Will More Conservatives Experience an ‘R Street’ or Bob Inglis ‘Metamorphosis’?

Graphic of R Street logo

Some conservative interests are seeking a climate change ‘silver bullet’ attractive to their ranks and to their economic and political philosophies. An upstart Heartland Institute spin-off and a former South Carolina congressman are among those trying to show the way.

A small, but seemingly growing, number of Republican and politically conservative interests are advancing climate change policy options they say are consistent with their and their colleagues’ political ideologies and economic principles.

The R Street Initiative, in Washington, D.C., for instance, a Heartland Institute insurance spin-off started by a proudly conservative Republican, wants fellow conservatives to “take a page from the liberal playbook and use the climate change issue to push policies they favor anyway.” The group’s Eli Lehrer is pushing a free-market proposal involving a revenue-neutral carbon tax that would be offset by cuts in other taxes. The approach would seek to boost alternative energy supplies, including nuclear power, and would support fracking…but it abandons conservative Republicans’ long-held arguments on underlying climate science evidence.

Or take another example, that of former Congressman Bob Inglis, who says his metamorphosis on climate change began in 2004.

Inglis then was a three-term conservative Republican representing a South Carolina district in the U.S. Congress. His was widely considered a “safe” seat for his party and for his own re-election.

His son, a first-time-voter, approached him and said, “I’ll vote for you, Dad, but you are going to have to clean up your act on the environment,” Inglis recalled in a telephone interview.

Photo of Inglis
Inglis says finding climate change real is counter to GOP ‘tribe’s orthodoxy’ for now.

Like his fellow conservative Republicans at the time, Inglis hadn’t supported measures to address climate change. But now he had to respond to this “new constituency,” which included not only his son but his four daughters and his wife.

Two trips to Antarctica, in 2006 and 2008, allowed him to observe first-hand what he says was conclusive proof of the impact of fossil fuels on global warming. In 2009, he introduced the Raise Wages, Cut Carbon Act. It would have imposed a tax on carbon while reducing Social Security payroll taxes.

Inglis says that action was largely responsible for his resounding 71 to 29 percent defeat in the Republican primary a year later, ending his 12-year stint in Congress.

“The most enduring heresy was saying that climate change was real, and let’s do something about it. It is contrary to the tribe’s very important orthodoxy at the moment,” he said.

A Carbon Tax Even Conservative Republicans Can Like

That defeat only strengthened Inglis’ resolve to push for climate change action. In 2012, he founded The Energy and Enterprise Initiative as an affiliate of George Mason University. He speaks often at locations around the country in an effort to garner support among conservative Republicans for a carbon tax.

Inglis is part of a small but growing base of conservative Republicans trying to take a lead in addressing climate change and bring fellow conservative Republicans on board.

Inglis can point to public attitudes survey work indicating that a majority of Republicans understand that climate change is happening and that the U.S. should take steps to address it, with only about one-third supporting the Republican congressional leaders on the issue. In addition, a number of conservative Republicans worry that their party will pay politically at the voting booth if they continue to be seen as steadfast obstacles to meaningful action. The challenge, they say, lies in wooing conservative Republicans with an approach that doesn’t smack of big government or of higher taxes.

Inglis backs a free enterprise approach that eliminates subsidies for all energy sources and attaches costs through an upstream carbon tax. There would also be a dollar-for-dollar cut in existing income taxes.

He says he has succeeded in recruiting conservative Republican “thought leaders” to his cause, including Art Laffer, who was on President Ronald Reagan’s Economic Policy Board, and Greg Mankiw, a Harvard economics professor, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under George W. Bush and an economic advisor to Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign. Students at college Republican clubs, business schools, and law schools are also among his target constituencies.

Inglis says the action is not in Washington, D.C. at this point, but in the heartland. “We’ve got to build support so elected officials can feel comfortable leading.” Inglis says. His proposal would be introduced in the context of tax reform, but Inglis doesn’t expect to see legislative action until at least 2015.

Carbon Tax: Better for Economy than for Climate?

As for the upstart R Street Institute, Eli Lehrer, the group’s president, says the group’s motivations aren’t purely environmental: he thinks a carbon tax will benefit the economy more than it will help the environment.

Currently, “desirable” matters like income, wages, profits, and investment returns are taxed. Instead, R Street favors shifting the tax code “away from what we want more of to what we want less of.” Carbon, Lehrer says, is the perfect vehicle. He argues the biggest impacts will be to stimulate the economy — as taxes are cut on productive activity — rather than to reduce carbon emissions. He believes that economic impact will have greater appeal among Republicans, especially since specific future impacts of climate change remain uncertain.

“Policies that increase likely future wealth are the best. A carbon tax will do that and reduce CO2 emissions as a bonus,” Ike Brannon, R Street’s director of research, said in a telephone interview. Brannon says a carbon tax provides an ideal new source of revenue that could be considered in the context of corporate tax reform. Such an approach “is a message that resonates” with conservative interests, he said. An R Street colleague, Andrew Moylan, said in a telephone interview that while no Republican legislator is willing to immediately and publicly support the idea, “we’ve found many areas of common ground you wouldn’t expect.”

“When you drill down past the rhetoric, a lot of people concede a consumption-based tax could make sense” and would be consistent with conservative principles, Brannon said. “Unfortunately, no one is [yet] willing to carry the torch.”

(Even long-time climate science “dissenter” Ross McKitrick, an economics professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, has shown some movement:  In a June 2013 report for the U.K.-based “Global Warming Policy Foundation,” itself a long-time “skeptic,” McKitrick outlines what he calls an alternative “evidence-based approach” to taxing CO2 emissions. He would do so by linking the tax rate to “actual evidence of the extent of global warming” — the higher global temperatures rise, the higher the tax rate. If they remain low or stagnant…so too does the tax rate.)

Climate Change Through a National Security Lens

Former Republican Senator John Warner, of Virginia, says it’s premature to expect congressional Republicans to come on board.

Photo of Warner
Former U.S. Senator John Warner says pressure from constituents key to action in Congress on climate.

“This issue is not going to get cooked and put on the stove in Washington until the fires start burning at home. Constituents have got to urge their members to address this issue” before Congress will revisit this question of climate, he said in a telephone interview.

A former Secretary of the Navy who served on the Senate Armed Services Committee for 30 years and on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for 23 years, Warner now is a senior advisor for The Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate Change, where he focuses on how reliance on fossil fuels endangers the nation’s energy security.

He said after leaving the Senate in 2009 that he wanted to remain involved with energy and security issues. He travels for Pew speaking at town hall meetings with three- and four-star retired officers, discussing how energy and national security are linked.

“We’re focused on telling a slightly different story,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew program. “When you have a four-star general and Warner talking about what they see from their perspective as national security experts and what they think the risks are, that’s a new way of looking at an issue.” And, she hopes, a compelling one. It’s another approach designed to appeal to the Republican and conservative ideology, especially with Warner as a spokesman, someone not perceived as being a “huge tree hugger,” Cuttino said.

Still, Warner is realistic, acknowledging that backing a tax will be a tough sell on Capitol Hill unless and until constituents at home apply pressure to their elective leaders.

Highlighting the ‘Conserve’ in Conservative

ConservAmerica, formerly Republicans for Environmental Protection, argues that climate protection is consistent with conservative philosophy. Rob Sisson, the group’s president, in a telephone interview called the work of R Street and Inglis “an intelligent way to approach fiscal and tax policy.” He says it represents a way for Republicans to support action on climate change without having to directly acknowledge it as a problem. ConservAmerica isn’t spearheading a singular solution, but instead is focused on reaching out at the grassroots level to create an environment that encourages Republicans, and conservatives in particular, to take on the issue.

“We’re trying to demonstrate to elected members that there are tens of thousands of Republicans in each state that care about clean energy and climate and would like to see our party take ownership and lead on the matter,” Sisson said. He points to polling indicating that climate change and clean energy are priority concerns for the under-30 demographic: “It will be very difficult to win a national election in 2016 unless the Republican party has some sort of reasonable position on climate change,” Sisson said. They’ll need a “good conservative route to address it.”

Conservative Religious Groups: Taking Back the ‘Liberal Agenda’

In addition to conservative political and policy interests, some conservative religious groups are also getting more active in pushing for action on climate change.

Hescox seeks to redefine climate message to appeal to conservatives.

“The message around climate change got usurped” to be part of what he calls the liberal agenda, Mitch Hescox, president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network, said in a telephone interview. “We’ve been successful in redefining that message to reach conservative values.”

His group, which supports a carbon tax, has held a series of roundtables to reframe the message so the focus is on the adverse public health impacts — to those born and yet to be born — and potential risks to future generations. Hescox said that many conservatives in Congress understand that action on climate change is necessary, but “they need to know they have support in their districts to overcome conservative challenges.” He says his group seeks to develop grassroots evangelical support to “help to get more conservative policy leaders to stand up and make a difference.” However, Hescox acknowledges too that it remains an up-hill battle, with many evangelicals still maintaining that no climate change is occurring, and certainly not as a result of human actions.

In a separate action, a group of some 200 scientists, working with a group named Sojourners on June 9 released a letter to congressional leaders cautioning that “All of God’s Creation — humans and our environment — is groaning under the weight of our uncontrolled use of fossil fuels, bringing on a warming planet, melting ice, and rising seas.” The scientists in that letter pleaded that Senate and House leaders and members “lead on this issue and enact policies this year that will protect our climate.”

Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, launched in 2012, meanwhile has been visiting college campuses urging student action on climate change. The group seeks to mobilize young evangelicals to tackle the climate crisis, support church leaders in making climate action a priority, and hold elected officials accountable for sound, responsible environmental and climate policies that will help the poor and those unjustly harmed by climate change impacts.

“We want elected officials to know that there are those of us out there who view this issue as one we consider in deciding who to vote for and who to support,” Ben Lowe, the group’s spokesman, said in a telephone interview.

Congressional Republican Opposition Seen Steadfast

It’s still considered highly unlikely that the increased efforts will lead to actual legislation over the short term.  And conservative interests’ and liberal and progressive adversaries do not appear to be sitting-back waiting for a widespread Inglis-type “metamorphosis.”

Activist Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, for instance, notes the difficulty in finding a Republican Senator or House member in a key position who is not what he considers to be a right-wing extremist on climate.

Inglis, “as smart and thoughtful as he is, doesn’t represent the current crop of Republicans in Congress, and they lack the vision, scientific integrity, and good sense to follow his lead,” Becker said in a telephone interview. He applauds Inglis for floating a carbon tax, but says he doubts there will be any legislative climate change action in the near term. “Republicans have taken a pledge of ignorance on global warming,” Becker said.

That’s a view shared by Sherwood Boehlert, a New York Republican who served 24 years in Congress until his retirement in 2006. Now Vice Chair of the Board of the League of Conservation Voters, Boehlert points to “a strong movement afoot to deny what science leads us to conclude.” He accompanied Inglis to Antarctica and supports his idea but says, “I’m not optimistic that conservative Republicans will come on board.”

Indeed, in January, U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced a resolution, that drew 19 Republican co-sponsors, opposing a carbon tax as detrimental to the economy. The same resolution introduced in the House by Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) drew 138 Republican co-sponsors.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), ranking minority member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, calls Inglis “one of the most creative thinkers on climate on the Republican side.” Waxman agrees with the idea of putting a price on carbon, and says, “I hope that his efforts to persuade his party are successful.”

But that doesn’t mean Waxman is optimistic about another “metamorphosis.” “Unfortunately, the Republicans in Congress have a terrible record,” he said, voting repeatedly to block action or deny climate change science.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the Republican position in Congress on climate will ultimately have to change,” Waxman says, leaving open the issue of timing. “The only question is whether they will change soon enough to avoid catastrophic impacts.”

For his part, Inglis remains the optimist, confident that conservative Republicans will be able to rally around what he considers his bedrock-conservative plan.

“Eventually conservatives will realize just how powerful they are on energy and climate and how essential they are to the solution,” Inglis says. “They’ll rise to the occasion because they’ll come to realize that the world is waiting for us to solve this.”

Another metamorphosis? And one sweeping up more than just a single defeated legislator whose climate toe in the water proved a scald? Lots of people will be watching for just such a development among legislators, some hoping for it and others hoping to avoid it. And in the meantime, the federal government action on climate change is likely to come more from President Obama’s Executive branch, as clearly indicated in the President’s June 25 climate policy announcements. And much of the other “real action” on climate policies is likely to continue coming from state and local efforts and from some private sector corporate initiatives.

Julie Halpert

Julie Halpert, who has covered the environment for more than two decades for national publications, is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor, Mi.
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13 Responses to Will More Conservatives Experience an ‘R Street’ or Bob Inglis ‘Metamorphosis’?

  1. G.R.L. Cowan says:

    There is a revenue-negative approach to fossil fuel waste-caused climate disruption: rebate governmental fossil fuel income to the citizens in equal shares.

    This is like Dr. James Hansen’s fee-and-dividend proposal, except without the fee. Or more precisely, no *additional* fee. Direct and indirect fossil fuel users are already paying plenty of carbon fee money in the form of excise taxes and royalties, and this is already strongly affecting the behaviour of government.

    So for instance the regulator footdragged on allowing San Onofre to resume service at reduced power after a steam generator leak, and made it impossible for the owners to see daylight on the horizon, money-wise. Thus, at a 12.5 percent royalty rate, federal natural gas income of about $56 million a year will continue. If the restart had been allowed, $26 million a year in uranium would have replaced this.

    Not $26 million in uranium *royalties*. $26 million total.

    So for another instance the Japanese government, more than two years after the Fukushima meltdowns, has yet to allow more than two of the 50 safe, unharmed power reactors in Japan to restart. Gas costs much more over there, so *that* windfall, if the rate of royalty or import duty — the tax, whatever they call it — is the same 12.5 percent, they’re making six *billion* a year that will go away when they allow the restarts.

    Have they got people demonstrating in the streets against the restarts, you wanna *bet* they do. A small fraction of $6G buys a lot of astroturf.

  2. jfreed27 says:

    When I hear “conservatives taking back the liberal agenda”, my smile fades. It seems like it is still mainly about “our team, their team”, rather than about saving our freaking planet (and humans in the process).

    It should be “peddle to the metal”, not about positioning your party. Wake up, for pity’s sake!

    • CommonCents2 says:

      Speaking of “peddle to the metal” more than a few conservatives are considering the other two controls what would reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions—-vehicle speeds and population. Speeding liberals and multi-car ownership have contributed mightily to CO2 emissions; even worse, this liberal philosophy has been exported to China which is adding a million new cars a month.

      Conservatives have notice the contribution liberal hypocrisy has made to the debate.

      Instead of following the nearly unanimous endorsement by both Kyoto and Copenhagen for re-forestation and afforestation; Liberals have ‘put the pedal to the metal’ of more socialism and regulation.

      Just plant trees and end all these useless carbon taxes and subsidies.

  3. Nullius in Verba says:

    I’m not a close follower of American politics, but so far as I know there have *always* been Republicans who believed in global warming. It has only been in more recent years that the Tea Party faction has taken a more intransigent line.

    However, with regard to legislation the policy line of both parties has followed the Byrd-Hagel resolution, that got nearly unanimous support from *both* sides of the house, that said that global warming was a real threat, that it required global action for any response to be effective, and that the US would not be taking any economy-damaging measures except as part of such a global response. Since China and India and so on have refused point blank to limit emissions on the same basis as the West (and quite rightly, in the view of sceptics), the prospect of international agreement or costly national legislation is dead.

    And this position is not based on scepticism about global warming’s existence, magnitude, or impact. Nor is it confined to the Republicans. So all this handkerchief-twisting over what Republican/RINO politicians think is wasted effort. It’s just empty noise.

    Surveys I’ve seen suggested that in the past the Republicans were roughly 50:50 on global warming (and didn’t much care, either way), while Democrats were solidly for warming. It appeared it wasn’t an defining issue for conservatives, but was only a shibboleth for the liberals. I think this has shifted somewhat in recent years as a result of the economy and the government spending scandals. Conservatives increasingly support the Tea Party outsiders for their stance on government spending, and this has incidentally imported their other views on global warming into the mainstream of conservative thinking. I think it’s certainly the case that politicians proposing costly big-government measures on global warming are going to rapidly lose popularity. I think the more loudly the liberals shout that climate-catastrophe scepticism is associated with Republicanism, the more strongly conservatives will follow where they perceive well-informed public opinion to be going. Instead of being ambivalent, they’ll shift to being solidly against the liberals on what will have become an archetypal liberal position.

    And as the science develops and the climate catastrophe narrative sinks, the liberal position will hopefully sink with it.

    In any case, it will have no effect on policy/legislation, because of Byrd-Hagel.

    (PS. When Inglis took those two vacation trips to Antarctica, was any fossil fuel burned in the process? Why would genuine believers continue to use fossil fuels in this way? Or was it simply that he got a free trip to see Antarctica for saying so?)

    • CommonCents2 says:

      Not only ‘don’t you follow American Politics’ you don’t have a clue as to the many environmental contributions Republicans and conservatives have made; and for that matter, your distorted view of the ‘TEA PARTY’ seems more derived from the Huff. post or SLATE, and not through involvement in a local action group.

      If you were so involved, you’d recognize the real environmental heroes were largely Republican—Teddy Roosevelt-our national park system; the Rockefellers–Mt. Desert, etc. ; Nixon–EPA; and even Bush–organic foods legimization, one of the nation’s first LEED compliant houses; and Maine’s Governor Baxter who bought up the region around Mt. Katahdin and set up a park authority designed to keep it OUT of government hands. If one is looking for ‘rare lands’ don’t expect them to be owned by the govt., but they are owned by multi-generational families and kept very private.

      Conservatives live out their beliefs quietly

      • Nullius in Verba says:

        Environmentalism is not the same as belief in global warming catastrophe.

        Most climate sceptics support protecting the environment. They just don’t like what the left has turned ‘concern for the environment’ into.

        I’m not criticising conservatives. I haven’t suggested they’re any less concerned with the environment. I haven’t even suggested those at the top don’t believe in climate catastrophe. The point of Byrd-Hagel is that they always *have*, and that those thinking the lack of progress in climate legislation is due to Republican disbelief are mistaken.

        People sometimes get so locked into the usual script of partisan conflict that they miss when somebody isn’t following it.

  4. Jeff Kuper says:

    As a self-identified “conservative” I am glad to see that there are some inklings of reason on this issue on the right. But I would offer one more reason for conservatives to embrace taking action on climate change….political viability. While I registered as a Republican as soon as I turned 18, supported HW, Dole, Bush and Bush; wanted to impeach Clinton, and was happy as hell when we finally took over the House in ’94, I must admit I’ve fallen away from the Republicans and this issue, while not decisive, is very symptomatic of my waning support.

    One of the best ways to explain it is that this issue is similar to the Catholic reaction during the days of Galileo. Galileo observed that there were moons orbiting Jupiter and that the lighting on Venus and Mars would all be supportive of the idea that not every celestial body revolved around the earth. We know who was right between the Catholic church and Galileo. For today’s Catholic faithful, if they could go back in time and advise the church, I’m quite positive that they would say that you need not bet your reputation against the observations of scientists.

    Fast forward to today, the scientists are telling us that by burning vast amounts of carbon in a relatively short period of time, we will fractionally change the composition of the atmosphere but that, due to the properties of carbon, methane, etc, we will be able to alter the mean temperature enough so that natural feed back loops will kick in that will excerbate the temperature change. In the early 90′s, the conservative response was to accept the science but reject any plan with heavy government involvement. Today, by and large, the right merely rejects the overwhelming concensus of scientific studies on the issue.

    Seeing that the 80′s were hotter than the 70′s, and the 90′s hotter than the 80′s and the 00′s were hotter than the 90′s, I think the trend is pretty clear and the science seems pretty solid. But regardless if that is accepted here on this forum, in the next two decades we will either see that the scientists were right or not. And “we”, conservatives/Republicans are going “all in” on saying that the scientists are wrong.

    “We” are needlessly betting against science with the very viability of a conservative movement. Like I said, because of this, and other issues, I have already stopped supporting Republicans and so I realize that my socially libertarian/fiscally conservative brand of “conservatism” can be doubted here. And I understand that. But just like if I could go back to the time of Galileo, I would like to caution the Republican party to not bet against science. We can adapt to the “new” reality and come up with approaches that minimize government control but address the issue at hand. That is the kind of party that I could (possibly) return to.

    • Nullius in Verba says:

      The Galileo argument comes up quite often in this debate – at the time, all the ‘natural philosophers’ were on the side of the Church. That was why Galileo made a particularly critical point about consensus of experts versus evidence. “In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.”

      This point turns up again and again in the history of science. There is a natural human tendency to set up a cultural system of experts and authorities – and for them to enforce a prevailing dogma, consensus, convention by controlling publication, advancement, funding, and so on. Periodically, these are overturned by scientific revolutions, but the establishment only reforms again around the new consensus.

      Thus, there are two distinct philosophies of science. One is about science as the accumulation of established reliable knowledge, the promotion of its authority and the certification of the orthodox possessors of it, and its defence from the ‘crackpots’ who would destroy or dilute it. The other is about science as a process of endless challenge, the demand for evidence, the delight in new ways of looking at things, and the rejection of authority and tradition as reliable ways of knowing. Order versus chaos, in unending conflict.

      The problem in the modern debate, as in times past, is that the vast majority of people holding opinions on both sides of the debate don’t have the specialised technical knowledge (or the time) to be able to evaluate the evidence for themselves. The education system likewise does not have the time to go through all the arguments and details to explain how we know all the things people think people ought to know. So the idea of ‘scientific authority’ has become for many people (even many scientists) the way scientific knowledge is supposed to work. You should believe because the teacher said so, because the textbook (or nowadays ‘Wikipedia’) said so, because “scientists say so”, and never mind why or how they know. Agreement with the orthodoxy, for whatever reason, is counted scientific literacy, and questioning it is seen as opposing science.

      Those of the opposing philosophy would argue that those questioning it perform a vital service for science, an essential element of the scientific method, even if they turn out to be wrong. Because they force the scientists to marshal their arguments and evidence, fill in gaps in the chain of logic, catch their errors, and thereby improve the science. This is the means by which science achieves its supreme reliability – and to prevent it subverts our reasons for believing in science. To believe one side or to believe the other side in a debate is not anti-science – but to oppose having a debate, to oppose allowing people on one side to hold and express their opinions is most definitely “anti-science”. Science requires *both* sides, even though (at least) one side in any debate must be wrong.

      Regarding the science in the specific case of the climate debate, it’s a lot less conclusive than you seem to think. Yes, there is a greenhouse effect from CO2 that ought to contribute positively to temperatures, but it is only one of a number of contributors, many of which are poorly quantified or understood, as are the feedbacks. The models don’t match the observations, the uncertainties cannot be fully accounted for, and the sensitivity is poorly constrained by the measurements. Yes, there has been a slight rise in temperature, but it might be natural, we can’t tell yet. The scientists do actually say all this, if you read the details buried in the technical reports, but the summaries for policymakers and press releases and public statements tend to emphasize the more alarming possibilities. “To capture the public imagination, we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective, and being honest.” Schneider hoped that he could be both, but it’s not a dilemma requiring a balance to be struck unless there are situations where you can’t be.

      We’ve seen this sort of thing happen before. Back in the 1960s there was a popular scare about over-population. The belief was that as population expanded we were going to run out of food and resources, there would be mass famines in the 1970s and 1980s, and civilisation would be at risk of collapse by 2000. Population control measures like involuntary sterilisation and China’s one child policy were seriously proposed or even in a few cases implemented. Everyone agreed such policies were horrific, and in democracies at least politically untenable, but the catastrophic alternatives the scientists warned were certain to happen if we did nothing were even worse. Scientists spoke up for that one, too.

      When it became apparent that nothing was happening, it quietly slipped out of the news, and then out of memory. It was never debunked or overturned – but the media simply stopped mentioning it, and after a while it was as if it had never happened. The scientists who had said so moved on up the establishment rankings, were (and are) still respected, other threats and dangers came and went, but as with other millenarian movements, there is still a determined rump of neo-Malthusian believers who think the apocalypse is still coming, always just around the corner.

      One day, they’ll be right. But many Republicans are betting, on the basis of the past record of such prophecies, that the odds are likely to be against them. We’ll see.

  5. John Garrett says:

    There’s just one problem: there hasn’t been any warming for sixteen (16) years now.

    Has it occurred to you that, maybe, just maybe, climatology’s understanding of the climate system isn’t all that it’s been made out to be?

    • John says:

      The magic number of ’16 years’ aside (why not 20 years?), please see:
      http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators

    • Jeff Kuper says:

      Sure, it has occured to me. Clearly weather isn’t climate but it’s obvious we haven’t quite nailed down weather predictions yet. So we should be mindful that attempting to develop a complete and accurate model of the future state of the climate is difficult and bound to generate errors.

      With that said, trotting out the fairly tired argument about the global temperatures not surpassing the recent peak set around 16 years ago isn’t very persuasive. Cherry picking the peak and then saying that no year has surpassed that peak is an extremely poor argument and yet it is used time and again.

      Trend lines are far more important than the temperature in any given year (or month) and it is clear that average global temperatures were hotter in the 2000′s than they were in the 1990′s despite the record temperatures from 1998. The sad thing is that if the 2010′s prove hotter than the 2000′s, I’m not sure how many conservatives will pay attention to simply admit that the scientists, in all likelihood, got this one right.