The Governor of Minnesota's Bizarre Climate Change 180


Photo via Watts Up With That

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has been behaving a bit strangely lately, and some of his supporters are concerned. Mr. Pawlenty, once a surprisingly dedicated advocate for fighting climate change--the Republican made his state one of the first to enact carbon cutting legislation (with a target of 80% reduction by 2050) and publicly appointed a council of scientists to gather advice on how best to carry it out--is now cracking jokes making light of climate action. He's also become strangely silent on climate issues altogether--has Pawlenty made a 180 on climate change?Some are getting more and more worried that he has. According to ClimateWire,

Gov. Tim Pawlenty is stoking frustration among Democratic state lawmakers and prominent climate thinkers for becoming "totally silent" on two major efforts to stem greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota and in a strip of states stretching from Canada to Kansas.

The turnaround is striking because it was the governor who powerfully promoted the initiatives. Now, chafed participants believe Pawlenty is abandoning climate action to mend his conservative credentials before taking a stab at the Republican nomination for president in 2012.

Many believe that his silence is an effort to appease the Republican base, which currently adamantly opposes climate action like the Waxman-Markey clean energy bill. Pawlenty's supporters maintain that he's simply become aware of the costs of such a bill, and never committed anything to its passage.

But the disparity is striking. Pawlenty assembled the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group in 2007--just two years ago--and he was quoted as saying "Our nation is too dependent on imported sources of energy, and greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow too quickly. Governors have a tremendous opportunity to lead the country toward a cleaner, more independent, more secure energy future."

Then, the advisory body sent him recommendations on how to meet the climate goals in 2008. And then . . . nothing. He's essentially entirely ignored the advice of a council he himself appointed to help his state enact a law he himself forged and signed. He's delayed action for a year now, and many are frustrated. Worse, he's taken to downright mocking attempts to mitigate climate change on a federal level. ClimateWire notes this exchange:

"It appears that President Obama is making great progress on climate change," the governor chided, according to Politico. "He is changing the political climate in the country back to Republican."
And he's also opposed the climate bill explicitly, charging that it's carbon reduction targets were too steep--even though they're weaker than the ones put forward in his own bill, in his own state.

This seems to me like a pretty cut and dried case of political maneuvering, here--Pawlenty has seen how the climate bill has failed to gain overwhelming nationwide support, how it's getting pushed to the backburner in the Senate, and perhaps has seen the field narrow for prospective Republican presidential candidates in 2012 (Palin's out, Jindal's out). He's seen that snubbing climate action won't lose him mass moderate support, and will secure him support from the far right base. Which is too bad; he really was doing some of the best work in statewide energy reform and climate action of any politician, period--before this climate change 180.

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