Climate Change Hero: Ronald Reagan

I’ve hesitated to comment on this topic, but… I’m a conservative who accepts the science of climate change. Some people may find it hard to believe, but conservative environmentalists do exist and, in fact, we have a notable history. Having just learned some of this history myself, it seemed a good time to broach the subject of climate change at OB&B. Besides – how can I go wrong with the Gipper on my side?

It started innocently enough. I was reading an article about the democrats being hypocrites, worthy of its own post, when a headline on the sidebar caught my eye: Can the party of Reagan accept the science of climate change? As a conservative environmentalist, my curiosity was piqued and Sherwood Boehlert delivered:

Why do so many Republican senators and representatives think they are right and the world’s top scientific academies and scientists are wrong? I would like to be able to chalk it up to lack of information or misinformation.

I can understand arguments over proposed policy approaches to climate change. I served in Congress for 24 years. I know these are legitimate areas for debate. What I find incomprehensible is the dogged determination by some to discredit distinguished scientists and their findings.

I agree with this completely, and it’s an important point up front. I accept the science of climate change, but I by no means support the leftist solutions to the issue. I favor capitalist solutions, and I’m not alone on that front either:

While many in politics – and not just of my party – refuse to accept the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change, leaders of some of our nation’s most prominent businesses have taken a different approach. They formed the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. This was no collection of mom-and-pop shops operated by “tree huggers” sympathetic to any environmental cause but, rather, a step by hard-nosed, profit-driven capitalists. General Electric, Alcoa, Duke Energy, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler signed on. USCAP, persuaded by scientific facts, called on the president and Congress to act, saying “in our view, the climate change challenge will create more economic opportunities than risks for the U.S. economy.”

I wonder – if big business offers free market solutions to climate change, would progressives embrace them? Or would the left show their agenda is more about socialist policies rather than environmental concern? This would shift the debate towards the role and scope of government, where it should be:

There is a natural aversion to more government regulation. But that should be included in the debate about how to respond to climate change, not as an excuse to deny the problem’s existence. The current practice of disparaging the science and the scientists only clouds our understanding and delays a solution. The record flooding, droughts and extreme weather in this country and others are consistent with patterns that scientists predicted for years. They are an ominous harbinger.

The new Congress should have a policy debate to address facts rather than a debate featuring unsubstantiated attacks on science. We shouldn’t stand by while the reputations of scientists are dragged through the mud in order to win a political argument. And no member of any party should look the other way when the basic operating parameters of scientific inquiry – the need to question, express doubt, replicate research and encourage curiosity – are exploited for the sake of political expediency. My fellow Republicans should understand that wholesale, ideologically based or special-interest-driven rejection of science is bad policy. And that in the long run, it’s also bad politics.

I agree with this wholeheartedly. The counter to a socialist solution isn’t denying the issue, but to offer a conservative solution – like Reagan:

What is happening to the party of Ronald Reagan? He embraced scientific understanding of the environment and pollution and was proud of his role in helping to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals. That was smart policy and smart politics. Most important, unlike many who profess to be his followers, Reagan didn’t deny the existence of global environmental problems but instead found ways to address them.

The National Academy reports concluded that “scientific evidence that the Earth is warming is now overwhelming.” Party affiliation does not change that fact.

I have to admit – I didn’t remember the ozone hole issue was during the Reagan administration, so I went looking for more information, and as it turns out, Reagan has done more to prevent global warming than Al Gore’s movie ever could. From The Green Conservative:

The resulting [ozone] treaty was the Montreal Protocol. In addition to beginning the phaseout of ozone-depleting substances, the treaty has prevented greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to about five years’ worth of global carbon dioxide emissions. That’s because the ozone depleters also have heat trapping properties that, molecule for molecule, are thousands of times more powerful than CO2.

Greenhouse gas abatement was not the treaty’s purpose, but it’s worth noting that the Montreal Protocol is keeping the equivalent of 11 billion tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere every year. That’s equivalent to eliminating nearly all U.S. and Chinese CO2 emissions every year.

President Reagan’s environmental record stretches back to his days as Governor of California, including his assistance in establishing Redwood National Park, a personal soft spot of mine since I do love trees. You can see Reagan’s record here: Timeline of Ronald Reagan’s Environmental Accomplishments.

But perhaps Reagan’s commitment to the environment is best stated by his own words:

“What is a conservative after all, but one who conserves, one who is committed to protecting and holding close the things by which we live…. And we want to protect and conserve the land on which we live – our countryside, our rivers and mountains, our plains and meadows and forests. This is our patrimony. This is what we leave to our children. And our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it.”

The left doesn’t acknowledge Reagan’s accomplishments on the environment and, sadly, the right doesn’t either. But I’m one conservative tree hugger who is proud to stand with President Reagan. It’s my hope his example will continue to show conservatives the way, if only they’d notice.

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4 Responses to Climate Change Hero: Ronald Reagan

  1. 71LesPaul says:

    I am a Republican that knows the climate change science is legitimate. I think the denial of the climate change science by so many GOP leaders makes the party look like a bunch of sub-intelligent bumpkins. I do think there is plenty of room to disagree with the Dems about what the Government should do about the problem, but its stupid to try to undermine the scientific data itself.
    I’d rather see the GOP use this issue to drive solutions that would reduce waste in energy usage in both the public and private sectors. Aren’t “conservatives” supposed to be interested in conserving things? If we could reduce energy usage just a small amount, we could drive energy costs lower, which would be a windfall for the economy as every person, rich and poor, would have more money to spend on other things.
    The climate change issue is a great opportunity for the GOP to promote conservative solutions that would benefit everyone. Mocking science is about the dumbest thing they could do.

  2. Drae says:

    Great points, LP. Another point to consider in the debate is energy independence. The name itself implies American jobs.

    I added The Green Conservative to the OB&B blogroll and you might want to check out his piece on Kansas.

  3. 71LesPaul says:

    Thanks for that link Drae. Cool story. Thats the point I was trying to make. The GOP could take a leadership role and use the climate change issue to promote conservative solutions that benefit the economy as well as the environment. It could be one of those elusive win-win situations.

  4. Drae says:

    One of those elusive win-win situations… lol! Why – it might even put capitalism in a good light!

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