Gingrich, Romney remain defiant on climate

Christopher Horner Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute
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Greenwire (subscription required) had an indignant piece yesterday noting that “Climate change is pestering the launch of Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid as he faces what some analysts describe as a sharper standard from conservatives who doubt the world is warming.” The piece reminds us that Gingrich views the state as the driver of innovation.

Former House Speaker Gingrich (R-Ga.), who launched his campaign Wednesday, has so far resisted calls to apologize for expressing belief in climate change, and urging the government to address it. But that might become more difficult if video clips showing him on a couch with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was House speaker at the time they were recorded, explode through conservative circles.

The online ad captures Gingrich and Pelosi having a cooperative moment. They alternate lines after Pelosi acknowledges they haven’t always agreed on policies.

Gingrich adds, “We do agree our country must take action to address climate change.”

Pelosi resumes, “We need cleaner forms of energy, and we need them fast.”

Back to Gingrich: “If enough of us demand action from our leaders, we can spark the innovation we need.”

Yep, the untold billions already being spent developing a (real) “alternative” energy source to replace those that work just isn’t enough. No, it takes the collective wisdom of a team of the best and the brightest — oh, and Congress — to gently minister to unforeseeable breakthrough technologies. Seems so 1960s. Next!

Of course, anyone familiar with the issue knows that none of the schemes proposed to date would detectably impact global temperatures. They would just leave us with a poorer, less free world to deal with what we have always had to deal with: unpredictable and often severe weather. Great.

It’s therefore unreasonable to conclude that it’s about some imminent/ongoing climate crisis. It’s reasonable to instead conclude that it’s about eroding the horrors of freedoms “subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends,” as George Will has put it.

But this really caught my eye:

Unlike other Republican candidates, like former Govs. Tim Pawlenty (Minn.) and Mitt Romney (Mass.), Gingrich is “defiant” about his past climate indiscretions, [Climate Depot’s Marc] Morano says.

But Romney appears to differ (as does Morano, who told me in an email that he’ll clarify his position soon). As James Pethokoukis writes, in reviewing Romney’s book, which Romney wrote to position his campaign:

Romney doesn’t sign on to the belief of many conservatives that man-made climate change is the Hoax of the Century. He said this in the 2008 campaign, as well. But it would be easy to change positions in light of the explosive revelations of those climate scientist emails and shoddy United Nations research. But Romney is sticking. As he puts it in the book: “I believe that climate change is occurring — the reduction in the size of global ice caps is hard to ignore. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor. … Scientists are nearly unanimous in laying the blame for rising temperatures on greenhouse gas emissions.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean Romney is a cap-and-trader. Like Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg, he believes in remediation and mitigation efforts that make economic sense, not trillion-dollar programs to reduce carbon emissions. From that perspective, Romney suggests he would be willing to entertain the notion of a carbon tax whose revenues would be used to offset payroll taxes. This is a favorite idea of many economists, including Harvard’s Gregory Mankiw, a Romney adviser and chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Mitt Romney has proved that he’s not in the frame of mind to admit a policy mistake. That’s the problem with (seemingly) having not operated from core principles: politicians who have reputations for changing their stances on core issues are often afraid of changing their stances again.

Romney would rather say things like, “My health plan was a way to use government to get health care to operate more like a market.”

So, Republicans are still waiting on someone to at least — but not only — say, “I made a mistake.” They must add to it, when challenged, by letting the voters know they actually get it. “This is not a sensible path to go down, particularly now. Everything ‘creates jobs.’ But many such schemes are actually quite economically harmful, on net. This would have no impact on climate. According to anyone. The answer is ‘wealthier is healthier, cleaner, and more innovative.'”

Neither Newt Gingrich nor Mitt Romney is that guy.

Chris Horner is a senior fellow at The Competitive Enterprise Institute.