Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Feeling Lonely in a Climate Change Crowd

Over the past several years almost all of the Republican candidates vying for their party's nomination to run for President have tried to walk back past positions taken on climate change.  Governor Tim Pawlenty, for example, was a supporter of addressing climate change when he was governor of Minnesota, but when addressing CPAC earlier this year, he not only backed off, he said of his prior position, "it was a mistake, it was stupid, it was wrong." Last week, Ann Carlson wrote an informative post for Legal Planet documenting the many flip flops on this issue.

However, a few of the candidates have stayed true to their past positions on climate change.  Of these only Ambassador/Governor Jon Huntsman has stuck to his guns with a former position that acknowledged that climate change is a real problem that is worth addressing.  In an interview Time published earlier this week, he said,

This is an issue that ought to be answered by the scientific community; I’m not a meteorologist. All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring. If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer we’d listen to them. I respect science and the professionals behind the science so I tend to think it’s better left to the science community—though we can debate what that means for the energy and transportation sectors.

Given the political realities of the Republican nominating convention, this is a courageous position for a candidate to take.  Despite the fact that he stands with the National Academies of Science, the InterAcademy Council, the International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences, the National Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Meteorological Society, and even the Bush Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, it is still awkward company to also stand alongside President Obama and the Sierra Club. 

 Obviously, both Democrats and Republicans have their blind spots and almost every politician flip flops on an issue at some time or another.  (President Obama, for example, is currently struggling with explaining how he could have voted against raising the debt limit when he was a Senator but why it is vital for Congress to raise the debt ceiling now.)  To me, it is a distressing commentary of our time that so many politicians are willing to walk away from their better judgment when it serves their political interests.  Particularly when it comes to issues as massive as climate change, it seems that we would be best served by politicians willing to tell us what we need to hear instead of what we just want to hear.

 -- Brigham Daniels

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Flip flopping itself is not always a bad thing. I have changed my opinion about a lot of things over the past decade.

What really gets me, however, is changing opinion--particularly of major issues--just to get in good graces with a subset of voters or a power interest group. An elected official without principles cannot be trusted in the light of day let alone behind a closed door cut off from the public's scrutiny.

Posted by: Brigham | May 19, 2011 11:49:12 PM

Politicians flip flop all the time. I think they forget that with power comes responsibility.

Posted by: Carmen | May 19, 2011 1:38:30 PM

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