Voters to GOP: ‘I’m not a scientist’ won’t cut it on climate change

October 2015 - by Edward Maibach - via Los Angeles Times If the Republican Party wants to win the White House in 2016, it should take climate change seriously. In the 2012 presidential campaign, global warming didn't come up in any of the three debates between Mitt Romney and President Obama. That won't be the case this campaign season, with wide swaths of America suffering through climate change-fueled record heat, rampant wildfires and historic droughts. Voters understand what's happening, and they want the government to take action. The question is, have Republicans gotten the message? Not quite. In a poll conducted this spring by me and my colleagues at Yale and George Mason universities, 70% of Americans support placing strict limits on carbon dioxide emissions at existing coal-fired power plants. We also found that 75% of adults, including 63% of Republicans, support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. And yet Republicans have been making the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan their latest punching bag. That may help primary candidates, but it will cost the GOP in the general election. The most

October 16th, 2015|Articles|

How to Choose a Republican Candidate, in Three Steps

This article was originally published on Huffington Post, on October 6, 2015, by William S Becker.   If you are a Republican voter who is undecided about whom to support in your heavily populated field of presidential candidates, there is an easy way to narrow your choices. It might help you sort out the congressional races next year, too. Here it is: Anyone who says that nothing can or should be done about global climate change is not qualified to hold public office. It's as simple as that. A president who ignores the threat of climate change is as bad as a president who ignores the threat of terrorism (see the evidence at the end of this post). Photo credit: Sander van der Wel If you want to narrow the field even more, here is a second test: Who among the candidates promises to build upon rather than reverse the climate policies put in place by President Barack Obama? And one more: Since several of the candidates now recognize that the U.S. cannot solve the climate problem alone,

October 6th, 2015|Articles|

GOP’s New Climate Talking Point

This article was originally published on Huffington Post, on September 21, 2015, by William S Becker. This is the second of two posts about the latest Republican presidential debate. The first is posted here. Since President George H.W. Bush signed off on the world's first climate treaty more than 20 years ago, the denial industry has been searching for a talking point that would accomplish two goals. First, it would discredit the science. Second, it would stand up to scrutiny. There has been a long history of failed talking points since then. Among them: Scientists are making things up so they can get grants; environmentalists want to kill American jobs and take away everyone's Hummers; President Obama is a socialist; and the United Nations is trying to create world government. None of them worked, or so we must conclude since sizable majorities of Americans accept that climate change is real and must be addressed. Now the denial industry has developed a new talking point that is being recited by some of the Republican Party's presidential candidates. Sadly for them, this

September 21st, 2015|Articles|

What Would Reagan Do About CO2?

This article was originally published on Huffington Post, on September 20, 2015, by William S Becker.    There have been plenty of postmortems on the Republican presidential debate last week. But before the debate fades further into history, at least one of the issues the candidates touched upon deserves deeper background. Some voters who will cast ballots next year were not alive when the issue first appeared 30 years ago. I am referring to a global environmental challenge that came up during the administration of President Ronald Reagan. It is an example of how a different Republican at a different time handled a comparable environmental issue far more responsibly than the Republicans who want to occupy the White House today. The issue was the deterioration of the atmosphere's ozone layer. Toward the end of last week's debate, CNN's moderator, Jake Tapper, pointed out that George Shultz, who was Reagan's Secretary of State, has come out in favor of climate action. Shultz suggests that the GOP deal with global warming in the same way that Reagan dealt with the ozone problem:

September 20th, 2015|Articles|

Hot? Think About the GDP

This article was originally published on Huffington Post, on December 19, 2015, by William S Becker.    There is a considerable amount of griping these days about how hot the weather has become. Frankly, I'm tired of it. The so-called climate hawks are always looking for something to complain about without recognizing the silver lining in the furnace, so to speak. Let's stop bitching for a moment and count our blessings. First, the record-hot temperatures we see around the United States today mean we all can wear fewer clothes. Think of this as the eye-candy effect in which very short shorts and very small tops for women, plus no tops at all for men, are the norm year-round. This will be bad for the clothing industry, of course, but good for the national libido, assuming the clothing I just described is limited to people with less than 20 percent body fat. Second, consider the long-term benefits for our species. I don't mean to be heartless, but heat waves already are our No. 1 weather killer. Think of the evolutionary upside

September 10th, 2015|Articles|

Breaking the Silence

This article was originally published on Huffington Post, on September 9, 2015, by William S Becker.    In an interview recently with Sarah Palin, Donald Trump boasted that his campaign is "bringing back the silent majority" in America -- the people who want to "see something incredible happen that is going to be great." Unadorned by specifics, it was as vacuous a campaign pledge as a politician can make. But in those few phrases, Trump alluded to a couple of important points. First, the rise of presidential candidates unsullied by public service seems to indicate that: A) Yes, the American people want to see something incredible happen, and B) Voters do not think they'll get something incredible from the candidates whose backgrounds are in government. In addition, Trump's poll numbers suggest that C) The voters like candidates who do not mince words on issues of national importance, even when their words are offensive. Candor appears to be more important than political correctness. Second, Trump is correct that there is a new silent majority in the United States. Unfortunately for him

September 9th, 2015|Articles|

Divest From the Carbon Bubble

This article was originally published on Huffington Post, on May 20, 2015, by William S Becker.    If it seems that we have more big problems than we can solve these days, take heart. A small group of people can create a worldwide movement. It has happened before and it is happening again. View of the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near the town of Fort McMurray in Alberta Province, Canada on October 25, 2009. Greenpeace is calling for an end to oil sands mining in the region due to their greenhouse gas emissions and have recently staged sit-ins which briefly halted production at several mines. At an estimated 175 billion barrels, Alberta's oil sands are the second largest oil reserve in the world behind Saudi Arabia, but they were neglected for years, except by local companies, because of high extraction costs. Since 2000, skyrocketing crude oil prices and improved extraction methods have made exploitation more economical, and have lured several multinational oil companies to mine the sands. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Break Down the Echo Chambers

This article was originally published on Huffington Post, on April 8, 2015, by William S Becker. This is the second of two posts on the media's role in the national conversation about global climate change and clean energy. The first post can be found here.    One of the age-old issues in the journalism profession has been how to keep news separate from opinion. At one time, journalistic ethics required that the twain should never meet. Today, the lines are blurred. It is one of the reasons for our political polarization. I'll explain, or try to, with 11 points. (It's complicated). Point 1: It is not uncommon for media outlets to add ideological bias to the information they provide to the American people. In other words, the twain that should never meet now do. Point 2: One of the requirements for a healthy democracy, if you believe Thomas Jefferson, is a well-informed citizenry exposed to a diversity of information and views. But today, many media consumers "insulate themselves in 'echo chambers' where they are exposed only to content consistent with

May 13th, 2015|Articles|

Keeping the Lights on, Part 2

The Quadrennial Energy Review that the U.S. Department of Energy issued on April 21 describes the state of the nation's energy infrastructure. Part 1 of this post challenged public and private investors to build infrastructure for a 21st century clean energy economy rather than repairing and expanding infrastructure designed for fossil fuels. Part 2 describes how the evolution of a clean energy economy is putting increased pressure conventional electric utilities and their regulators. When Elon Musk introduced the latest in battery technology last week, it was a Steve Jobs moment. Musk wants to do for energy technology what Jobs did for information technology: Revolutionize it. In an auditorium whose lights and media equipment were powered by sunlight stored in his latest invention, Musk unveiled wall-mounted and surprisingly affordable battery packs as elegant-looking as Apple's iPhone (see the unit in the photo with one of Musk's electric vehicles). They even come in a choice of colors. The electric battery was invented more than 200 years ago. In modern times, it has been the weak link in applications such as electric vehicles

May 13th, 2015|Articles|

Keeping the Lights On, Part 1

An energy revolution clearly is underway in the United States and it could not come at a better time. It is taking place just as we need to make major investments in energy infrastructure. The question is, will we invest hundreds of billions of dollars to support the fossil energy economy of the 20th century, the clean energy economy of the 21st century, or some of both? Bad decisions will result either in billions of wasted dollars or substantial carbon emissions for decades to come. Or both. The complexity of infrastructure issues on the cusp between the carbon and carbon-constrained economies is described in the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) published last week by the U.S. Department of Energy. Created in a collaboration between more than 20 federal agencies, it is the first in a series of QERs the Obama Administration has put in motion with the objective of making sure the nation's energy is affordable, clean and secure. The inaugural QER focuses on the condition and future of an energy system that includes 2.6 million miles of oil and gas

May 13th, 2015|Articles|

Mandatory Questions for the 2016 Election

None of the candidates in the last presidential election said much about climate change or the clean energy imperative, not even Barack Obama. We cannot allow that to happen again. The media, the Commission on Presidential Debates, young people and voters at large need to nail down every candidate this time on what he or she would do about these two increasingly urgent issues. With the air already full of trial balloons and potential candidates already presenting themselves like debutantes, the 2016 campaign has begun. So it is not too soon to begin grilling the hopefuls on what they would do about the mother of all environmental and national security issues --climate change -- and the world's necessary transition to clean energy. The quality as well as the content of their answers should help determine who is worthy to run, to be nominated and to be elected. In addition to questions on climate change itself, every candidate should be compelled to address the array of issues that underlie it, including what to do about energy subsidies, whether the United States

March 7th, 2015|Articles|

Beware of Those Climate Polls

Insofar as the prospective candidates for President of the United States pay attention to public opinion research, they should be careful about interpreting the polls on global climate change. They might get the mistaken impression that voters don't care. Some politicians, polling organizations and media have been quick to jump to the conclusion that the American people consider global warming to be a low national priority. That impression is created especially by the polls that ask people to prioritize items on a list of national issues. Climate change almost always ends up near the bottom of the rankings along with closely related topics like energy and environment. Issues like the economy, jobs, the federal deficit, terrorism and public health are nearly always at the top. The result is a regular flow of headlines like these: Most Americans Believe in Climate Change, But Give It Low Priority -- Pew Research Center, September 2014 Despite Administration's Efforts, Voters Give Climate Change Low Priority in New Poll - CNSNews, October 2014 Climate Change Not a Top Worry in U.S. -- Gallup, March 2014