The Americans for Prosperity, the group credited with bringing the Tea Party to life, staged a small but noisy protest in downtown Manhattan today. Their target? The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an emissions trading system operated in 10 northeast states, from Maine to New Jersey. That state's governor, Chris Christie, just pulled out of the arrangement, largely to appease the Tea Party movement. I headed downtown to see what the ruckus was all about, and spoke to a number of the protesters about their thoughts on climate change:At one point, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain made an appearance, and spoke about his distaste for the system. The shaky clip above should give you a sense of the general attendance and tenor of the rally, right after he exited.
It was what you'd presume: 30-40 folks, mostly older white men, who felt passionately that regulating carbon dioxide was not only a major overreach, but unnecessary altogether. None of the protesters I interviewed believed that climate change was caused by human activity. Here's an interview I shot with handheld video (apologies for the extreme close up in the beginning):
And this was pretty par for the course. Each of the activists I spoke with was sure that climate change was a hoax; it was an opportunity for liberals to grab more power, and control people's lives. I should also note that they were without exception incredibly nice, and more than willing to chat with me about their ideas. It seemed pretty clear to me that their opinions were guided first and foremost by their incumbent political ideology -- few had what I would describe as a firm grasp of climate science. Few liberals have a firm grasp of the science either, however.
Yet they nonetheless felt passionate enough about preventing the government from regulating carbon pollution to take an hours-long bus ride from Jersey to stand under the burning hot sun and protest a regional emissions trading system that most people haven't even heard of. Working to better understand the animus behind that drive may yield some small revelations about how to advance the climate debate in more productive ways.