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McCain, Republicans, and "Global Warming"

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Think you can sidestep the issue of “global warming,” simply by voting Republican?

Think again.

Now that Senator John McCain is officially the Republican nominee for President, global warming is, whether anyone likes it or not, an “issue” for both of our nation’s dominant political parties. McCain has been gravitating towards this issue for several years, and made his mark with it during his chairing of the U.S. Senate hearings on global warming back in 2004.

Today, Mr. McCain articulates a position on the matter that is far more moderate and reasonable, and far more hospitable to our free market economy, than those of his two Democratic competitors. The question remains whether or not American voters, Republican voters in particular, will embrace McCain’s vision.

Before examining anybody’s policy proposals, it’s important to get a handle on just what, precisely, is the issue. And by now, it’s like that most thoughtful Americans have at a minimum been introduced to the idea that the earth’s average temperature is on the rise, and that this is a bad thing, and that this bad thing is brought about by human activity.

But beyond this starting point, the issue quickly devolves into a process of sorting out the “believers” from the “non-believers.” Either you believe that the global temperature is rising, or you don’t; and you either believe that the increase in temperature is brought about by human activity, or by the processes of nature itself; and you either believe that the rise in temperature will bring about destruction and calamity, or that it will not.

Former Vice President Al Gore is, of course, the leader of the “true believers.” On his personal website he states with absolute certainty what this alleged “problem” entails:

Carbon dioxide and other gases warm the surface of the planet naturally by trapping solar heat in the atmosphere. This is a good thing because it keeps our planet habitable. However, by burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil and clearing forests we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere and temperatures are rising.

But as Mr. Gore states the problem with certainty - - the earth’s temperatures are rising, and this rise is caused by human’s consumption of fossil fuels - - he ignores several details that detract from his strongly asserted “beliefs.”

It is true that the average global temperature has risen slightly (approximately 0.6% over the past century); and it is also true that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen during this same period of time.

Yet most of the temperature increase during this period occurred before 1940, while a majority of the carbon dioxide increase - - about 70% of it - - occurred after 1940. In short, the last century’s slight increase in temperature occurred mostly before the last century’s significant increase in air pollution, a fact that discredits the notion that human activity caused the temperature rise.

Aside from the fact that Mr. Gore and his disciples refuse to acknowledge this dilemma, there are plenty of other reasons for “non-believers” to be skeptical. One obvious item would be the numerous “coldest winter on record” declarations that have occurred in several regions of the country, just within the past six months. Another would be the interesting economic implications entailed in the proposed “remedies” for global warming - - the levying of “consumption taxes,” the abandoning of incandescent light bulbs in favor of much more expensive lighting, and, of course, the purchase of so-called “carbon offsets” from Al Gore’s for-profit corporation.

So what does all this confusion mean for our current presidential race? For starters, Obama and McCain have both essentially abandoned the term “global warming” in favor of “climate change” (Clinton has not made this shift), and all three of the candidates have connected their “climate agendas” to the pursuit of alternative energy sources.

But from there, the candidates diverge. Not surprisingly, Mrs. Clinton is proposing a dramatic, if not radical level of government intervention with America’s automobile manufacturers, and both she and Obama seem ready to bow to the United Nations’ environmental policy dictates.

But fortunately, McCain casts a very different vision. In a video segment on his website, he states “I believe that climate change is real…” ( it’s hard to disagree, so far as this statement goes); but from there asserts that good environmental policy and good economic policy are intertwined, and that the private sector can be incentivized to move away from fossil fuels. McCain also quite wisely ties environmental concerns together with the obvious geopolitical dilemma of our reliance on foreign oil, and makes it clear that, in his administration, the United States will determine its own environmental policy, and not the U.N.

Ultimately, McCain avoids the hysteria over an alleged impending calamity, and characterizes the issue as a matter of “environmental stewardship.” His approach is not only reasonable, but it is arguably “conservative” in its essence.

Whether or not American’s embrace this, remains to be seen.

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