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With Republicans going 'wing-nut' on climate, leadership needed from Obama

By Email author - Fri, 26 Aug 2011 14:25:00 GMT
Climate leadership needed from Obama

It's official. The Republicans have finally gone over to the dark side. Even as climate scientists, and the science underpinning global warming, have been vindicated (for the umpteenth time) the GOP has completed its descent into science-bashing and anti-'warmist' rhetoric.

The one flickering light in the Republican conclave of US presidential hopefuls, Mitt Romney, finally bowed to the Vulcan mind-meld of the Tea Party contingent. Mankind (probably) isn't behind global warming after all, he has decided - after a nervous glance at his sliding ratings amongst the party faithful.

From the sublime to the ridiculous

He is reported to have gone from the sublime, back in June, when he said ''climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities and poses significant risks'', to the ridiculous, all in the space of a few short weeks. This week, in Lebanon, New Hampshire, when asked about whether the planet is heating up, he answered ''I think that it is.. I don't know if it's mostly caused by humans.'' That muddling wander in the direction of the climate skeptic camp, may or may not convince Republican voters of his clear thinking. But with Rick Perry sweeping up past him to snatch the front-runner status that was previously his, it seems Romney has decided that running with the skeptical wind, now blowing hard through his party, is mandatory for any serious contender.

If so, the about-turn from Romney, one of the minority of Republicans in the race to have something sensible to say about climate change, appears to mark the final rending of political consensus over climate change. From now on, it looks like policy over global warming will be a political football, tossed back-and-forth over the widening chasm between Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative.

US politics and climate change

Image Credit: © Fintastique

Climate science in the clear (again)

Except that Obama seems determined to keep his eye off this particular ball. Ever the pragmatist, and sensing the political poison injected into the climate change debate by Climategate, he has studiously moved his energy policy away from talk of the threat of global warming.

The language is now all about energy security, lowering prices and clean energy jobs - with not a whiff of CO2 in sight. That may be unsurprising, given the bruising Obama received when his Energy Bill was killed last year.

But a one-sided debate, with all the noise from the denialists, is only going to solidify, in the public mind, the dodgy soft-science of the climate skeptics. Without a strong and vigorous defense, ground will be lost, and the room for action shrunk to a strait-jacket. And it's not as if any of the mud slung around Climategate had any real substance to it.

Repeated inquiries at every level have exonerated those involved of any wrongdoing. Only yesterday, leading scientist Michael Mann was cleared of any wrongdoing by the National Science Foundation. ''No direct evidence has been presented that indicates he fabricated the raw data he used for his research or falsified his results," they said in their report.

Position vacant: leadership on climate change

With half-a-dozen inquiries over the last year backing the climate scientists and the science they do, it's unforgivable that the climate skeptics have been able to carry on dictating the debate. The only way out of these political doldrums is to set a counter wind a-blowin' again. Notables from the Democrats need to weigh-in on Romney's fickle new allegiance to the Tea-party skeptics. And that absolutely must include the President.

The middle-ground isn't to be gingerly engaged with, leaving the clamor from the back-seats  to win them over. The case for the reality of climate change, and action on it, needs to be led from the front, with a bold visionary clarion call. A planet, and future generations are at stake. There are few capable of doing the vision thing - but we know Obama can.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

Top Image Credit: Mitt Romney ©

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