Republicans realize that climate change can’t be fought forever

It took about 25 years, but reality finally caught up to the right.

In 1987, I was in the audience for a debate on global warming held in Washington, DC. Reagan was our President at the time, and it was my first exposure to the subject. I’m cannot recall who was on the panel. Al Gore, who joined the Senate in 1985, could have been there. All I really remember is that one of the Republicans on the panel, after stating repeatedly that there was no such thing as global warming, and implying that liberal academics were just looking to increase their federal research funding, said that, even if there was, it wouldn’t matter. He said – and I remember this very distinctly – we’d just make bigger, better air conditioning units. The free market, in other words, would solve everything. That was the level of debate in 1986, and it’s been a long, hard slog since then. It seems as though, we’re finally making some headway, though. Today I read the following quote from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina:

“I have been to enough college campuses to know if you are 30 or younger this climate issue is not a debate. It’s a value… When you say that those who believe it are buying a hoax, and are wacky people, you are putting at risk your party’s future with younger people.”

I’d argue that the same thing holds for gay marriage and gays in the military. According to polls, the right has already lost those fights. Young people just don’t care. On one hand, it’s depressing as hell that it takes decades or more to turn this enormous ship of state that we’re all on, but at least we know that it can be done. We know that the effort is worth it, and that reality eventually wins out over fear, superstition and prejudice. That, I think, is something to be happy about.

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  1. P S
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    I find a number of things troubling about this post. My primary concern is that you equate current policy with evidence of progress. Can we also say that current tax law, forthcoming liberalization of gun laws, reckless economic deregulation, disregard of human rights of privacy and allowing torture and so on and on and on are evidence that “eventually reality wins”? Whomever leads the polls and policy, at this moment, represents “reality”?

    There are many decades long fights that have been lost, according to the current polls. Among them, I count the losses as more significant than the gains you selectively mention.

    If, in another decade, the ship of state has turned again, is that proof of an alternate reality? If in ten years a reaction comes that prohibits gay rights, has reality won?

    Frankly, you seem to deify Reality. (Replace “Reality” with “God” and this works as the same post on a different blog.)

    Would you apply the “Reality eventually wins” maxim across cultures and history? Is Reality always on your side?

  2. Posted March 3, 2010 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    You’re right, PS. I was overly optimistic based on one quote from one Senator. I do believe, however, that the debate is shifting in a positive direction. Most recently, with the exception of the FOX News coverage of the big snowfall on the east coast, the conversation has not been about whether or not global warming exists, but whether or not mankind is responsible. That, I think, is a small step in the right direction. Is policy there yet? No. And, like you, I fear that, by the time we’re able to shift the course of this giant ship of state that it might be too late to address the issue. Still, however, I think we need to recognize glimmers of hope when we see them. But, yeah, just because we eventually outlawed Jim Crow, and allowed women to vote, doesn’t mean that good always wins. Still, though, I occasionally feel the need to post something positive, as misguided as optimism probably is at this point in out history.

  3. F Tise
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    It amazes me how short people’s attention spans are in this country. I’d like to think that a political party that denied global warming for the past three decades would be laughed out of existence. Instead, though, they’ll just change their platform to accommodate in some way, and that will be the end of it.

  4. roots
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m with you, F Tise.

  5. Peter Larson
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Now, I would like Republicans to realize that votes are decided by a simple majority. I just heard a Senator on NPR who did not seem to realize this.

  6. P S
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    I wish I could share your optimism and don’t intend to be a sour puss. The other concern is that once Republicans acknowledge the issue, they can begin to shape it in ways they’ve previously avoided. Cap and trade, clean coal, more nuclear, etc.

    I would celebrate with you if Graham had seemed to have a genuine change of heart, not strategy. The risk is that he, and others, will simply use global warming to disguise and promote policy that increases global warming.

    He has to believe it is real, not just believe that young folks believe its real.

  7. Mr.SwettyBallz
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 3:04 am | Permalink

    Young people get old. They change their minds about things. They eventually become conservatives. When they are young, they don’t vote anyway. They read comic books with 500 pages.

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