Will Climate Change be a 2012 Campaign Issue?

In the New York Times magazine, Judith Warner assesses the collective GOP stance on global warming and speculates:

Whoever emerges as the Republican presidential candidate in 2012 will very likely have to embrace climate-change denial.

I think she’s right, which means an issue that normally doesn’t factor into national elections may well have a high profile in the 2012 Presidential campaign. That’s because the likely stance of the Republican candidate will contrast glaringly with that of President Obama, who, despite his rhetorical shift in the 2010 State of the Union address, believes that global warming represents an existential threat.

Of course, since Independents are the big prize in a general election, how they poll on climate change next year may determine whether or not the GOP really flogs the issue as part of their campaign plank.

28 Responses to “Will Climate Change be a 2012 Campaign Issue?”

  1. intrepid_wanders says:

    Until a politician like Theodore Roosevelt comes to power, climate/environment/etc is moot.  It has got to be a conservative conversationalist to make CC steps work with this silly post normal science (risk mitigation) atmosphere.

  2. Cos, you know, it’s not about whether something is actually important, it’s about how well it polls.

  3. Keith Kloor says:

    Intrepid: you mean like a Nixon goes to China thing…? At any rate, let’s remember that someone like TR wasn’t afraid to take on entrenched interests.

  4. cagw_skeptic99 says:

    There is essentially zero probability that China, India, and Brazil will do anything meaningful to reduce CO2 emissions in the next few decades.

    Any conceivable changes in CO2 emissions in the US will make no material difference in the global CO2 emission total. Maybe a material difference if you mean that the increasing total would be less than the increasing total otherwise, but certainly the US (and Europe) cannot prevent an absolute increase in the total emissions.

    So just what is it you think a US leader could do? We can adapt to whatever comes along in climate change, or we can hamstring our economy and export jobs to places that choose to not hamstring their economy.

    “Act locally think globally” is a nice phrase. “Green jobs” are a figment of the imagination; essentially none of them exist without Government or other artificial subsidy. Damaging the US economy for no material difference in CO2 emissions continues to appear to me to be the kind of policy only a committed leftest green nut case could promote.

  5. anon says:

    Keith, neither here nor there, is it weird that she quotes Michael Berube saying the following, and just leaves it at that and doesn’t fill in the rest?
    “For those who have staked out extreme positions, backtracking may not be easy: “It is very difficult to get a man to understand something when his tribal identity depends on his not understanding it,” Bérubé notes.”
    And isn’t it strange that Berube, a literature professor known for his writing makes such a god awful sounding quote?
    Did Berube actually say that, where, and why?

  6. StuartR says:

    Strange assumption to assume that the 2012 presidential candidate *needs* to  embrace climate change denial.  All they have to do is omit climate as a subject and emphasise something that has more interest to the electorate.  Obama has already done this.

    If a reporter wants to embarass a candidate by insisting on knowing his/her opinion on climate I would have thought it could easily steered to whatever is more relevant in 2012. Whatever happens in 2012 I predict that climate will be low on the agenda, after all none of the “elite” intellectuals”, that the NYT article bleats about not being listened to, predicted the fact that most of the middle east would have totally changed its political landscape in the space of the last two months – please, no post-hoc stories about predictions of climate food shortages 😉

    It is interesting that the author of the NYT piece seems to accept the idea of “liberal know-nothing relativism” at the end of the last century, and reminds us that Sokal showed up  leftist tendencies for pseudo-scientific appropriation of science.

    However with a nifty use of some logical elision, the subject of the NYT artcle implies that the left has now learnt its lesson, and  seamlessly morphs into the implication that the circle has turned now and we now only see a problem of the right disputing science, with the left holding the moral high ground on the subject of “truth”.

    I think this misses a lot. Whereas Sokal took issue with leftist pseudo-sceintific ramblings, such as Einsteins equation being innately sexist, I still see many sophisticated leftist humanities students stating opinions that the radiative property of the CO2 molecule shows the innate evils of capatalism. This still seems like a leftist/liberal appropriation of philosophical imperatives via science. I don’t see a change.

    I think we are now living with elements of both worlds, “liberal know-nothing relativism” *and* kneejerk right wing disputation of *all* science which carries innate moral baggage.

  7. Barry Woods says:

    From The Guardian, about emission and China
    Will any USA politician show this graphic to the public, and explain how China is building a coal fired power station a week, and has plans for many nuvlear stations as wellc

    As in the UK will the public ask if France generates 75-80% of it electricity from nuclear, why can’t we. ie France 8x more power,( 59 vs 19 stations)
    (a strategic choice by Framce, for security of electricity supply, at the time of the last old shock)


    Again from the Guardian a nice clear graphic

  8. Pascvaks says:

    As you note, left and right will cater to the middle.  If the independents want to talk ‘climate’ both sides will talk climate.  But… as has been noted as well, it won’t be “IMPORTANT”; the environment isn’t that important anymore, politically.

  9. harrywr2 says:

    One doesn’t need the ‘climate change’ issue to convince republicans we need to build more nuclear power plants.
    Republicans like to talk about ‘energy security’ and ‘price stability’.
    Senator Inhoffe doesn’t believe in Climate Change, but he is pro-nuclear.
    A substantial amount of US coal fired generating capacity will start retiring around 2020. The price difference between ‘new coal’ and ‘new nuclear’ generating capacity isn’t that much different.

  10. bluegrue says:

    The Bérubé quotes in the NYT are taken from his article here:

  11. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Good luck financing those plants 🙂

  12. Will Climate Change be a 2012 Campaign Issue?

    I guess that could be a good or a bad thing. It would raise the profile of cliamte change in the political arena, but it may also further polarize the existing political rift on this issue. One can only hope that the empty rhetoric (e.g. painting scientists as “high priests” of the “CO2 dogma”) will at some point be seen for what it is by the voting public.

  13. Dean says:

    The fact that they might disagree (Obama and whoever the R is) doesn’t mean that it will be a big issue because, as Pascvaks points out, it isn’t a high priority for most voters. Both sides will be scrambling to show they care more about jobs than the other, and if the R’s push AGW too much, it will hurt them. So if Obama isn’t pushing it, and I can’t imagine that he will, they will probably just make occasional statements about it to their core and leave it at that.
    The only thing that would make it a big issue is if the EPA comes out with tough regs, but I’m guessing that if that is in the cards, they will wait till after the election to actually propose something. Unless of course the D’s agree to pull the rug out from under the EPA and remove their authority to regulate CO2.

  14. Paul Kelly says:

    Obama will run on “green jobs”. He won’t emphasize climate. Doing so will only remind his base how weak he’s been on climate issues. His strong support for increased use of corn ethanol is already troubling to many. The Democrats will avoid talk of cap/trade or carbon taxes. Cap trade is rightly seen by the general public as a crony capitalism boondoggle and the carbon tax as a regressive job killer.

  15. Marlowe Johnson says:

    You had me right up to “Cap trade is rightly seen by the general public as a crony capitalism boondoggle and the carbon tax as a regressive job killer.”
    evidence please.
    p.s. 2 senators per state + fillibuster norms = one of RPJrs ‘iron laws’ = current and future ethanol policy.  obama is hardly unique in this respect.  the u.s. ag lobby is a sight to behold.

  16. Tom Fuller says:

    The way to orient discussion on either Cap and Trade or carbon tax is to always, always, always, preface the phrases with ‘revenue neutral.’ Always, always, always.

  17. Marlowe Johnson says:

    now you’re 2/2.  what’s going on?

  18. Tom Fuller says:

    Same ol’ me. Maybe nobody’s calling me names…

  19. Paul Kelly says:

    Obama is certainly not unique. We had a chance to elect a president who had long opposed corn ethanol subsidies and worked on climate legislation. We went the other way.
    Waxman/Markey was a mishmash of lobbyist driven back room dealing, ripe for corruption. It was widely condemned across the political spectrum. It was never even considered in the Senate. The Senate couldn’t get a bill to just a committee vote. The President put in no effort to save it . It is a dead issue.
    The burden of carbon taxes falls on those least able to afford it. Because energy usage is ubiquitous, the tax is inflationary throughout the economy while diverting monies better used elsewhere.

  20. kdk33 says:

    Depends on what the EPA does.  R’s will paint aggressive regulation as job killing, extra-constitutional, green, … er …stuff.  D’s will have to explain the beaurcratic end run.  D’s will lose.

    I hope it’s an issue, but my prediction is:  The EPA moves in baby steps hoping to attract little attention.  Obama ignores climate during election.  As 2nd term president BHO he lets loose reigns on EPA.  R’s win the senate and must address legislatively – defund, or outright forbid CO2 regulation.  Climate showdown in 2013.  D’s lose big time.  America safe for democracy for 4 years, until R’s overstep on social issue.

    Remember, you heard it here first (and I could be wrong).

  21. Paul Kelly says:


    Your prediction is plausible. Obama has to get through the next election. If he doesn’t go to the ramparts for CO2 suppression, he risks alienating climate voters, especially progressives already smarting from Gitmo, the Patriot Act and the Bush imitating war strategy. For a president who came in promising to stop the rise of the oceans, the record is dismally disappointing. Will voters accept two more years of fruitless delay?

  22. Marlowe Johnson says:

    i enjoy hand waving and pontification as much as the next guy. but as a member of the reality-based community i tend to be persuaded by evidence.  no in the case of the impacts of waxman-markey (aka amercian security and clean energy act) the most comprehensive assessment of the impacts can be found here.  The nugget–I RTFR so you don’t have to 🙂
    “the cap & trade policy still has a relatively modest impact on U.S. consumers assuming the bulk of revenues from the program are returned to households…Average household consumption is reduced by .01-.04% in 2015 and 0.01-0.06% in 2020 and 0.16-0.36% in 2030, relative to the no policy case.”
    Can you refer me to the evidence that supports your ‘job killing’ claim?

  23. kdk33 says:


    You consider that evidence?  Really?  Do you also believe the CBO? 

  24. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Actually I do.  If I had a crystal ball, CBA’s using energy-economy models wouldn’t be necessary, but such is life. wrt to the cbo,  the staff and the analyses conducted at CBO IMO are world class, so I absolutely pay attention to the work that they put out.  I take it you don’t. who do you trust?

  25. Sashka says:

    @ 21

    I don’t think Obama could possibly alienate “climate voters” even if such existed. This is as likely as alienating black voters.

  26. Paul Kelly says:

    Climate voters – those for whom climate is the deciding factor – exist, but who knows how many there are. On the net, they seen to be subsumed into progressivism. <a href=”http://www.regressiveantidote.net/Articles/Waking_Up_In_Wisconsin.html#>Progressives</a> aren’t so thrilled by Obama. As wars drag on and the President is forced to right by Republicans in Congress, a quality Green Party nominee like Bill McKibben would have a lot of appeal.

  27. Paul Kelly says:

    <a href=”http://www.regressiveantidote.net/Articles/Waking_Up_In_Wisconsin.html#”>link</a>

  28. Sashka says:

    A lot of appeal? Like 1% maybe?
    The point that I was trying to make earlier is that the “climate voters” (no matter how dissatisfied with Obama) would rather eat glass than vote Republican.

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