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Views from the Center


In this blog, I’ll let others do most of the talking. For a clear conservative position on climate change, let’s turn to last week’s address on climate and development by Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative Secretary of State for International Development in the new British government. This government, you will recall, is headed by David Cameron, another real-live conservative. Secretary Mitchell gave a gem of a speech, and it’s worth digesting in full. For the moment, however, let’s focus on his introduction:

“ Ladies and Gentlemen, I want this morning to lay before you three arguments:

* First, that while climate change is undoubtedly a massive threat to poor countries it also presents real opportunities

* Second, that in climate change, the world has a real chance to take a new approach to solving global problems and seizing global opportunities

* Third, and most importantly, that we must get on with it. Whilst we work tirelessly towards a global deal we must not be paralysed into inaction on the ground. Helping developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change – and to grow in a low-carbon way - will not only save lives but will also build the very confidence that can make a deal a reality.

Consensus on the Case

I don’t intend this morning to dwell on the science behind climate change. Those arguments have already been well-made by the Royal Society and many others.

Despite these arguments there will always be those who remain un-persuaded of the science. Not least, because this is an issue of probability and risk. But I don’t believe it’s the job of politicians or policy makers to second-guess scientists. As others before me have said, if 99 out of a 100 doctors tell you your child has measles, you don’t wait for the hundredth to change their mind before doing something about it.”

Now to newly-influential Congressional conservatives in the US, as cited by Newsweek magazine and Politico:

Joe Barton, candidate for House Energy and Commerce Committee chair, on the CO2 problem::

"CO2 is odorless, colorless, tasteless—it's not a threat to human health in terms of being exposed to it. We create it as we talk back and forth. So, and if you go beyond that, on a net basis, there's ample evidence that warming generically—however it is caused—is a net benefit to mankind."

John Shimkus, candidate for House Energy and Commerce Committee chair, on how his understanding of the Bible reaffirms his belief that government shouldn't be trying to regulate greenhouse gas emissions:

"I do believe in the Bible as the final word of God. And I do believe that God said the Earth would not be destroyed by a flood. Now, do I believe in climate change? In my trip to Greenland, the answer is yes. The climate is changing The question is more about the costs and benefits and trying to spend taxpayer dollars on something that you cannot stop versus the changes that have been occurring forever. That's the real debate."

Ralph Hall, candidate for House Science and Technology Committee chair:

"This administration argues that cutting greenhouse emissions as a policy directive is justified by science. I think this hearing today will demonstrate and should demonstrate that reasonable people have serious questions about our knowledge of the state of the science."

So what’s the “conservative position” on climate change? Since there is obviously no such position, let me restate the question as follows: Who among the cited conservatives has a sensible position on climate change? Here I see only one candidate: Andrew Mitchell. His views on climate change (and those of Prime Minister Cameron) should be read and carefully pondered by US conservatives.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.