Sherwood Boehlert is a hero of science policy, and I know he has the best of intentions. The longtime moderate Republican from upstate New York did an oped in the Post on Friday calling on his party to rethink its increasingly monolithic rejection of modern climate science. Bless him for that:
There is a natural aversion to more government regulation. But that should be included in the debate about how to respond to climate change, not as an excuse to deny the problem’s existence. The current practice of disparaging the science and the scientists only clouds our understanding and delays a solution.
This is absolutely right. But unfortunately, Boehlert derails it all at the end, when he invokes the memory of Ronald Reagan in calling for a more science-friendly Republicanism:
What is happening to the party of Ronald Reagan? He embraced scientific understanding of the environment and pollution and was proud of his role in helping to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals. That was smart policy and smart politics. Most important, unlike many who profess to be his followers, Reagan didn’t deny the existence of global environmental problems but instead found ways to address them.
Boehlert should consult my book The Republican War on Science, where I show how Reagan and his administration were the starting point for the very anti-science tendencies that are now so prevalent in the GOP, and of such concern to Boehlert. Reagan and his administration crossed the line on countless scientific issues, including acid rain, Star Wars, evolution/creationism, and much more.
What Boehlert should have asked is, “What is happening to the party of Eisenhower?” Still, it is heartening to see Republicans like Boehlert standing up for science on issues like climate change–we need as many as we can get.