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Climate Boomerang Hits Republicans

By Keith Kloor
Aug 21, 2011 5:35 PMNov 19, 2019 9:52 PM


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In Saturday's Washington Post, Roger Pielke Jr., a University of Colorado professor and the author of The Climate Fix, was quoted as saying:

Climate change has become a wedge issue. It's today's flag-burning or today's partial-birth-abortion issue.

I'm not sure how Roger intended this to be construed--as a commentary on the larger, endlessly politicized climate debate or in the context of the current 2012 Presidential campaign. (I say this because we media types sometimes insert quotes in text that doesn't reflect the specific context of the interview or question that elicited the quote.) Regardless, I do think Joe Romm is correct in this assessment:

Pielke cites two well-known wedge issues that split Democrats, issues that Republicans have used to their advantage to drive a wedge between liberal Democrats and more moderate or conservative ones (as well as independents). But the article actually makes the case that climate change is an issue splitting Republicans, and thus "” intentionally or otherwise "” it makes the case that global warming potentially can be used to the advantage of progressives.

(If you're unclear on the meaning of "wedge issue," here's the Post's definition of it.) How quickly the tables have turned. When the failed U.S. Congressional cap & trade climate bill was being debated in 2009 and 2010, opponents of the legislation skillfully used it as a wedge issue to divide Democrats and moderates. Recently, however, the terms of the national climate debate have changed and are taking place in a different political landscape. The shift has been a year in the making. Last week, Texas Governor Rick Perry's statements on climate change--which made national headlines--crystallized the new terms of the climate dialogue. What was, not that long ago, mostly a debate about the economic cost of climate legislation, has now morphed into a politicized referendum on the legitimacy of climate science. Naturally, this delights the Tea Party faithful and a certain wily Republican PR operator who is quoted in that Post story:

Climate change, said Marc Morano, publisher and editor of the skeptical Web site Climate Depot, is "a litmus test, pure and simple, for the presidential race.

GOP leaders, watching mutely from the sidelines, probably never considered the unintended consequences: Like the possibility of climate change becoming a wedge issue used against them--and by one of their own! I know. What's one tweet? Well, Jon Huntsman seems more than happy to build on it. Here's an excerpt from an interview of him airing today on ABC News:

The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party - the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012. When we take a position that isn't willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Science - Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man's contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position.

Looks like somebody's name and reputation is about to be regularly pilloried at a well known climate skeptic barnyard. Unlike Newt Gingrich and other GOP presidential hopefuls, who have found themselves muddied over there, Huntsman will work to get the place condemned. They don't know it yet, but Huntsman just may save the Republican party from itself.

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