Will Republicans Follow Their Wise Leaders or Gas Bags on Global Warming?


According to a National Journal poll, 87 percent of Republican congressmen reject the scientific consensus that the causes of global-warming are man-made.

At a congressional hearing on the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who identifies himself as a Baptist, expressed doubts about global warming. Referencing dramatic climate change 55 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Rohrabacher said, "We don't know what those other cycles were caused by in the past. Could be dinosaur flatulence, you know, or who knows?'"

 

No wonder politicians are often derisively called "gas bags."

 

The scientific community speaks with near consensus about climate change, and many Republicans issue odious statements. None more gaseous that those by U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who called global warming a hoax.

 

At a Senate hearing, Inhofe said that there is "no convincing scientific evidence" that climate change is man-made.

 

"We all know the Weather Channel would like to have people afraid all the time," he alleged.

 

Inofe charged that the IPCC report was "a political document, not a scientific report, and it is a shining example of the corruption of science for political gain."

 

The IPCC report was prepared with the input of hundreds of scientists from 113 countries. The report said that there is a 90 percent certainty that man-made greenhouse gases cause most of the global warming.

 

Not all Republicans are conspiracy-hunting, global-warming deniers. Some respect scientists and recognize their moral responsibility to act.

 

At the same hearing where Inhofe spewed off, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, "This is an issue over the years whose time has come."

 

He and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) co-wrote a column in the Boston Globe that said, "There is now a broad consensus in this country, and indeed in the world, that global warming is happening, that it is a serious problem, and that humans are causing it."

 

"If we fail to start substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next couple of years, we risk bequeathing a diminished world to our grandchildren," they warned. "Insect-borne diseases such as malaria will spike as tropical ecosystems expand; hotter air will exacerbate the pollution that sends children to the hospital with asthma attacks; food insecurity from shifting agricultural zones will spark border wars; and storms and coastal flooding from sea-level rise will cause mortality and dislocation."

 

McCain and Lieberman announced the "Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act."

 

"The debate has ended over whether global warming is a problem caused by human activity. Consequently, we can and must act now to solve the problem, or else we will bequeath a dangerous and diminished world to our children and grandchildren," they concluded their opinion piece.

 

In terms of announced and likely Republican presidential candidates, only Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) addresses global warming on his Web site.

 

He briefly alluded to it in his announcement statement: "We need to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. This is possible using our ingenuity, resources, and determination."

 

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) doesn't even list the environment on his issues page. Neither does Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) mention the environment on the issues page of his exploratory committee Web site. Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-N.Y.) has little more than billboard Web site.

 

However, these and other Republican presidential candidates have made brief remarks about the reality of global warming and the need for action.

 

Hopefully, they will speak up and often about global warming, refusing to listen to religious naysayers, the rant-radio hosts and the anti-science caucus in their party. If they do, then they will enrich our civic debate and ensure constructive solutions.

 

To ensure that they do engage the issue, the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund has a project to keep the heat on presidential candidates, keeping a running record of what they say about climate change. The Heat Is On 2008: Making Global Warming a Presidential Priority will educate voters in the upcoming caucuses and primaries about global warming.

 

To make progress, we need bi-partisan initiatives. Global warming is neither a liberal issue nor a conservative one. It's a human issue that requires our attention, now.

 

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

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