Good on Mitt Romney: Taking a Round-Earth Position on Climate Science

By The Intersection | June 4, 2011 5:26 pm

By Jon Winsor

On the day after his announcement of his candidacy in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney made an encouraging statement on climate science:

“I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that,” he told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire.”It’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors.”

It’s a qualified statement (“may be significant contributors”?), but we’ll take it–while also noting that many of his statements hedge a good deal more, for instance, “there have been numerous times in the earth’s history when temperatures have been warmer than they are now.” This is a statement of fact, but it’s a red herring.

But Romney’s affirming climate science, even to this extent, still endangers him as a candidate. As the National Journal writes: “Romney’s acknowledgment of man-made climate change is likely to stoke skepticism among conservatives who view him as too moderate. The view that humans are contributing to climate change is a highly controversial position within the GOP, with most conservatives fiercely disputing the notion that Earth is warming at all.”

Mitt Romney has always been an awkward national Republican candidate. A former governor of a tech-centered, educated state like Massachusetts, going national with this kind of record poses problems. He alternately has to pose like a culture warrior, explain his moderate record, and articulate policy positions that are, well, probably drafted by the types he worked with in Massachusetts. How does he do it all and look authentic? These dynamics apparently contributed to actual animosity on the campaign trail by other Republicans and their staff in 2008. (Bonus: The New Hampshire Democratic Party is selling a T-shirt parodying Romney’s policy positions.)

Despite all this, though, why should it be this hard for a candidate to simply affirm mainstream science? A good part of the answer is in the “battle of ideas” that happened since the 2008 campaign. In the ruins of the 2008 GOP loss, Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson reflected on his party’s situation:

The issues that have provided conservatives with victories in the past — particularly welfare and crime — have been rendered irrelevant by success… The issues of the moment — income stagnation, climate disruption, massive demographic shifts and health care access — seem strange, unexplored land for many in the movement.”

In a later interview on NPR: “It is going to take someone to come and give the Republican Party a new approach and populist message.”

The GOP did get a “new populism,” but not the kind Gerson looked forward to. The populism that beat out Gerson’s populism turned out to be what fellow Bush speechwriter David Frum called the “say it louder” variety– which doesn’t involve listening to scientists. Mitt Romney is bucking that populism, at least in this case–for which he deserves credit. But right on cue, Sarah Palin rolls into town, highlighting the uphill battle Romney faces in attempting to offer reality-based Republican policy…


Comments (11)

  1. Walker

    Hence guaranteeing that he will absolutely never, ever win the Republican nomination.

  2. opit

    You’ve been blogging around a couple of my favourite topics : water – especially for drinking – and climate change.

    I’ve never been worried much about being framed as a right winger…I could use a chance for a good snicker ! Likewise the idea of being a Christianist – those being the ones who ‘honour’ the alleged Jewish-sourced collection ( biblio being that ) as an icon and idol… and ignore the warning about state mandates of belief, being the story of the murder of a freethinker.

    As a doubter of the proposition that one can prove scientifically that one can usefully forecast future conditions from simplified mathematical models which ignore inconvenient uncertainties, insane complexity of ‘calculation’ of unknowns and uncertains; the ‘denier’ political muckmaking desperately promoting an untestable thesis on grounds of expediency breaks new ground in lame misrepesentation and obfuscation. ‘Denierism’ itself in fact ! And G.I.G.O. too ( Garbage In = Garbage Out ).

    Can you reliably conflate this source with the preferred political misrepresentations ?

  3. Somite

    I’m afraid this is the case. Between mormonism, his role in creating a single-payer system in Mass and this has probably earned him the derision of conservatives and the tea party.

  4. Matt B.

    Sorry to do an off-topic comment, but I couldn’t wait for something relevant. Anyway, I’m catching up on Not Exactly Rocket Science, and I think this article about overgeneralized memory that Ed Yong linked to is relevant to motivated reasoning (especially in the area of conspiracy theorists): Particularly the line “Without detailed memories to draw upon, dispelling a black mood can seem impossible. Patients may remember once having felt happy, but cannot recall specific things that contributed to their happiness, like visiting friends or a favorite restaurant.”

    Although that refers to depression, I think there’s a similar mental process going on. People may be stuck in a belief because they have a general memory of it and you can’t convince them otherwise because there are no specific memories behind that belief that you can debunk. Obviously, more-recently acquired details might be remembered specifically, but debunking those doesn’t help because they aren’t the foundation for the belief (even though they consciously think they are).

    Does that sound plausible? If yes, take it and run.

  5. Okpulot Taha

    There are two issues at play here. Discover magazine is alleged to be a pure science publication. Other issue is this global warming theory is tainted by misconduct and deceit.

    Discovery magazine should not be tinkering around in politics. National Geographic would not do this nor would Scientific American. This is true both institutes do research and report on political events which effect and affect human history and our human existence to date. However, reputable institutions involved in pure scientific research and reporting never produce biased study papers. Jon Winsor, as you know, your essay is significantly slanted to a left liberal point of view, other words, a socialist point of view. You are not following good Scientific Method nor producing a report which is completely truthful. This is shameful, this dishonors our scientific community.

    This theory of global warming is severely tainted by both misconduct and deceit amongst those alleged to be scientists of integrity who are studying this theory. No need for me to discuss falsified data, emails revealing cooperation in perpetrating deceit upon our world nor do I need to discuss documented coverups of evidence verifying misconduct amongst researchers.

    Regardless if global warming is a valid theory, simply a hoax or an overt attempt at imposing socialism on a worldwide basis, this global warming issue is forever tainted by misconduct and deceit amongst those who support this theory. More succinct, supporters of this global warming theory have no credibility. This lack of credibility does not disprove your global warming theory but does give all reason to be highly skeptical.

    Practice of good Scientific Method does not allow for bias in observation and summary reports. Pure science does not allow for misconduct and deceit. This global warming theory suffers all those distasteful notions. Skepticism is both warranted and legitimate.

    Science is to never take political positions.

    Your highly biased essay informs there still exists misconduct and deceit, and informs me to be significantly more skeptical about this global warming theory. I am dismayed, Jon Winsor, you have fallen to political rhetoric rather then adhering to scientific integrity.

    Censorship of my commentary will confirm for me global warming theorists are still engaging in misconduct, deceit and coverup.

    Okpulot Taha – Choctaw Nation

  6. TaVo

    Okpulot, you are everything that is wrong with America. You are too concerned with conspiracies and rash judgements to even get the true meaning from a simple article. It isn’t taking a political stand. Heck, it isn’t even taking a scientific stand on global warming. All it is saying is, finally a politician who has expressed looking into scientific data. That’s it. All of your fluff about conspiracies and being ‘silenced’ by the ‘man’ is a misguided, misinterpretation

  7. TTT

    The GOP is institutionally bigoted against non-evangelicals. Romney would never get the nomination regardless of his policies.

  8. Terry Emberson

    7. TTT Says:

    The GOP is institutionally bigoted against non-evangelicals. Romney would never get the nomination regardless of his policies.

    So… do you know what evangelicalism means or are you using it to mean fundamentalism?

    Neither evangelicals nor fundamentalists control the Republican Party and the last Republican to get the nomination for president was no more evangelical than Barrack Obama (in fact, probably a little less). Members of the evangelical movement in protestantism identify with the Democratic Party because of the calls in evangelicalism for social justice over commercial action. The last three Democratic presidents (but not the present one) come from religious traditions that have evangelical strains. Jimmy Carter is not only evangelical, but he’s a self-described leader of the evangelical left. The United Church of Christ, which President Obama left amid the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy, has evangelical traditions and Rev. Jeremiah Wright was educated at an evangelical seminary.

    I’m not defending evangelicalism, but just be clear in your conspiracy theories, please. They must control BOTH parties.

  9. Mitt Romney was able to tap his bailed-out banker buddies on Wall Street to the tune of 10 million dollars in one day. In fact, Romney raised 10 million dollars in one day a couple of weeks ago from well-heeled party bigwigs and Wall Street insiders, many of whom ponied up the legal maximum of $2,500 per person (or $5,000 per couple).


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