In one fell swoop Tuesday afternoon, Olympia Snowe may have not only crushed Mitch McConnell’s dreams of taking over the Senate, she also wrote the epitaph for political moderates in the world’s greatest deliberative body.
Snowe’s stunning retirement announcement — she gave just a few hours’ notice to McConnell and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee — was the latest and greatest example of Snowe throwing a monkey wrench into GOP leadership plans.
As the Politico reports, the retirement announcement by Olympia Snowe (R-ME) was a shocker. She’s being hailed as a “moderate,” but she famously — or infamously — would not step forward to publicly support a serious but modest climate bill when doing so might have mattered.
And that’s in spite of co-chairing the 2005 International Climate Change Taskforce that embraced the 2°C (3.6 F) target since, of course, if humans allow substantially higher warming, we are risking “irreversible damage to important terrestrial ecosystems, including the Amazon rainforest, the report warns. Above [that level] the risks of abrupt, accelerated, or runaway climate change also increase.”
Snowe said, “I do find it frustrating, however, that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.”
What’s particularly sad is that her move to the right on several issues in the past couple of years was widely seen as an effort to forestall a Tea Party challenger this year. Given that she isn’t even running now, she could have been a big champion of climate action and led the way for a truly bipartisan Senate climate bill during the one brief shining moment there were actually enough progressives and moderates in the Senate to make it happen.
After all, 7 years ago she co-chaired a panel that reviewed the science and concluded:
The cost of failing to mobilise in the face of this threat is likely to be extremely high. The economic costs alone will be very large: as extreme weather events such as droughts and floods become more destructive and frequent; communities, cities, and island nations are damaged or inundated as sea level rises; and agricultural output is disrupted. The social and human costs are likely to be even greater, encompassing mass loss of life, the spread or exacerbation of diseases, dislocation of populations, geopolitical instability, and a pronounced decrease in the quality of life. Impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity are also likely to be devastating. Preventing dangerous climate change, therefore, must be seen as a precondition for prosperity and a public good, like national security and public health.
By contrast, the cost of taking smart, effective action to meet the challenge of climate change should be entirely manageable. Such action need notundermine standards of living. Furthermore, by taking action now and developing a long-term climate policy regime we can ensure that the benefits of climate protection are achieved at least cost…. By reducing greenhouse emissions and deploying new climate-friendly technologies, companies can create jobs and launch a new era of economic prosperity.
We’re already seeing much of this happen. In the last 7 years, the science, of course, has only become stronger and the cost of inaction has only become higher. Where is our Churchill?