21 March 2007

Global Climate Change: Gore on the Hill, Will He Hurt the Cause?

No one has brought more attention to the issue of global climate change than former veep Al Gore. He has been doing so for 15 years. His film garnered the attention of Americans and scooped up an Oscar for best documentary. His efforts even earned him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. And people have listened.

But on this, the first day of spring, as Mr. Gore prepares to testify before Congress, the skeptic in me is beginning to wonder whether he is the best spokesperson for the issue now, as we hit the tipping point.

Of course, I've said it before: it's hard to separate Gore the climate spokesman from Gore the Democrat. Indeed, I've complained that much of An Inconvenient Truth seemed like a disingenuous bid for a presidential candidacy. (I know he denied it at the Academy Awards, but there are many with a sneaking suspicion he will run again.)

And with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and now once skeptical Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-MI), leading the charge on the issue, it's beginning to take on a troublesome partisan patina. Troublesome, in part, because such partisan posturing could engender a backlash.

A recent National Journal poll found that only 13 percent of congressional Republicans say they believe that human activity is causing global warming, compared to 95 percent of congressional Democrats. Moreover, the number of Republicans who believe in human-induced global warming has actually dropped since April 2006, when the number was 23 percent.

This is troublesome indeed for those of us who believe that the science is confirmed and who want to turn the debate to solutions, especially economic opportunities that address the potential impacts.

Where is the Republican leadership on this issue? Sure there's the Governator, but I also think of Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Congressman Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD). Then there is Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who went to Alaska with McCain a couple of years ago and underwent a Saul/Paul conversion.

Arguably, there are many facets of climate policy that appeal to Republicans, such as increasing security through diversifying our energy supply and realizing the potential impacts of a new economy based around energy technologies.

What we need is for a bipartisan or non-partisan spokesperson to emerge and take the torch from Mr. Gore. Any takers?

1 comment:

Simmons B. Buntin said...

Scott, it's hard to differentiate compassion from greed (or chosen ignorance) on this issue, which seems so clearly drawn on political lines but as you rightly state, shouldn't be. How some 80% of Republicans think the science is wrong, or don't trust the science, is scary. It shows a larger problem: distrust of science (and the arts, for that matter) by Republicans in general. Or another way to put it: decision-making by religious creed instead of analysis and true democratic discourse. Or: intellectual NIMYBYism.

At this point, a good part of me doesn't care if the issue is partisan, because finally it's getting broad exposure, and that can't help but swing the pendulum back, even if only slightly but hopefully more, toward a global environmental ethic (and then, one hopes, toward a more global compassion in general).