by David Roberts, via Grist
I’ve seen a recent surge of stories about conservatives and climate change. None of them, oddly, tell voters what they most need to know on the subject. In fact, one of them does the opposite. (Grrrr …)
I respond in accordance with internet tradition: a listicle!
5. Conservatives have a long history of advancing environmental progress. In a column directed to Mitt Romney, Thomas Friedman reels off (one suspects from memory) “the G.O.P.’s long tradition of environmental stewardship that some Republicans are still proud of: Teddy Roosevelt bequeathed us national parks, Richard Nixon the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency, Ronald Reagan the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer and George H. W. Bush cap-and-trade that reduced acid rain.” This familiar litany is slightly misleading, attributing to presidents what is mostly the work of Congresses, but the basic point is valid enough: In the 20th century, Republicans have frequently played a constructive role on the environment.
4. There is a conservative approach to addressing climate change. Law professor Jonathan Adler has laid it out in the past and does so again in a much-discussed post over at The Atlantic. He suggests prizes for innovation, reduced regulatory barriers to alternative energy, a revenue-neutral carbon tax, and some measure of adaptation.
It’ll be no surprise to Adler or anyone else that I believe the problem is more severe than he does; solving it — as opposed to just “doing something” — will involve a far more vigorous government role than he envisions. But he makes an eloquent, principled case for the simple notion that “embrace of limited government principles need not entail the denial of environmental claims.” Conservatives could, if they wanted, spend their time arguing for their preferred solutions rather than denying scientific results.
3. There are conservatives who believe in taking action on climate change. Even those dismal polls we’re always talking about find 30 or 40 percent of Republicans acknowledging the threat of climate change. And support for clean air and clean energy policies remains high across the board. Heck, some — OK, a tiny handful of — conservatives are even brave enough to say so in public! It’s really only the hard nut of the GOP, anywhere from 15 to 30 percent, depending on how you measure, that is intensely and ideologically opposed to climate science and solutions alike. Oh, and almost all Republicans in Congress.
2. Mitt Romney used to say and do moderate things on green issues when he was governor of Massachusetts. He spoke in favor of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade system for Northeastern states, and introduced the Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan. He wasn’t afraid to crack down on coal plants — I never get tired of this remarkable video: