Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
Onetime Speaker of the House and full-time GOP thought leader Newt Gingrich is currently considering a run for the presidency. And he's one of the more, well, interesting GOP candidates, when viewed from a climate policy lens -- mostly because he's previously been publicly in favor of pricing carbon. And then he wasn't. And then he was again! And then ... and so on. In fact, the Wonk Room's Brad Johnson describes Newt Gingrich's record on climate as "a series of epic flip-flops over more than two decades, with his positions mostly coinciding with whether the party holding the presidency is a Republican or a Democrat." As such, we can learn a lesson or two about the GOP's efforts to shape ideology around global warming from this timeline of Newt's stance on climate action ...Johnson has put together a comprehensive list detailing two decades' worth of Gingrich changing his mind about climate. Here's just a tiny snippet:
Go scan the list yourself -- the scope of some of these changes of heart are pretty stunning. I mean, this is a guy who sat down on a couch with Nancy Pelosi to film an ad proclaiming the need for climate action -- and now, in order to stay politically en vogue, he's calling for the complete abolition of the nation's top environmental regulatory body. To call the man a chameleon would be an understatement.
February 15, 2007: "I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, that there's a package there that's very, very good. And frankly, it's something I would strongly support." [Frontline, 2/15/07]
April 4, 2009: "And now, in 2009, instead of making energy cheaper--which would help create jobs and save Americans money--President Obama wants to impose a cap-and-trade regime. Such a plan would have the effect of an across-the-board energy tax on every American. That will make our artificial energy crisis even worse--and raising taxes during a deep economic recession will only accelerate American job losses." [Newsweek, 4/4/09]
But this timeline does more than bring to light the fact that, like many other politicians, Newt is shrewd, slippery, and will say anything to retain his station as a power broker in conservative politics. It also reflects how immensely politicized climate science has become over the two past decades -- Newt's opposition to climate action (and Republican opposition in general) comes, like clockwork, when it's politically expedient, and when it counters something Democrats are attempting to accomplish. In fact, Gingrich even co-sponsored a bill to tackle climate change -- and now he claims he doubts its existence at all.
To look over that timeline is to see the climate issue wholly and completely politicized, bucked or embraced for popular gain. And it doesn't bode well for the prospect of passing effective legislation in time to stop the worst impacts of global warming.