Republicans Seeking to Evolve on Climate Change

June 20, 2014

Problem is, they’re not sure they believe in Evolution, either.

National Journal:

These days, it takes careful parsing to pinpoint what Republican candidates believe about climate change.

The GOP’s Senate candidate in Michigan, Terri Lynn Land, issued a press release last month that declared global warming was “absolutely” a reality. Such an acknowledgment, on its face, would once have amounted practically to heresy for a party hostile to the science of climate change. But lest anyone begin to confuse her with Bill Nye the Science Guy, her campaign’s spokeswoman quickly emailed a follow-up statement: Although Land thinks the Earth’s climate is changing partly as a consequence of human behavior, she’s dubious about the degree to which humankind is responsible.

Nearly six in 10 Americans think human activities are mainly to blame for the rise in global temperatures, according to a Gallup Poll from March. And despite the party’s longstanding skepticism about climate change, 41 percent of Republicans say the same.

But more important than how many voters it reaches is which voters it reaches. The rejection of climate-change science—and the potential to consequently be labeled as anti-all science—risks alienating the critical bloc of moderate and even GOP-leaning voters. “There’s a slice of moderate and liberal Republicans, part college-educated, part women, part under-50, where there is an opportunity for Democrats to get a lot more of those voters than they normally would,” said Andrew Baumann, a Democratic pollster who works with environmental groups.

Financial Times:

A study of the financial risks to the US from global warming, backed by former Treasury secretaries Hank Paulson, Robert Rubin and George Shultz, will be published next week in an effort to change the way American businesses and politicians think about climate change.

Mr Rubin and Mr Shultz – who was also secretary of state under Ronald Reagan – are on the project’s “risk committee”, along with others including Olympia Snowe, Republican former senator from Maine, and Greg Page, chairman of Cargill, the agricultural products group.

Kate Gordon, executive director of Risky Business, said the goal of the report was to “reset the conversation” about global warming.

It would not make recommendations, she added. “We’re just saying: let’s all get on the same page about what those risks are and have a conversation about them.”

The debate over the threat of global warming and even whether the climate is changing at all as a result of human activity has become highly partisan in the US. A Pew poll in January found that dealing with global warming was identified as a top priority by 42 per cent of Democrats and 14 per cent of Republicans.

National Journal:

Cabinet members from four Republican administrations Wednesday made a plea for federal action to address climate change, citing new evidence that public opinion is shifting in favor of it.

The officials, all former heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, said there is a sizable faction within the Republican Party that would support climate action, but only if they’re backed by vocal public support.

“There are a lot of Republicans that do believe that the climate is changing and humans play a role in that,” said Christine Todd Whitman, who led EPA under President George W. Bush. “They just need some cover. And if they hear from the public that this is an issue of importance to them … you’re going to find more and more of them speaking out.”

Whitman was one of four Republican EPA chiefs to testify this morning before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, joined by William D. Ruckelshaus (who served under Presidents Nixon and Reagan), Lee M. Thomas (Reagan), and William K. Reilly (George H.W. Bush).

The current Republican Party line casts skepticism on the science linking human activity to global warming and staunchly opposes legislative or administrative carbon caps.

But in a roundtable with reporters, all four former officials reiterated the need for action on climate change, regardless of the political situation in Congress. And, citing an NBC News/Wall Street Journalpoll that found 61 percent of Americans back action to combat climate change, they predicted the political dam would break.

One way forward for Republicans is to avoid the climate issue, and go directly to supporting renewable solutions, which are universally popular across the political spectrum.

Rocky Mountain Institute:

As in several other states, including New Jersey and Virginia, Tesla cannot currently sell cars direct to consumers in Texas. (Even so, Texas still ranks among the top states nationally for Model S registrations.) Many auto dealers are vehemently against changing this, claiming that their legally protected status as a middleman between car manufacturers and consumers enables them to promote competition among dealers and drive down prices, thereby “protecting consumers”—an argument that’s been thoroughly debunked and officially opposed by the Federal Trade Commission. In response to this law in Texas, Governor Rick Perry lambasted his own legislature and publicly announced his support for the state to authorize direct vehicle sales to consumers. Furthermore, the Governor himself is reported to be personally leading the negotiations. This contrasts sharply with Texas’ rich history of political donations to the oil and gas industry (in fact, more oil- and gas-related federal donations originated from a single Fort Worth zip code in the latest election cycle than anywhere else in the U.S.).

A proposed rebate incentive program for electric vehicles in Texas should be starting soon. The program only has enough money for about 2,000 EV rebates, but this move is more about public relations than it is about scaling EV sales. As currently structured the program excludes vehicles sold directly to consumers, effectively leaving Tesla out of the mix. However, Governor Perry has come out in support of HB 3351, a bill in the Texas legislature that would allow Tesla to both sell directly to consumers and, potentially, qualify the company for the new EV rebate program.

Texas is also a leader when it comes to EV charging infrastructure. From Austin Energy’s 150-strong group of charging stations to eVgo’s “Freedom” network of stations at Walgreens locations throughout the Houston area, Texas is at the forefront of EV readiness. Just check out the impressiveTexas River Cities Plug-in Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Plan to understand how much attention is being paid to the topic in one part of the state.

Texas’ unique Enterprise Fund—a Perry-initiated to fund to help attract new jobs and investment in the state—has been waved around as an additional way to attract Tesla by helping to close a potential deal with millions in grant money. The state also has no corporate income tax (instead there’s a very low gross receipts tax on businesses) and a reputation for sniping jobs from other states unable to offer lucrative incentives.

Here we have a deeply conservative, oil and gas-friendly republican Governor, who thinks climate change isn’t caused by humans personally leading the charge to bring one of the most promising electric vehicle manufactures in the world into his own state.


5 Responses to “Republicans Seeking to Evolve on Climate Change”

  1. IIRC, Tesla is still considering locations for its Gigafactory (and possibly a new corporate HQ).  This is one way to woo the business their direction.

  2. I dunno… Jim Inhofe quoting the Bible makes a formidable argument.

  3. rayduray Says:

    A Modest Proposal, Updated:

    According to Jon Stewart, there’s only one way left to convince the deniers in Congress of the dangers of climate change: “Republican lawmakers won’t listen to Al Gore, they won’t listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson, they won’t listen to Bill Nye the Science Guy, now they won’t even listen to members of their own party. There is really only one solution to get Republicans to do something about climate change.

    “Barack Obama must become a global warming denier.”

  4. rayduray Says:

    Now this is interesting.

    Henry Paulson, former Sec. of Treasury and Goldman Sachs chairman, has joined forces with Tom Steyer.

    Why is this an almost revolutionary development? Paulson is breaking ranks with the Know Nothing wing of the Republican Party and clearly stating that they are wrong to fight efforts to impose a tax on carbon as a pollutant and plan other steps to ameliorate the eventual costs of climate change.

    This is refreshing to read. More honesty from a Republican than I’ve read in months.

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