The Law of Unintended Consequences

By Keith Kloor | August 24, 2011 2:53 pm

Evolution, Climate Change, Could Divide the Republican party

That’s the headline to Ron Brownstein’s piece at The Atlantic.

Like I was saying

  • stan

    Hope and change.  It seems to be a lefty thing. Especially hope.

  • lou

    Brownstein’s argument is weakened by his premise that the more educated republicans are more likely to believe in man generated global warming than the less educated.  The majority of college educated Republicans are either deniers or skeptics.  

    There is likely to more of a division on evolution but not this won’t come even close to becoming a wedge issue.  

    The economy and taxation will drive the electorate much more than these very side issues.  I wish global warming would carry much more weight but the headlines on it are likely to disappear soon.  

     

  • http://rustneversleeps.wordpress.com rustneversleeps

    La la la… I can’t hear you!!!

    Hope and change. It’s a people thing…

  • Keith Kloor

    Stan,

    Divide and conquer has worked well for Republicans for many years. I suspect that Democrats are doing a jig over their good fortune to have Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman squaring off on wedge issues. To what extent it continues, who knows?

    Lou,

    Agreed that economy will be a/the major issue in the election, but taxation? Anyway, Independents are the big catch in a general election. They have a lower threshold for ideologically-driven politics.

  • Keith Kloor

    Rust, I read that Grist post (you link to) earlier today. It’s good for a chuckle, nothing more. 

    “…sure feels like the tipping point on public opinion on climate…”

    …Sure sounds like wishful thinking to me. To be clear, I may think Rick Perry is a gift horse for Democrats, but I don’t see that (or the other events the Grist writer lists) translating into a deeper acceptance of AGW that then translates into some sort of “tipping point” impetus for political action.

    In terms of the climate debate, we’re witnessing a pendulum swing, I believe, not a tipping point.

  • http://rustneversleeps.wordpress.com rustneversleeps

    Yeah, fair enough, and if there’s ever to be a tipping point, it will start out looking like maybe the beginning of a pendulum turning back a bit.

    For what it’s worth, both analogies are flawed – that’s the thang with analogies – and the Grist writer admits he may be biased, early and wrong (as I recall)… But for those that yammer along the lines of “climate change science is dieing under its own fraudulent weight” or that “public sentiment is moving one way only and it’s towards recognizing the giant scam”… well, there’s a fair bit more going on here on terra firma…

  • Keith Kloor

    Rust,

    Agreed. Suffice to say that the nail in the coffin meme that Morano promotes is not having a good week. 

  • http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com Roger Pielke Jr.

    I doubt Perry is much worried about the climate issue or Huntsman:
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/149180/Perry-Zooms-Front-Pack-2012-GOP-Nomination.aspx

  • http://rustneversleeps.wordpress.com rustneversleeps

    No, Roger, Perry probably isn’t much worried about either.

    Miss the point much?

  • Keith Kloor

    But Roger, nobody is arguing that his positions won’t succeed with GOP primary voters.

    I’m willing to bet that Huntsman knows this too–at least in the current political climate. 

    My argument is that Independent voters will recoil from Perry if he remains the frontrunner. Perhaps polling data shows otherwise…or the general election results (if he becomes the GOP nominee) will prove me wrong. We shall see. 

  • jeffn

    “My argument is that Independent voters will recoil from Perry if he remains the frontrunner. ”
    Heehee. and the down-the-middle lefty Atlantic magazine tells you this?
    Roger can speak for himself, but his point is that Climate Change ranks a little behind being bitten by Sasquatch on the list of things people are concerned about. Ergo the only climate position likely to make independents “recoil” is one designed to slow the economy- which just happens to be the Democrats policy.
    Independents have a choice in 2012- an increasing amount of electricity will need to be produced, preferably cleanly. The GOP says this electricity is most likely to come from nukes and natural gas. The Democrats say it will come from the Easter Bunny. This blog, therefore, says the GOP is nuts. Good luck with that!

  • Keith Kloor

    Jeffn,

    Have you been reading anything I write? I’ve been saying all along that the totality of Perry’s positions will be what creates the anti-science impression in the public’s mind. (And we haven’t even touched on his other controversial statements related to the Fed and so on.)

    As for this:
    “Independents have a choice in 2012- an increasing amount of electricity will need to be produced, preferably cleanly. The GOP says this electricity is most likely to come from nukes and natural gas. The Democrats say it will come from the Easter Bunny.”

    Are you even remotely familiar with Obama’s energy policy? If you were, you’d know he’s perfectly aligned with that Independent view. I mean, all you have to do is read how bitterly disappointed climate activists are in Obama to know this.

    If perry is the GOP nominee, the only thing standing between a landslide victory for Obama is the state of the economy.
     

  • http://rustneversleeps.wordpress.com rustneversleeps

    @ jeffn: Rick Perry appears content running on a platform that, amongst other things, is willing to maintaini things along the line of the Easter Bunny being real, and hoping that few will much care.

    As far as it impacting his chances at the the repub nomination, Roger may be quite correct. So, Perry shouldn’t be worried. He should go with what’s evidently working. I think you and I would agree there.

  • http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com Roger Pielke Jr.

    Hi Keith, I don’t think “anti-science” positions (whatever that means) are going to be a factor one way or another in the upcoming general election. Of course I could be wrong, and maybe views on science associated with contested political issues are becoming salient, but it would represent a big change in public views (especially among independents).  When the nomination process is over, if Perry wins I guess we’ll watch him shift to wedge issues that split Democrats while the so-called “Republican split” is miraculously healed — that is just good politics.

    I do think that a Perry nomination is good news for Obama, but mainly because Perry is Bush-on-steroids.  So I’m all for Perry in the nomination process ;-)

    I do disagree with Jeffn, I think climate change ranks ahead of being bitten by Sasquatch;-)

  • stan

    In 2008, GOP’ers were certain that Obama’s close associations with Ayers, Dohrn, Wright, the New Party, and the rest of the far, far left would render him impossible to elect.  McCain didn’t make them an issue and the news media didn’t cover the story and often actively covered up for BO.

    I really think that a strong push to try to hammer Perry on climate or religion would be a disaster for the Dems.  Obama is presently perceived as being clueless, even out to lunch on the economy.  Instead of focusing on jobs as he said, he pushed thousands of pages of porkulus, obamacare and tried with climate.  The best way to convince the voters that he STILL doesn’t get it will be to focus on climate and religion tangents.  Perry, if nominated, will view those as his briar patch.

  • EdG

    All this talk about Huntsman is rather hilarious. And pointless.

  • Girma

    IINTERPRETATION OF MEAN GLOBAL MEAN TEMPERATUE

    Here is the data from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

    http://bit.ly/njBdvW

    The above data shows a persistent warming of 0.06 deg C per decade with a cyclic cooling and warming of 0.5 deg C every 30 years. This result gives a cyclic 30-year global cooling of 0.32 deg C (= 0.5 ““ 0.06 deg/decade x 3 decade) and a cyclic 30-year global warming of 0.68 deg C (= 0.5 + 0.06 deg/decade x 3 decade).

    As this result has been valid for the last 130 years, it is reasonable to assume it will also be valid for the next 20 years.

    The GMT for the 2000s peak is about 0.45 deg C.

    As a result, the predicted GMT for the 2030s is about 0.13 deg C (= 0.45-0.32).

     The predicted GMT by the IPCC for the 2030s is about 1 deg C.

    http://bit.ly/n1S1Jf

    Let us see which prediction is realized.

    I don’t need to know why the sun rises in the east (i.e: the physics of the phenomenon), but everyday since I was born it rises in the east. It is therefore reasonable to assume it will continue to do so for the next 20 years.

    Do you AGW advocates stand by the IPCC’s prediction for GMT of 1 deg C by 2030?

  • Jarmo

    The article is not very consistent on its claims, especially about Republican position re AGW. First it suggests that the better educated Republicans may be more likely to accept AGW as true than blue-collar ones:

    their debate could also highlight the differences between the GOP’s college-educated and less devout managerial wing and its more blue-collar and evangelical populist wing.

    Then it goes on to note that the college-educated Republicans are even less likely to believe in AGW than blue-collar ones:

    National figures provided to National Journal by Gallup combining surveys from 2011 and 2010 show that college-educated Republicans are even more likely than their non-college counterparts to reject the notion that human activity is changing the climate. 

    So how is climate change going to divide Republicans? 

  • Bill

     If Evolution hasnt split the GOP in decades, why would Climate Change split the GOP. Even if it really is a more presing issue than being bitten by a Sasquatch?

     Clutching at straws here

  • Tom C

    Mr. Kloor -

    One thing that might help these many discussions that you have thrown on the table is if you might define what “anti-science” means.  Does it mean:

    1) Thinking something true about how the physical world works by appeal to a philosophy or set of ideas not related to the scientific method.  An example of this might be claiming that a flood covered the entire earth at one point because “the Bible says so”.

    2) Thinking something true about how the physical world works because only a minority of scientists holds that view.  An example might be claiming that the universe is eternal and that there was no big bang.

    3) Thinking that invesitigation of the physical world by the scientific method is inherently immoral.  Hard to come by an example readily but there are certain persons of “New Age” persuasion who hold that Newton’s Principia was a “rape manual”.

    4) Some other definition that you have in mind.

    Please let us know which of these is your accusation against Perry.  It would help the discussion quite a lot.  Many of us posters are surly because we feel that what you really mean is “thinking something true that the scientists I like don’t think is true”.

  • jeffn

    Being “anti-science” is a hypocritical talking point. Nobody ever worries in the press about independents “recoiling” from Democrats’ anti-science mobs: the anti-nuke, anti-GM-food, “animal rights” fanatics, anti-vaccers, anarchist WTO protestors,  9-11 Truthers or worse (The Atlantic was the platform for Andrew Sullivan’s conspiracy theory that Sarah Palin isn’t the real mother of her children.)
    The attacks aren’t about Perry, anyone who looks promising in the primary will get an identical treatment. Independents are well aware of the tired old game in the press. “Look, the New York Times thinks a Republican is a dangerous extremist!” Snore.
    KK wrote to me in all seriousness: “Are you even remotely familiar with Obama’s energy policy?”
    Dude, I don’t think Obama is remotely familiar with Obama’s energy policy and if you think you are then you’re about the only one. What makes you think there is one- the CAFE standards? Please, he owns GM, the minute those affect sales, they will be ignored- just as they were in the 1990s. I think he’d vaguely love to have a big honkin carbon tax or fee, but only because he has to figure out some way to tax the hell out of the middle class to sustain these levels of spending. Nobody believes you need a carbon tax in order to switch to nukes or gas and there is no level of carbon tax that makes it possible to get your power from the Easter Bunny. That means a carbon tax isn’t now, never was a moral imperative- it was one (not very good) idea for speeding up the adoption of viable alternatives.

  • Jarmo

    #21
    the CAFE standards? Please, he owns GM, the minute those affect sales, they will be ignored- just as they were in the 1990s.

    Not necessarily. In Europe GM, Chrysler and Ford sell cars that achieve 50 mpg on the road. Since passenger cars account for 40% of US oil consumption, it is actually quite an easy way to cut your dependence on oil.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @22

    something we can agree on for a change… 

  • jeffn

    Jarmo- “easy way to cut your dependence on oil.”
    Isn’t Europe’s efficiency a function of very high gas taxes? The supporters for $3-$5 gallon gas tax in the US can be pretty much hold their meetings in a single booth at IHOP.
    Our dependence on foreign oil is being cut by discoveries in the US and Canada and dependence on oil in general will really only happen with a functional, cost-effective alternative to oil. The fact is that if you try to “cut your dependence on oil” by decreeing from Washington an arbitrary MPG to be hit by an arbitrary date it doesn’t work. In the 1990s they just gamed the system- okay, okay, no more big heavy station wagons, we’ll make Sport Utility Vehicles instead and call them a truck. This, of course, meant that while Bill Clinton and Al Gore were in office average fuel economy of vehicles on US roads actually declined.
    I predict that if nobody buys little cars we will suddenly read much more about how the bigger emissions problem is from electricity production and vehicles are a very small part of the problem (both true statements)
     

  • Jarmo

    #24

    Yes, high fuel prices created a demand for low fuel consumption, prompted engine development and EU emission regulations pushed them harder.

    Now you can have and use that technology, free of charge:)

     

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @24 :shock: Canada’s been taken over by the U.S.?

    “The fact is that if you try to “cut your dependence on oil” by decreeing from Washington an arbitrary MPG to be hit by an arbitrary date it doesn’t work.”

    Evidence suggests the opposite.  Throughout the history of the program, industry exceeded CAFE targets. 

    The reason that fleet efficiency went up in the 90s is because of the growing proportion of trucks (i.e. SUVs and minivans) AND the fact that the standard for cars was left unchanged at from 1886 onwards.

    The replacement for station wagons were minivans not SUVs.  The SUVs made in the 90s were trucks (they were built on the same ladder frames after all!) and in fact many of them were deliberately made heavier to escape the CAFE weight criteria for trucks. My personal favorite gaming example in the context of CAFE standards is the PT Cruiser which uses the floorspace provision to meet truck classification criteria…

    In terms of the new standards, it’s important to remember that they use a continuous footprint approach that forecloses many of the gaming strategies that were used in the previous standards. 

  • jeffn

    #26 – Canada is not in the middle east, which is where most of the concern about ‘dependence on foreign oil” stems from. Are you concerned about a “dependence” on Canada? I’m not. I am a bit concerned about sending money to the Saudis by the boatload.
    I see just as many soccer moms driving SUVs as minivans and they get about the same MPG, so it’s a distinction without a difference. The point remains- when families said they wanted a big vehicle to haul the kids around, they got it even tho it torpedoed the point of CAFE.
    Jarmo- thanks for the efficiency technology. They sell more BMW SUVs and big sedans here than they do hyper-efficient tiny cars though one of my favorite cars was a diesel VW rabbit that got 51 MPG in 1985. The market here is for larger vehicles so the politicians in both parties pander to it by creating then fudging the standards so that they never prevent people from buying what they want and nobody has to vote on a big tax hike for gas. This then causes activists to pretend standards really do work even when the data show they don’t.
    Marlow: why did they let the auto-makers get away with shifting from cars to light trucks in the 1990s and why didn’t they increase the standards for cars? (Jarmo- the actual answer to this is trucks have a better profit margin and in an industry choked with union labor costs those were the only things keeping the big three alive. Rep. John Dingell, D-Detroit, was the prime mover behind limiting CAFE – which you might notice is the opposite of this thread’s contention that Republicans are the source of all evil. When gas hit $4 and the recession made $60,000 cars less tenable, the big three darn near died).
     

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Well since I’m Canadian I have absolutely no problem with you sending your money here ;-)

    Remind me again where I said that Democrats were immune to industry influence?

    Now you’re right that Dingell and the big 3 effectively stalled action on CAFE standards for pretty much the last 25 years.  The political economy story around CAFE standards is interesting.  You’re also right that the big 3 (and later the Japanese and Europeans) pushed SUVs and still do because they offer higher profit margins.  However, this is true irrespective of fuel efficiency standards, so I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make.  The reason that car standards remained unchanged for so long is that the big 3′s marketing strategy for these vehicles focused on luxury and power (e.g. Buick), whereas the Japanese approach emphasized affordability and fuel economy.  Since CAFE didn’t distinguish between different segments in the ‘car’ category (i.e. compact vs full sized sedan), the Big 3 would be at a disadvantage relative to their Japanese competitors.

    In any case, given how quickly industry responded the first time round to the imposition of standards (20% improvement from 1978-1982), it stands to reason that we’ll see a lot improvement this time around as well.

     

  • Jarmo

    #27

    I was in the Bay Area in the late 80′s and a friend of mine had one of those diesel Rabbits. 

    Today’s diesels are a breed apart. I have a Toyota diesel wagon that delivers 50 mpg on highway, carries my family of 5, has 295 flb of torque and does 130 mph. Not bad for a family car. 

  • Tom C

    Mr. Kloor -

    I asked you very respectfully in post #20 above to give us your definition of “anti-science” to aid the conversations on Republicans, AGW, etc.  I think it is a reasonable request.

  • Kendra

    Just out of curiosity:

    I’m starting to realize that the epithet “anti-science” is deemed to be among the worst accusations possible. 

    Along with that realization, came the recognition that a number of my green friends could also be considered anti-science: they are against animal testing – some for all cases, some for limited cases.

    I’d really like to know how this attitude is judged by the denizens here.

     

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @31
    a fair question.

    IMO ‘anti-science’ means adopting a position that is at odds with the thinking/consensus of the scientific community on a particular issue without having suficient evidence to support that position (e.g. evolution vs intelligent design, Fred and ‘cosmic ray explains climate change’ ).

    One can be against animal science for ethical reasons without disputing the benefits that such testing provides.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    sorry the last bit should read against ‘animal testing’

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Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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