Governor McDonnell: Global Warming Skeptic

Governor Bob McDonnell held a town meeting at JMU last week. I had an opportunity to ask him whether he was prepared to support policies that would reduce greenhouse emissions to avoid the worst impacts of global warming (see video inset).

In the course of his answer, he revealed that he thought it was still debatable as to whether climate change was anthropogenic (caused by man). This and other statements made it clear that none of his policies would be based on the assumption that man’s use of fossil fuels was the cause of climate change.

It is clear that this administration takes its cues from coal and the electric utilities that run largely on coal. McDonnell specifically stated that he is a “supporter of coal.” He more than once stated that no one wants to pay more than they are now paying for electricity, implying that no sacrifice should be made to abate greenhouse gases. Over and over he said that he was in favor of reducing “SOx and NOx”, suggesting that while he is interested in the reduction of these traditional pollutants associated with coal, he does not see a need to reduce CO2.

He made a point of saying that renewables were still not cost competitive, suggesting that he is content to let the market dictate the pace of development of renewables. Such a strategy runs the risk of replacing fossil fuels too slowly.

Yes, we do have to rely on the market. Only the market creates the incentives needed to develop the technologies and products at competitive prices that are needed to provide clean, sustainable energy. To make the market work for the dual purpose of energy supply and reduction of greenhouse gases, the true cost of fossil fuels must be recognized. The true cost of fossils takes into account the environmental cost of mining, oil spills, wars to maintain access to oil, terrorism spawned by oil regimes, impact on human health, subsidies to coal and oil, and the impact that continued emissions of CO2 will have on global warming.

We need a comprehensive climate and energy bill that puts the proper price point on fossil fuels to create a sustainable energy market that will also abate the climate crisis. We are fortunate that science has done its job to inform us how much CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) we can allow into the atmosphere, and how that translates in the amount of coal and oil we can burn. This science has guided the House of Representatives in its comprehensive energy and climate change bill, and there are Senate versions ready to be debated. Republicans, of course, oppose the legislation. At the heart of their opposition is their denial that climate change is being caused by man by the burning of fossil fuels. If man is not causing the problem, they are absolved of the responsibility to try to solve the problem.

Since both parties are looking at the same science reports, how do you explain that Democrats mostly accept the science of anthropogenic climate change and Republicans mostly do not? Certainly, no one has anything to gain in believing that the earth is on the brink of climate catastrophe. Since Democrats have taken the lead on the climate change and energy bill, Republicans may oppose it to deny the Democrats a win. Republicans tend to be more tied to business interests, and may think that it serves that constituency to oppose any measure that may increase the cost of energy. (The reality is that most business sectors are ready to go green, but want consistent and long range policy from government.)

Once a Republican politician admits anthropogenic climate change, he can no longer oppose legislation that moves us away from fossil fuels. Therefore, most Republicans cannot and do not admit that global warming is caused by man. In taking that position, a politician trades the future of the planet, and the wellbeing of all generations that come after us, for his personal short term political gain. This is an ethical and moral trespass of breathtaking dimension.

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This post was submitted by Bishop Dansby.

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