GOP Groping for Safety on Climate Issue

June 8, 2014


Greg Sargent in Washington Post Plum Line:

Here’s another sign climate change may become an issue that could matter — a bit, at least — in the 2014 campaigns. On the same day her Dem opponent attacked her as a climate denier, Terri Lynn Land, the GOP Senate candidate in Michigan, quickly rushed out a statement claiming that “climate change is absolutely a reality.”

Land’s statement, however, didn’t take a position on whether it is caused by human activity.

And as it turns out, this is the position of multiple GOP Senate candidates: They acknowledge climate change is real, but, to varying degrees, are fudging on whether humans are causing it.

There’s Land, who said this yesterday about the new EPA rules: “Climate change is absolutely a reality and we must continue our work to protect the environment but this is not the right plan to implement in the middle of our Michigan comeback.”

There’s Thom Tillis, the GOP Senate candidate in North Carolina, whose spokesman says that Tillis believes “the Earth’s climate obviously changes over time,” without specifying Tillis’ views of humans’ role in making that happen.

There’s Cory Gardner, the Republican Senate candidate in Colorado, who has said: “I think the climate is changing, but I don’t believe humans are causing that change to the extent that’s been in the news.”

There’s Joni Ernst, the Republican Senate candidate in Iowa. When asked for her views on the topic in an interview with the Des Moines Register editorial board, she said: “Yes, we do see climates changes but I have not seen proven proof that it is entirely man-made.” She added that we’ve seen “cyclic changes in weather…throughout the course of history,” and suggested it’s uncertain “what impact is man-made.”

Of course, even as they acknowledge climate change is a reality, many Republicans are blasting the new EPA rules designed to do something about it, as Land does above. In theory that would seem to provide Dems an opening to pillory their opponents as anti-science and so imprisoned by ideology that they are unwilling or unable to offer solutions to major challenges facing the country — challenges even they are prepared to acknowledge exist.

There’s been a bit of aggressiveness from Dems along these lines. In Michigan Dem Rep. Gary Peters has blasted Land, suggesting that her climate denialism renders her incapable of addressing a pressing crisis. In North Carolina Dem Senator Kay Hagan has done the same to Tillis, claiming: “Unlike my opponent who flatly denied the existence of climate change, I know the EPA’s ability to responsibly regulate greenhouse gas emissions is key to protecting our environment for future generations.” But overall, there has been — and will probably continue to be — little of this.

You frequently heard it said that climate change is not a motivating issue for voters, and environmental advocates would be the first to admit they have not yet succeeded in changing this. But environmentalists are practically screaming in the ears of Democratic candidates that the EPA rules give them a big opening on this issue, and they are citing new polling from Hart Research in the swing states of Virginia and Pennsylvania, commissioned by the League of Conservation Voters, to underscore the point:

In both states, 61% of voters were found to support new power plant rules which the EPA proposed on Monday, even after hearing the arguments for and against. The proposed rules would mandate that U.S. power plants reduce their carbon emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

“We are clearly in a new political moment in the fight against climate change,” said LCV adviser Bill Burton, a former Obama administration spokesperson, on a Thursday conference call with reporters. The Hart Research poll, he said, shows that “Republican leadership are not only wrong on policy, but the politics are absolutely atrocious for them.”

Many Dem candidates are unlikely to follow this advice, particularly in red states, for the reasons I reported on here. But there are signs climate will get more attention than usual this cycle. And in the scattered places where Dems do choose to engage the issue, we’ll likely see a GOP response that does suggest the politics of it are shifting. Terri Land’s partial embrace of the reality of climate change could be the first glimpse of more to come.


Peters doesn’t hesitate to defend his past support of using the cap-and-trade approach in the 2009 bill, but he avoided taking a stand on today’s regulatory approach before seeing the specifics.

“I’m going to reserve judgment until I actually have seen what the announcements will be, what the policy changes will be,” he said Friday. “Certainly that’s going to be part of the discussion obviously in the next few months, but I’d hate to speculate at this point.”

The electoral reverberations produced by today’s announcement won’t be known until November, but President Obama’s historic action on climate change could raise risks for Democrats in an already hazardous election year. On one hand, critics are already attacking Democrats for hiking energy prices and pursuing a religious-like environmental ideology.

On the other, climate advocates say they’re poised to benefit in midterm races as mounting scientific evidence and the presence of extreme weather help the voting public give a higher priority to dealing with global warming.

“Climate denial will not last,” predicted Heather Taylor-Miesle, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Action Fund. “And I don’t think that anyone is going to be able to get elected into the future if they continue this line of messaging.”

EPA rule an echo of cap and trade

Michigan and other big industrial states that Democrats rely upon might test that theory.

Peters, who entered the House in 2009, describes his Republican opponent, Terri Lynn Land, a former Michigan secretary of state, as a “denier” who questions the extent to which humans are causing temperatures to rise. That could make her vulnerable, he believes, in a state that hasn’t supported a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.


(White House Counselor John) Podesta also noted that former President George W. Bush tried unsuccessfully to overturn multiple environmental rules that were finalized near the end of the Clinton administration when Podesta was White House chief of staff. Those rules were upheld by courts that recognized they were done under the prevailing rules of the time, he said.

Podesta said that Democrats running in the 2014 midterm election can also use the EPA proposal to their advantage by touting how it can help address climate change. He cited a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday that showed a majority of Americans in both parties backed the federal effort to reduce carbon from power plants, even if the limits increase their energy costs.

“There’s no doubt there’s some states where this is an issue that presents a different set of political challenges, particularly coal-producing states,” he said. “And there’s no doubt that the polluters have come after this rule and they’ll try to attack it and try to knock down that approval rating and they’ll try to put it squarely in the context of the political campaigns that are ongoing in 2014.”

“But I think if anyone who wants to go out and talk about the benefits from this rule, do what the president did, visit a children’s hospital in their home state, I think they’ll find that the politics is such that you can defend taking action here and the public will support that,” he added.

And just as with the 2016 presidential campaign, Podesta thinks some critics of addressing climate change will have a tough time in 2014, as well.

“We think that people who deny the existence of climate change, who wantto try to run suggesting that they really aren’t scientists, and they don’t really get it and they can’t really see what’s going on around them, and they want to deny the public health effects that pollution is having on our families … I think that’s the losing side of the argument,” he said.

Some Republicans have recently adopted the talking point that they aren’t qualified to talk about the science behind climate change and have instead warned that the rules would be too costly.




16 Responses to “GOP Groping for Safety on Climate Issue”

  1. Jason Says:

    “Land’s statement, however, didn’t take a position on whether it is caused by human activity.”

    So, on an issue where some scientific input would be really handy, Land & Co. at the GOP still can’t demonstrate even basic competence at going & getting some scientific input.

    Not even when it’s handed to them on a plate, day in day out, year after year after year.

    Does someone need to check for coma?

    • You do need to feel for these poor folks.

      On the one hand, they are probably decently-informed on the science.

      On the other hand, their base is indoctrinated by talk-radio nonsense purchased by the likes of Peabody Energy and will sit out the election if they dare to say anything contrary to the oligarchs’ party line.

      They’re screwed.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        No, we’re ALL screwed if things don’t change. (And I think you give them too much credit re: understanding the science—–anyone who makes such ignorant statements is either stupid and ill informed or such a pandering hypocrite that their heads should be on pikes).

  2. The GOP response to a question of scientific literacy? “I am not a scientist”. The new GOP platform? Lets not be informed and lets have little or no ability to absorb information or think logically. Isn’t that the status quo for GOP? The last time conservative of note championed the cause of intellectual ability was William F. Buckley. The reigning poster girl/boy for the GOP has vacillated from Palin, to Jindal, to the current darling, Rubio. Christie has lost momentum. Could this turn out to be the same mindless litmus test sycophant circle witnessed in the last two elections? Or will some break ranks to distance themselves from the party extremists slavish to Limbaugh? The party is in trouble. Its losing relevance as it sticks its head in the sand and refuses to acknowledge reality. The party is at risk of becoming the center of the moon made out of green cheese controversy.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Well said—-double dittoes!

      Or is there no “e” in the plural of ditto? Where is Dan Quayle when you need him?

  3. jimbills Says:

    They’ll just switch their tactics, and they’ll bring up the economy again and again. It’s actually pretty politically smart to say one believes in climate change and then not say anything about the causal agent. They defuse the science denial angle and they don’t tick off their base.

    “Terri Land’s partial embrace of the reality of climate change could be the first glimpse of more to come.”

    That’s a delusional statement. She’s not embracing AGW mitigation or even scientific reality, partially or fully. She’s deflecting.

    People vote for their interests, or what they perceive to be their interests (the perception can be twisted by propaganda from vested interests). Politicians first aim to appeal to the voters (what will bring the most votes in their district), and then they weight political decisions based on what will bring the most campaign funding. The things that HAVE to change are media reform and campaign finance reform. Even then it’s an uphill battle, because people think in the short-term economically rather than the long-term. The Republicans will always have a home field advantage on these fronts.

    It’s not just the GOP:

    Addressed here:

    • andrewfez Says:

      One of our media outfits did a multi-page expose on this guy right after the coal industry poisoned everyone’s drinking water. Apparently his marching orders for the head of the WV EPA (long before the water crisis) were that no fines were to be given out to industry businesses: The WV EPA was only there to ‘help’ show industry what they ‘could be’ doing wrong, and ‘work with them’ to ‘correct’ it, as if they had the budget for that.

  4. g2-b31f1590b0e74a6d1af4639162aa7f3f Says:

    Dana Rohrabacher is still dishing out the crazy. His current talking-point is that the Cook et al. “97%” paper is a lie that top Obama Administration officials refuse to defend.

    He is claiming that EPA head Gina McCarthy, Science Advisor John Holdren, and NOAA head Jane Lubchenco refused to defend the paper and dodged questions about it in testimony before his committee.

    In fact, that’s his standard talking-point response to anyone who brings of the strong scientific consensus re: global warming. Those who have the stomach might want to look at the @danarohrabacher twitter-feed to see for themselves what he’s been saying.

    It would really be nice if someone with the right contacts could ask McCarthy, Holdren, and Lubchenco to read the Cook et al. paper and issue public statements in support of it.

    Rohrabacher and his fellow GOP hacks have gone way out on a limb attacking Cook et al.; it would really be nice if McCarthy/Holdren/Lubchenco would saw it off behind them.

    Peter, your videos have given you a well-earned reputation and have raised your profile in the scientific community as the “go to” climate-science video communication guy. Do you know anyone who might be able to get in touch with the above Obama Admin folks and pass this request along to them?

  5. g2-b31f1590b0e74a6d1af4639162aa7f3f Says:

    Typo/thinko correction:

    “In fact, that’s his standard talking-point response to anyone who brings of the…” should be “In fact, that’s his standard talking-point response to anyone who brings *up* the…”

  6. MorinMoss Says:

    So we’re not in a “global cooling trend” after all? Has anyone told Monckton & Inhofe?
    I see Rubio is parroting Inhofe’s “God is still in charge” so we can all chill…er, I mean relax.

  7. Well, maybe AGW will destroy the world, but the GOP (and the American public too, God bless them) know what’s really important: Benghazi, and Obama’s birth certificate. Thankfully, we have Fox News and Rush Limbaugh to keep the public’s mind focused on what matters.

  8. rayduray Says:

    California Drought Update from the NWS.

  9. Gingerbaker Says:

    That’s a pretty interesting color map showing relative sunlight densities.

    For much of the country, represented by dark green, the American Southwest can provide what looks to be about a 50-60% improvement in energy. In other words, for every dollar invested in, say, a solar PV panel, you get more than 50% greater bang for your buck in the U.S. SW.

    HVDC transmission only loses about 10% of power across a 1000 kilometer run, and HV-DC is a relatively new technology, where improvements might be seen in future. Which means, that IF we wanted to spend the least amount of money for the most amount of power, siting projects in the U.S. SW would make sense.

    Many might object that HV-DC requires expensive infrastructure. But in a new smart grid, can we not simply convert existing HV-AC towers to HV-DC lines and save money?

  10. […] 2014/06/08: PSinclair: GOP Groping for Safety on Climate Issue […]

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