Republicans Reverse Stance on Climate Change

coal-electricity generator

A year ago President Obama pledged to take effective action against climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency was tasked with developing regulations to limit carbon emissions from coal and gas-fired power plants, and this week they released these new rules. The cap-and trade system would require power plants to cut their carbon emissions 30 percent by the year 2030.

mitch_mcconnellLeading Republican spokespersons almost immediately condemned the measures. Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell issued a press release stating that, “Today’s announcement is a dagger in the heart of the American middle class.”  John Boehner called it “a sucker punch for families everywhere.”  And the Republican National Committee posted a lengthy list of links on its “Research” website claiming that Obama is launching a “war on coal,” that the new regulations will kill jobs, and that coal plants across the country are already being forced to shut down.

What Republican in their right mind would support such regulations?

john-mccainWell, as reported today on, back in 2008 while campaigning in Oregon, Republican Presidential candidate John McCain unveiled a cap-and-trade plan to limit emissions not only from power plants, but also from transportation, manufacturing, and commercial businesses. It would reduce emissions by 66% by the year 2050. It was much more ambitious than the plan just announced by the EPA. [See details here] Several months later Sarah Palin joined MaCain’s ticket, and when asked if she supported this cap-and-trade plan, she announced, “I do.”

Even George W. Bush was worried about climate change. As his biographer, Peter Baker, records

george-w-bush,property=poster[Bush] found the science increasingly persuasive and believed more needed to be done. The end of his presidency loomed, and he did not want to be known as the president who stood by while a crisis gathered. … [He] cited the danger of climate change in his State of the Union address for the first time, convened a conference of major world polluters to start working on an international accord to follow Kyoto, and signed legislation cutting gasoline consumption and, by extension, greenhouse gases.

Back then many politicians- both Republicans and Democrats – were concerned about climate change. Do you remember the famous bi-partisan political ad featuring Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi sitting side by side calling on Americans to take action against climate change? [Watch it here:]

So what has changed? Climate change denial remains strong in some conservative circles, and perhaps the politicians are simply catering to that segment of their base. Perhaps it is politics, with Republican leaders trying to firm up their support in coal producing states. Or perhaps it is that these latest measures come from a Democratic administration, and therefore must be denounced whether they have merit or not.

Whatever the politics, climate change itself remains real. Does Obama’s plan go too far? As notes,

The power plant regulations [of] the Obama administration … are far less ambitious than the proposal McCain offered in Oregon in 2008. They’re less ambitious than the proposals Newt Gingrich championed.

Bloomberg calls the new measures announced this week “historic but modest.” At one time we were prepared to do much more. It’s time to remember where politicians used to stand on climate change.

It’s time to take effective action.



About politspectator
Edward Clayton grew up in the US but has lived in Canada for the last 4 decades. He is a long time peace activist and committed to issues of social justice and good government. He reports on Canadian, American, and global politics from a Canadian perspective.

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