Ground Shifting Under Climate Denial

June 3, 2014

The President is often presented, by his supporters, as a shrewd Spock playing 3-dimensional chess while his opponents are playing checkers.

In fact, the President’s real love is poker. The bet being made is that the board is currently being reset on the climate change issue – a reset that will almost certainly favor climate as an issue in the 2016 Presidential year. The gamble is, whether the sea change is broad enough, deep enough, and fast enough, to save the Democrats Senate majority in 2014.  The President is betting that the tide is turning strongly – and there are signs that climate deniers in congress are feeling the heat.

ABC News:

Seven in 10 Americans see global warming as a serious problem facing the country, enough to fuel broad support for federal efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions – even if it raises their own energy costs, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds.

The poll, conducted in advance of the Obama administration’s announcement today of planned regulations to cut such pollution, finds 70 percent support for limiting emissions from existing power plants, and, more generally, for requiring states to cut the production of greenhouse gases within their borders.

See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

Notably, indicating public concern about the issue, 63 percent of Americans say they’d support a regulatory effort that significantly lowered greenhouse gases even if it raised their own energy expenses by $20 per month. (The figure is hypothetical, meant to test attitudes about the possible cost of new regulations. Actual cost impacts, if any, are a subject of sharp debate.)

Support for new regulations is linked closely to concern about the issue. Sixty-nine percent of Americans in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, see global warming as a serious problem; among them, eight in 10 favor new regulations, and three-quarters are willing to pay higher energy bills if it means significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions. Among those who don’t see a serious problem, by contrast, fewer than half favor cutting emissions, and just 36 percent back regulations that would raise their energy costs.

Further, among those who do see global warming – also known as climate change – as a serious problem, the vast majority, 83 percent, say it’s “very” serious.

Washington Examiner:

Breaking from party orthodoxy, a majority of Republican voters now accept climate change, sparking a drive inside the GOP to find a middle ground to help candidates finesse the issue without sounding out of touch or in the tank for President Obama and Al Gore.

“There is a middle way where we can talk about this,” said GOP pollster Alex Lundry of TargetPoint Consulting. “Republicans are a lot more open to this than you might think.”

He recently completed a poll on energy issues for Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions that found 51 percent of Republicans believe climate change is happening, will happen shortly or will occur in their lifetime. Just 24 percent deny it. The shift is particularly pronounced among younger party members.

A number of lawmakers are testing out climate change themes acceptable to both GOP voters and independents who are even more sensitive to environmental issues.

For example, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte has authored legislation to increase energy efficiency in commercial buildings by letting tenants voluntarily take efficiency measures. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is an advocate of renewables. And others are looking to piggyback off the military’s new focus on climate change.

Lundry suggested seven themes that at least 66 percent of Republican voters favored, including pushing to leave a clean air legacy, promoting health through reduced air pollution, boosting the economy with renewable energy sources and “being responsible stewards of God’s creation.” The military’s acceptance of global warming also provides some cover for Republicans.

A spokesman for the renewable fuels industry agreed that one way to promote pro-climate change efforts is by couching them as pocket book issues. “They save people money and help our economy,” said the industry source.

While both sides tend to demagogue the issue, Lundry said that Republican voters now believe that “you can be pro-limited government and pro-environment at the same time. They do not see that as a contradiction in terms.”

But, he told Secrets, “Look, you are threading a needle. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do but it can be done.”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner’s “Washington Secrets” columnist, can be contacted at

Legal Planet:

When President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency releases its Clean Air Act Section 111(d) regulations to control greenhouse gases emitted by the electricity sector on Monday, we can expect howls of protest from the usual suspects:  Congressional Republicans, industry groups representing big coal interests, even some coal-state Democrats.  But the Obama approach is already receiving praise from less predictable quarters.   E. Donald Elliott, the EPA General Counsel from 1989-91 under the first President Bush, calls the approach, based on what he’s heard, “promising.”  The general parameters of the proposed rules apparently include  giving states wide leeway to craft their own plans; allowing energy efficiency to be used to meet the new standards; and encouraging states to join already existing cap-and-trade programs.  In a comment to my earlier post about the legal basis for the rules, Professor Elliott wrote the following:

Limiting Greenhouse Gas emissions from existing power plants is the next logical step after the Supreme Court and other courts have upheld EPA’s authority and obligation to address this issue. A system-wide approach provides needed flexibility and reduces costs, as well as encouraging investment in lower-emitting generation. EPA has wisely left the states a lot of discretion rather than mandating specific measures as some had wanted….

We don’t yet know all the details of the President’s approach, but what I have heard sounds promising. I have been an advocate of system wide approaches, going back to time I was General Counsel of EPA 1989-1991 under President George H.W Bush as well as in my academic writings.

It’s also important to recognize that the state cap-and-trade programs that the Obama regulations embrace, California’s cap-and-trade program and  the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,  both began with strong support from two prominent Republican governors, then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Even owners of coal-fired power plants have expressed support for EPA’s proposal.    Anthony J. Alexander, president and chief executive of FirstEnergy told the New York Times this week that allowing states to opt into cap-and-trade programs is a good idea:  “By trading on carbon credits, we’ll be able to achieve significantly more cuts at a lower cost.”  The company has power plants in the Midwest and MidAtlantic states.    The vice president of  environmental services for America Electric Power, owner of 11 coal-fired power plants, said about EPA’s plan:  “We view cap and trade as having a lot of benefits. There’s important design considerations that would have to be factored in, to consider each state’s circumstances. But we think it’s definitely worth looking at. It could keep the cost down. It would allow us to keep coal units running for a more extended period. There are a lot of advantages.”

So take the inevitable barrage of claims that the President has unleashed a war on coal after the rules are released on Monday with a very hefty dose of skepticism.  When environmentalists, utilities, and thoughtful Republicans all agree that the rules offer a promising, cost-effective approach to cutting electricity emissions, EPA has done its job well.

Martin Longman in the Washington Monthly:

Jonathan Chait wants to know why it is suddenly so popular for Republicans to tell the public that they are not scientists and therefore are unqualified to have an opinion about whether or not climate change is actually occurring. It’s because they lack even an iota of moral courage. It’s because they are paid liars. This is not complicated and it shouldn’t even be debatable. Outside of a very small handful of genuine dunces who actually managed to get elected despite having personal beliefs about science that would make John Calvin blush, every single Republican who is either denying climate change or saying that they can’t make up their mind about it is actually just being dishonest. For money and career.

It is outrageous and deplorable behavior that ought to be met with the same derision and scorn we reserve for scam-artists and thieves. These are people whose basic character is so diminished that you would not leave them with your children. These are the kind of people who sell get-rich-quick pamphlets and try to convince you that you can lose your belly fat through a series of small, electric shocks administered by an ill-fitting belt. What they are lacking is any moral scruples about flim-flamming people. It’s like the Glenn Beckification of the Party of Lincoln is now complete. Science is the enemy because scientists don’t fall for their deceitful pitches for fraudulent products. It’s the party of gold-bugs and unskewed polls.

Karl Rove on election night is the face of the modern GOP. And if we listen to these clowns on climate change or let them continue to have a share of power, we’ll be just as bewildered as Rove was that night when the climate begins to really turn for the worse.


7 Responses to “Ground Shifting Under Climate Denial”

  1. jimbills Says:

    The basic problem in climate action is that most Americans won’t accept heavy economic burdens to mitigate AGW. We’re also at a point in U.S. history where the vast majority of Americans are already struggling daily to pay their bills. An extra $20 a month (the cost of two movie tickets) is fine, but that’s not going to really go very far in slowing carbon emissions.

    The issue gets worse with the GOP, who at the very best case will accept a minor burden only.

    “Karl Rove on election night is the face of the modern GOP.”

    There’s an interesting theory about Rove on election night, btw:


  2. rayduray Says:

    Re: “There’s an interesting theory about Rove on election night,”

    I have studied this topic in considerable detail. One thing that is categorically not a theory and is a fact is that a preponderance of the U.S.’s voting systems, especially as provisioned and paid for by the HAVA, are designed for ease of fraudulent manipulation. And I believe the famous anarchist Emma Goldman had it about right when she observed about America that “if voting really mattered, they’d just make it illegal.”

    • andrewfez Says:

      I imagine you’ve seen this before Ray, but for the other folks:

      • rayduray Says:

        Hi andrew,

        This particular clip is new to me. However, I did follow the Clint Curtis story via Bradblog for quite a while. Too bad our Congresspersons are so powerless to do anything about the rigging of our elections. I guess hope always springs eternal among the political class that if they just let the fraudulent vote counting mechanisms in place that somehow they’ll be able to avail themselves of this tool down the road.

  3. rpauli Says:

    President as poker player… hmmm. Good metaphor.

    Looking ahead and planning ahead is wise… climate models are really helpful guides. But to bring politics into the view, then 2016 might not be about which party will be in control, but rather whether government itself will be useful to our future.

    By then everyone will know the trap we are in… cheap energy or fast death. The dance will be about who will be in charge of the declining years of chaos.

    Recent lecture from UCTV on fires in the West suggests some very tough times ahead. Before 2016 will also likely be the first big El Nino heat increase. By the election, everyone will be impacted in some way.

    Pro-Skeptics might want to pile on now, because in the future, denialists will be universally regarded as quite deluded lunatics or immoral marketeers. Republicans have only two years to shake off that reputation.

    At some time, very soon, the political issue will be how much government works, and how much global government is effective. All that seems inevitable. Today, the only real argument about it is, “how soon?”.

    Obama gets points for discussing it, nudging the issue, and for defining the party as one of action. Republicans now must leap over a huge political barrier. Astounding to think that Republicans may actually not believe the science of global warming… all along, I thought they were corruptly representing the oil interests, but now their ignorance risks turning into an unshakable label of genuine stupidity.

    I cannot see their game, it’s not poker. Not chess. It seems to be a role play game of spoiler and agents for special interests… but with increasing risk, the spoiler agents become dangerous obstructions. What other game might they be playing?

  4. rayduray Says:

    Re: “Recent lecture from UCTV on fires in the West suggests some very tough times ahead. “

    I watched it last night and it was quite informative. I hadn’t realized before just how dramatically misguided the “Smokey Bear” suppress-all-fires-without-intelligent-regard-for-the-consequences could be. Reaping the Whirlwind, indeed.

  5. I love Tyson, he’s really plain-spoken and straightforward. He says things in a way that everyone can understand, instead of camouflaging what he says in ‘scientific-ese’. So glad he’s decided to speak out on this issue. And my experience of scientists totally meshes with his. Scientists LOVE to prove each other wrong. It’s both a good quality and a bad one, but what it absolutely is, is strong proof against the whole ridiculous conspiracy ideation.

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