manmade; It’s Highly Likely All of It Was.
In fact, the science is so solid that even the recent Koch-Funded Study Found ‘Global Warming Is Real’, ‘On The High End’ And ‘Essentially All’ Due To Carbon Pollution. The lead author of that study wrote in the NY Times:
Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.
These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming.
In short, a Koch-funded study has found that the IPCC “consensus” underestimated both the rate of surface warming and how much could be attributed to human emissions!
So much for Romney’s understanding of the science. And here’s Romney’s approach to ever-rising carbon pollution emissions:
I oppose steps like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system…. Economic growth and technological innovation, not economy-suppressing regulation, is the key to environmental protection in the long run….
For instance, I support robust government funding for research on efficient, low-emissions technologies that will maintain American leadership in emerging industries.
That’s a George W. Bush rerun — see Bush climate speech follows Luntz playbook: “Technology, technology, blah, blah, blah.”
This is the main message of the shrewd Luntz-led delayers, who realized years ago it could be politically dangerous to be seen as opposing all action on global warming. In his 2002 “Straight Talk” memo on climate change messaging he writes:
Technology and innovation are the key in arguments on both sides. Global warming alarmists use American superiority in technology and innovation quite effectively in responding to accusations that international agreements such as the Kyoto accord could cost the United States billions. Rather than condemning corporate America the way most environmentalists have done in the past, they attack us for lacking faith in our collective ability to meet any economic challenges presented by environmental changes we make. This should be our argument. We need to emphasize how voluntary innovation and experimentation are preferable to bureaucratic or international intervention and regulation.
This is what I call the technology trap, where clean energy technology is used to delay action, rather than to foster action, on climate change.
So there you have the full GOP playbook. Insist that the science is too uncertain to justify immediate emissions reductions, say future technology breakthroughs obviate any need for regulation, and then, when the painful reality of climate change becomes impossible even for hard-core deniers to dismiss, say that we need to build up the defense budget to protect our access to resources and to provide “disaster relief.”