Part 1 of this article ended with the admonition that moderate Republicans are probably the very population cohort climate advocates should be targeting with their appeals for understanding and support. It was, I suggested, the answer to the question of why attitudinal and behavioral surveys suggesting stagnation and decline in support of efforts to combat climate change should be considered a problem by the broad community of climate advocates.
Evidence of the problem offered in Part 1 included specific references to the GMU/Yale survey responses that showed liberal/moderate Republicans in general put global warming near the bottom (21 of 23) of their policy priority lists—only 2 slots ahead of where conservatives listed it.
There was also the report of Assemblyman Mayes’ attempted evisceration by his conservative cohorts in the California Republican Party for having his picture taken with Governor Brown—well, that and having voted to extend the cap-and-trade legislation.
The situation in California was consistent with Davenport and Lipton’s characterization of the situation in Congress:
But in Republican political circles, speaking out on the issue, let alone pushing climate policy, is politically dangerous.
Through their headlines and media reports the Mason and Yale surveys, along with most others, offer more than a modicum of hope that the climate community’s combined messages are getting through to voters. Who isn’t comforted to know that despite Trump’s anti-environmental rhetoric and his administration’s efforts to rollback key protections that voter opinions are holding steady?
Since I was asked—I’m not! Already having outed myself as a glass half empty kinda guy that should come as no surprise. Part 2 continues the thought that the climate community’s message is not nearly as positively impactful as it might appear.
In the midst of the maelstrom named Trump, environmental advocates are finding solace in numerous opinion polls released over the past year or two. From these surveys, it appears one of the few things Americans agree on—more or less-- is the reality of climate change and the need to combat it.
There are of course notable exceptions—the President for one, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for another and then there are the conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Texas Policy Foundation and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Still, the overall numbers seem to tilt towards the believers.
As a card-carrying curmudgeon, I tend to look at the numbers and see a glass half empty. There are many who would disagree with me; far be it from me to rage against the glass half-fullers in the community. However, I did want to mention the disconnect in all of this.
Why, with all the number of climate change believers out there, is it so difficult to convince a majority in Congress to resist the Trump administration’s assault on federal environmental and clean energy policies and programs? Why--also--was President Obama forced to resort to executive actions for intensifying federal efforts to: reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions; protect U.S. water sources; increase auto fuel efficiency standards; and limit exploration and extraction of oil and gas on federal lands?
The “canary in a coal mine” is a metaphor originating from the time when caged birds were carried into the mines as an early warning system; the canary would die before methane and carbon gases reached levels hazardous to humans.
Deregulating the nation’s environment is proving more problematic for Trump and company than they anticipated. There is, I suppose, some consolation in that. Although at the same time, federal collaboration with states and the private sector to protect the environment and to move the nation toward a low-carbon future is pretty much at a standstill.
Defense has become the new offense, since The Donald’s settling into the Oval Office. Law suits asking the courts to prevent federal agencies from delaying implementation of various Obama-era regulations are commonplace. For those fond of counting, the enviros appear to have the edge on the administration when it comes to court victories.
As The Donald is discovering, winning is not always easy to define. It is often elusive long after an inning has ended. Yogi knew, and the environmental community would do well to remember: it ain’t over until it’s over.
Environmental Regulation In Republican Administrations-- The Trickster, The Gipper and The Trumpster (Part 2)
It is time to build on what we have learned, and to begin a more ambitious national effort. I recommend that the Clean Air Act be revised to expand the scope of strict pollution abatement, to simplify the task of industry in pollution abatement through more nearly uniform standards, and to provide special controls against particularly dangerous pollutants.
----Richard Nixon, 1970
Part 1 reviewed the environmental records of Nixon, Ford and Reagan. President Carter’s tenure in office was briefly discussed for purposes of context.
Today’s part looks at Bush 41 and 42. It, as well, addresses the action’s Trump has taken in his first six months in office.
The Trumpster’s place at the bottom of the list of Green Presidents is pretty much assured should he do nothing more than he already has. It is hard to imagine he will see a light anything like Saul saw on his fateful way to Damascus. Although, the world will undoubtedly continue to hope.
History shows that opposition to protecting the environment is not an inherently Republican trait. Nixon, for example, must be counted among those chief executives of the nation, who saw the need to regulate harmful emissions and were willing to act on it. It also tells us the importance of bi-partisanship.
Do these same lessons come through in today’s discussion? Read on to find out.
Environmental Regulation In Republican Administrations- The Trickster, The Gipper and The Trumpster (Part 1)
The environmental problems we face are deep rooted and widespread. They can be solved only by a full national effort embracing not only sound,coordinated planning, but also an effective follow-through that reaches into every community in the land. Improving our surroundings is necessarily the business of us all.
--- Richard Nixon, 1970
I admit the title of this piece sounds a bit like a Comic-con promo for a new graphic novel. The story does contain all the requisite elements-- heroes, villains, intrigue, punches and counter-punches. True to the genre it has no foreseeable ending; only the promise of more stories to follow.
Trump’s environmental assault raises questions—as well as eyebrows—about the legacy of Republican presidents in the modern era[i]. For example, is The Donald’s denial of climate change theory an historically Republican phenomenon or is it more personal to whoever is sitting in the presidential chair?
Similarly, is refusal to take the steps necessary to protect people and nature from harmful emissions and transist the nation to a low-carbon economy a function of traditional Republican dislike of regulation or something more specific?
I thought to do a bit of research on the subject. The following is a tale of the tapes.
For a man who once said environmentalists wanted to live like a bunch of damned animals, Nixon did a lot to protect their habitats and to keep them safe even today.
The Trickster’s environmental legacy is impressive. It includes:
Joel B. Stronberg
Joel Stronberg, MA, JD., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years’ experience, based in Washington, DC.