On Climate Change, the Party of No

Eli is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine.

National Journal examines the state of scientific literacy on climate among Republican candidates for senate and finds dismal results:

This year, when Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., spent months negotiating bipartisan cap-and-trade legislation, he could not attract any Republican co-sponsors -- not even McCain. And when National Journal recently surveyed the 21 GOP Senate challengers with a serious chance of winning this fall, each opposed cap-and-trade (including Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who voted for it in 2009).

Even many climate-change activists prefer alternatives to cap-and-trade, such as a carbon tax. But virtually all of the serious 2010 GOP challengers have moved beyond opposing cap-and-trade to dismissing the scientific evidence that global warming is even occurring.

Senate nominees with tea party roots, such as Nevada's Sharron Angle, have expressed these views most emphatically. But the pattern of repudiation extends to more-measured nominees such as Ohio's Rob Portman and California's Carly Fiorina who pointedly insisted, "I'm not sure," when asked whether climate change was happening. Of the 20 serious GOP Senate challengers who have taken a position, 19 have declared that the science of climate change is inconclusive or flat-out incorrect. (Kirk is the only exception.) With sentiments among rank-and-file Republicans also trending that way, it's no coincidence that two Republicans who affirmed the science -- Rep. Michael Castle in Delaware and Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska -- were defeated in Senate primaries this year.

In The New Yorker this week is a fine dissection of the crash of the climate bill in the U.S. Senate this year. But the piece didn't much blame skepticism of the science (or "Climategate") for the failure of Democrats to pass legislation on the matter. It suggests instead that poor coordination between lawmakers and the White House, or indifference from President Barack Obama's team, made a tough legislative effort nearly impossible.

Posted in Climate climategate