My esteem for the political intellect of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is second to no one's. That said, by appearing in the latest Al Gore propaganda commercial, he joins a disturbingly growing number of ostensibly green-turning Republicans -- our president among them -- who thereby cast doubt upon their own conservative resolve.
Harder still to reconcile is this: unlike that given by George Bush last week, Newt's explanation for his apparent duplicity rings excruciatingly hollow and ultimately fraudulent. Leaving dumbfounded admirers to wonder whether they'll ever learn why -- and why now?
The ad by Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection features Newt sitting on a Loveseat (of all things) with Nancy Pelosi (of all people) with the Capitol Building (of all places) looming large in the background. After cursory introductions and each confessing that they don't "always see eye-to-eye," Newt looks into the camera and states "but we do agree our country must take action to address climate change." [my emphasis]
Now, while this may have shocked many viewers who thought only the amphibious newt to be green, in reality it didn't abruptly crawl out of a pond.
During an April 2007 debate on the subject with the insufferable John Kerry [video], Newt opened by effectively ceding the point of anthropogenic global warming to his not-so-jolly green opponent. Even before Kerry could utter a single word of eco-babble, Newt admitted his thoroughly off beam conviction
"that the evidence is sufficient that we should move towards the most effective possible steps to reduce carbon loading in the atmosphere."
Actually, outside of the Massachusetts Senator's emphasis on regulation as a solution, there was surprisingly little discord between the two "debaters." Declared Newt:
"I want to suggest that we need a new science- and technology-based, entrepreneurial, market-oriented and locally led environmentalism."
A concept Gingrich would essentially reiterate a year later when he speaks in the Gore-mercial of "spark[ing] the technology we need," not raising taxes or other big-government solutions.
To be sure, if the actions of man were ever to be proven contributory, technology would be the preferred GOP response, not taxes. But that's an extremely big and currently unforeseeable if.
Which leads to the primary quandary created by the highly regarded conservative's very presence in such an ad -- it broadcasts an acceptance that the actions of man have an impact on climate -- a theory never properly tested, much less proven. Moreover, Newt's suggestion that climate change is addressable in any manner other than adaptive preparation for its natural inevitability undermines the rational demand for empirical-evidence-before-action while supporting the alarmists' "debate is over" lie. How could the savvy political historian fail to foresee the tactical advantages his attendance would hand the loony Left?
And yet, his timing was actually worse than his reasoning.
Why Now, When the Alarm Bell Grows Faint?
For starters, the "settled science" canard is quickly coming apart at the seams
A growing number (currently hundreds) of scientists -- many giants in their fields -- have signed a declaration during and since last month's New York Climate Conference, affirming their positions contrary to the so called "consensus." They emphatically reject CO2 as a pollutant, and assert that global climate has always and will always change -- independent of the actions of man. And that therefore, any schemes to mitigate anthropogenic carbon are a "dangerous misallocation of intellectual capital and resources that should be dedicated to solving humanity's real and serious problems." Additionally, such plans "will pointlessly curtail the prosperity of the West and progress of developing nations without affecting climate." And they conclude "that all taxes, regulations, and other interventions intended to reduce emissions of CO2 [should] be abandoned forthwith."
Meanwhile, another silly Earth Week comes to a close. For five straight days television viewers have suffered through a greater than usual number of straight-faced politicians and assorted talking heads addressing carbon and nuclear proliferation with equal alarm. They've also abided countless carbon-footprint-shrinking "tips" and non-stop advertisers selling the gullible on the premise that an imaginary green life is as important as a sparkling white toilet bowl and minty-fresh breath.
All, mind you, while the war, the housing market, energy costs, the overall economy and other real-world issues seem to have put the environment near dead last on most recent polls measuring respondents' concerns. Add the fact that a recent Gallup Poll found that "the greenhouse effect or global warming" only tied for 9th place in a list of environmental issues people actually do worry about, and it would appear that only the media, self-serving politicians and the alarmists themselves really buy any of this cataclysmic tipping point nonsense.
In fact, it seems as though the public's concerns for imaginary problems are inversely proportional to their exposure to real ones. Bad news for Al Gore, but decidedly good news for the planet. And considering the lethargy of Sun Cycle 24, news of flat global temps since 1998, forecasts of a potential impending ice-age, installed Euro cap-and-trade systems as corrupt as they are counterproductive and zero probability of capping emissions from developing India or development-overdriven China -- it's quite clear that the alarmists have found themselves on the ropes.
Unfortunately, adding the name Gingrich to a roster of recently greened "Republicans" already including McCain, Schwarzenegger, Warner, Huckabee, Bloomberg and even - apparently Bush, can only serve to recharge the Big Green Scare Machine's eco-friendly fuel cells.
Why Single Out Newt When Bush Too Has Freshly Erred?
Yes, Bush is also getting heat for seemingly warming to warmists. Last week's official announcement of his plan to achieve flat U.S. Greenhouse Emissions by 2025 elicited cries of too-little-too-late from the left and Benedict Arnold from the right.
But the president gave a fairly compelling explanation for his actions -- one well worth considering.
Earlier this month, 17 states exploited last year's absurd Supreme Court declaration of CO2 as an air pollutant by suing the Environmental Protection Agency to act upon it. As rightly feared at the time, the wrongly decided ruling that the EPA is legally responsible to regulate "greenhouse gas" (GHG) tailpipe emissions has opened the door to the specter of unelected bureaucrats controlling airborne carbon. A horrifying vision indeed, for as MIT climate scientist Dr. Richard Lindzen warned us last year:
"Controlling Carbon is a bureaucrat's dream. If you control carbon you control life."
On another front, Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works chair Barbara Boxer and her greenie cronies have also been busy trying to force the EPA's CO2 pollutant status under the existing Clean Air Act. Such a move would all but assure their green dream of cap-and-trade by regulatory diktat.
Meanwhile, the Interior Department has been court ordered to decide whether the polar bear should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. As global warming is being blamed for the reduction of polar ice on which the mammals live and hunt, the confluence of these two so-amended acts could lead to, as Marc Morano -- communications director for the minority on Boxer's committee -- suggested at last month's conference:
"someone running a lawnmower in Miami could, theoretically, be cited for endangering the polar bear."
It is just such insanity that Bush suggests his plan will curtail. As explained by the president:
"If these laws are stretched beyond their original intent, they could override the programs Congress just adopted, and force the government to regulate more than just power plant emissions. They could also force the government to regulate smaller users and producers of energy - from schools and stores to hospitals and apartment buildings. This would make the federal government act like a local planning and zoning board, have crippling effects on our entire economy.
Nicely played, actually.
Considering these facts alongside the pro cap-and-trade postures of all 3 vying for 2009 White House occupancy, one can't disallow a possible strategy being crafted by this oft-poker-faced administration.
Doesn't The Ex-Speaker Also Deserve a Chance to Explain?
He does, and he did.
But contrast the president's to Mr.Gingrich's explanation, as published on his website
After stating that he doesn't think there's conclusive proof of global warming, much less any anthropogenic contribution - a sharp departure from his converse words barely a year old -- Newt moves the discussion to conservation and energy policy: [emphasis added]
"There is an important debate going on right now over the right energy policy, the right environmental policy, and making sure we do the right things for our future and the future of our children and grandchildren. Conservatives are missing from this debate, and I think that's a mistake. When it comes to preserving our environment for future generations, we can't have a slogan of ‘Just yell no!'
I have a different view. I think it's important to be on the stage, to engage in the debate, and to communicate our position clearly. There is a big difference between left-wing environmentalism that wants higher taxes, bigger government., more bureaucracy, more regulation, more red tape, and more litigation and a Green Conservatism that wants to use science, technology, innovation, entrepreneurs, and prizes to find a way to creatively invent the kind of environmental future we all want to live in. Unless we start making the case for the latter, we're going to get the former. That's why I took part in the ad."
Sorry, but that simply can't hold warming-ocean water. The Newt sitting beside Nancy didn't say that our country must take action to address a cleaner environment for our children and grandchildren. Nor did he say anything about energy policy -- surely no one would deny the benefits of energy independence. No -- he stared right into the camera and clearly stated that action must be taken to address climate change.
And just which "debate" does Newt think conservatives are missing from? The one the Left declares only a "tiny, tiny minority" of "deniers" and "flat-Earthers" refute is over? The same Left that labels all dissenting scientists, regardless of credentials and numbers, as hacks and oil company shills? And whose de facto leader has refused Mano-a-Mano debates time and time again?
The undeniable truth is that by continuing to seek knowledge rather than declaring the science "settled," Conservatives are far more involved in the debate than any of their liberal counterparts.
Again, Newt's innovation-over-bureaucracy argument merits none from me. But such actions -- indeed, any actions -- in the glaring absence of proof that global temperatures can be impacted in either direction by mankind's meddling cannot be the conservative position. On the other hand, steadfastly questioning the "science" while inexhaustibly fighting the politically correct scientifically-antithetical hype must be.
Bush may just be stalling bad legislation in order to prevent worse policy by fiat, hoping that both climate trends and public opinion continue to cool in the interim. McCain, while clearly wrong, is running as an independent Republican and likely believes he's properly playing the part. Other complicit Republicans are just plain wrong.
But somehow with Newt, wrong cuts a whole lot deeper and bleeds a whole lot more.
The former Speaker owes us all an amended explanation worthy of his intellect, and ours, soon -- soon.
Marc Sheppard is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and welcomes your feedback.