Talking Heads on Global Warming Politics 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 07 Jan 2008 20:51:00 GMT

The Sierra Club has an interesting interview on global warming with four pundits of very different persuasions (though joined by their white Ivy League maleness): progressive blogger Matt Stoller, Democratic consultant Michael Bocian, Oberlin professor David Orr, and former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Stoller usually gives the most original answers to the questions, as typified by the responses to the first:
Q: How will global warming figure in the 2008 presidential election?

Newt Gingrich: Whoever wins will have a sound and realistic approach to climate change. Democrats have an advantage in developing solutions because their primary voters care more about the issue and because they are more comfortable dealing with environmental issues, which have been largely a liberal area of dialogue for the past generation. Republicans have to play catch-up in developing answers other than no. Our research at American Solutions indicates that, by a very substantial margin, Americans prefer entrepreneurship to bureaucracy and innovation to litigation. The Republican nominee should be able to develop strong solutions to climate change that emphasize science, technology, innovation, and incentives. These will prove surprisingly popular compared with the tax increase-government control-bureaucracy and litigation model that has dominated for the past 30 years.

Michael Bocian: Mr. Gingrich is correct that the public clamors for innovation. Our polling shows that Americans feel our country is failing to lead on energy and global-warming solutions, yet they believe we have the technological know-how to lead, and we must harness it. Mr. Gingrich is also correct on the importance of incentives. But any purely voluntary solution fails to address the seriousness of the problem. Americans believe we need strong standards if we are to succeed. Setting strong standards and enforcing them require real accountability.

David Orr: The Republican Party has not done its homework on the biggest issue of our time and has persistently chosen ideology over science, even going along with the Bush administration’s crude attempts to quash the evidence. The time to avert the worst is very short. To do so, we will have to create something akin to the government-business-public partnership in WWII. This will necessarily include lots of things Mr. Gingrich has opposed in the past: government regulation, taxation to change market incentives, and lots of R&D on renewables and efficiency. It will also require attention and money—so no more wars fought for phony reasons.

Matt Stoller: Global warming may not figure directly in the 2008 race. Consider that Al Gore received only a small bump in approval ratings for his Nobel prize and continues to have high disapproval ratings. He is the political figure most closely associated with climate change, yet according to some polls, almost half of Democrats don’t want him to run for president. I’m using Gore as a proxy, but there are other obvious signposts. There was no climate-change backlash from Katrina in 2005, and no candidates are making the issue the centerpiece of their campaign. Even with wildfires in the West and drought in the Southeast, I’m seeing most action take place at the local level disconnected from the federal government.

Global warming is one in a bucket of issues, along with Iraq, civil liberties, executive overreach, economic inequality, global financial instability, and corporate corruption. They are all of deep concern to a newly energized progressive movement and must be solved together. Climate change isn’t a major political issue yet, but it will hit the national radar in a few years, ferociously.