Why is Climate Change a Partisan Issue in the United States?

March 28th, 2007

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Several people asked me to comment on this Jonathan Chait essay from the L.A. Times last week in which he sought to explain the partisan nature of the climate issue. While I think there are some elements of truth in Chait’s perspective, I think that he misses the elephant in the room.

Climate change is indeed a partisan issue. This is confirmed time and again by opinion polls, most recently this poll released last week.

Chait seeks to explain this partisanship as follows:

How did it get this way? The easy answer is that Republicans are just tools of the energy industry. It’s certainly true that many of them are. Leading global warming skeptic Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Texas), for instance, was the subject of a fascinating story in the Wall Street Journal a couple of years ago. The bottom line is that his relationship to the energy industry is as puppet relates to hand.

But the financial relationship doesn’t quite explain the entirety of GOP skepticism on global warming. For one thing, the energy industry has dramatically softened its opposition to global warming over the last year, even as Republicans have stiffened theirs.

The truth is more complicated — and more depressing: A small number of hard-core ideologues (some, but not all, industry shills) have led the thinking for the whole conservative movement.

Your typical conservative has little interest in the issue. Of course, neither does the average nonconservative. But we nonconservatives tend to defer to mainstream scientific wisdom. Conservatives defer to a tiny handful of renegade scientists who reject the overwhelming professional consensus.

National Review magazine, with its popular website, is a perfect example. It has a blog dedicated to casting doubt on global warming, or solutions to global warming, or anybody who advocates a solution. Its title is “Planet Gore.” The psychology at work here is pretty clear: Your average conservative may not know anything about climate science, but conservatives do know they hate Al Gore. So, hold up Gore as a hate figure and conservatives will let that dictate their thinking on the issue.

Chait’s suggestion that non-conservatives defer to the scientific mainstream while conservatives do not gets the cart and horse mixed up. Chait falls victim to the idea that for some people — those rational beings in the reality-based community — political perspectives flow from a fountain of facts. And if one’s entire view of the relationship of science and politics is grounded in very recent Republican-Democrat conflict it is easy to see how this perspective might be reinforced. On the very hot-button issues of climate change and the teaching of evolution, Republican political agendas require confronting current scientific consensus.

But a broader look at science and politics shows that challenges to a current scientific consensus occurs across the ideological spectrum. Consider genetically modified agricultural products and the European Union. The EU has strongly opposed these products for political and cultural reasons (sound familiar?) in the face of a scientific consensus that indicates little risks. Consider also smoking, where a robust scientific consensus exists, yet far more people smoke in left-leaning Europe than in the United States. When I testified before Congress last February I pointed out that the Democrats organizing the hearing had decided not to invoke a recent consensus statement on hurricanes and global warming in favor of relying on a few selected studies most convenient to their political agenda. The reality is that we all filter facts through our pre-existing values and biases, and each of use is perfectly capable of ignoring or selectively interpreting facts as is convenient. Those who stubbornly refuse to accept the previous sentence would be a good example of these dynamics.

The blindingly obvious and somewhat banal answer to the question why climate change is a partisan issue is that climate change is a partisan issue because it has evolved as a partisan issue. The fact that at some point the issue took on partisan characteristics has led to a reinforcement of the partisanship. The important question to ask is how it is that climate change became a partisan issue. There are several answers to this question.

1. George W. Bush. Everything George Bush touches becomes a partisan issue (and seems to break). George Bush squandered an opportunity to become a great president in the aftermath of 9/11 and instead will be remembered as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. In this context, his early-2001 decision to unceremoniously abandon the Kyoto process and flip the bird at Europe more than anything fed the partisan nature of the climate debate. In the 1992 presidential election climate change first became a high-level partisan issue as Al Gore and George H. W. Bush used the issue to score political points, with GHWB calling Gore “ozone man” and promising to counter the greenhouse effect with the “White House effect.” Of course the deeper history, back to the 1970s, involves the Republicans as the party of the extractive resources industries and the Democrats as the party of alternative energy. These debates conveniently mapped right onto the 1980s emergence of climate change as Dan Sarewitz and I documented in 2000 in the Atlantic Monthly. Of course, if one were to go back to the 1950s and 1960s these partisan roles were somewhat reversed, as Frank Laird documents in his excellent book on the history of solar energy.

2. Al Gore. Long before George W. Bush was in politics Al Gore was in the business of politicizing the climate issue. I have no doubt that he feels strongly about climate change, but his actions for several decades bely his oft-stated claim that climate change is not a partisan issue. Today Al Gore’s leadership on this issue is by its very nature a partisan issue:

Appearing before a Congressional Committee, Gore said that Global Warming is “not a partisan issue; it’s a moral issue.” However, polling data suggests that among the general public it’s a very partisan issue. By a 65% to 9% margin, Democrats say that Gore knows what he’s talking about. By a 57% to 11%, Republicans say he does not. Those not affiliated with either party are evenly divided.

So long as the main protagonists in the U.S. climate issue are the opponents from the overwhelmingly partisan 2000 presidential election, how in the world can the climate issue be anything other than partisan?

3. The Chorus. Given the dynamics described above, it is entirely natural that the climate debate attracts participants ranging from experts to the lay public, who together I call the chorus. And people are attracted to the issue because of its partisan nature, and the nature of blogs and media coverage amplify the voice of the chorus. And in turn the chorus reinforces the partisan nature of the debate through several forms of dynamics.

First, climate change is a perfect issue for the scientization of politics. This refers to the tendency to characterize political debates in terms of technical disputes — remember the Hockey Stick? There is an endless supply of climate science to debate and discuss and always the presence of irritating skeptics who challenge the current consensus (see discussion at RealClimate). This situation elevates the authority of subject matter experts in political debates, which makes it appealing for some experts, but also inevitably politicizes the expert community as they self-segregate according to political perspectives.

Second, self-segregation is not unique to experts. A short tour around the web reveals the truth of Cass Sunstein’s notion of internet-based “echo chambers” in which people talk only with those who share their views and lambaste as evil subhumans those who they disagree with. It is a rare discussion on climate change that involves a thoughtful exchange of ideas from people who hold fundamentally different political views. The self-segregation has the effect of increasing the partisan nature of the debate as people come to believe more strongly of the absolute truth in their views and the absolute lack of morals in their opponents.

Third, forced segregation. For those who do not fit easily into the partisan nature of the climate debate, partisans go to great effort to force these perspectives into a partisan framework. For instance, here at Prometheus we’ve consistently advanced views on climate policy (held long before George Bush came around) that emphasize the importance of adaptation and immediate, no-regrets mitigation to occur in parallel (see my 2006 Congressional testimony for the full spiel), and we’ve experienced a steady effort by some to frame our views as “right-leaning” simply because they are not “left-leaning.” The repeated attacks on us from the environmental Gristmill blog are a case in point, despite the fact that there appears to be an enormous substantive agreement in our views. Of course, if the political right actually accepted the views on policy that we have been advocating then those on the political left would probably be rejoicing! On the climate issue, because the chorus has little stomach for perspectives that deviate in any sense from the partisan framing, it is any surprise that the partisan framing dominates?

The bottom line is that climate change is a partisan issue. It will likely remain so in the United States for a long time. Political action will happen nonetheless simply because the Democrats have succeeded in making it a political issue during a time of their ascendancy. If Al Gore runs for president, as I suspect he will, it will further increase the partisan nature of the debate. To the extent that Democrats continue to raise expectations that climate change is central to their agenda, action will inevitably occur. Republicans will eventually accept that action will occur and will do the best to use it as a vehicle to advance their own interests, as typically occurs in all political situations. For those interested in effective policy action, as opposed to scoring political points real or symbolic, there will be a continuing need to keep a focus on policy options and their likely consequences. Die hard partisans will do there best to make that task difficult as discussion of options requires the sort of nuance not present in political horse races.

Soon climate politics in the United States will come to resemble the current dynamics in the EU, in which the issues will be messier and more complicated. When that occurs, like old Cold Warriors the climate partisans will long for the days of good guys and bad guys, and will likely hang on too long to the past.

25 Responses to “Why is Climate Change a Partisan Issue in the United States?”

  1. Daublin Says:

    Indeed, I tend to wonder if there is anything non-political about climate change efforts. I am surprised that environmentalists throw in with Kyoto and Gore and the like when they are not good at finding real solutions to real problems. Perhaps they guess they hope that practical success will follow if they start with political power, but I wonder that there is not more grumbling about the leaders wielding that power.


    On a broader note, you leave out the Kyoto efforts, which happened at a time when proponents of the European Project were looking for an issue that unites Europeans and separates them from Americans. Climate change response was overwhelmingly political well before GW Bush came to power. I do not know why people leave this out so frequently — it has become a staple of the Democratic party that they themselves want Americans to be more European.

    On a lesser note, it is a little unfair to say that GW Bush dropped Kyoto, when Clinton and Gore (!) preceded him in doing so. Let us remember that Gore negotiated an international treaty that went against a 95-0 vote in the Senate.


    It is fascinating that Gore negotiated and even SIGNED something that he knew was unacceptable to Americans. Among other aspects, it shows that GW Bush is certainly not the first high-level executive to be anti-Kyoto — it runs deep, and it started before he came in.

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  3. kevin v Says:

    “If Al Gore runs for president, as I suspect he will, it will further increase the partisan nature of the debate.”

    I’m not so sure, if only for this reason: the R candidate will be forced to discuss the issue in depth and detail and while the fight over the policy details will somehow (of course) become partisan, both side will be arguing from the side of constructive, proactive policy. No longer will the debate be over doing something vs. doing nothing and that is a significant change in the partisan nature of the debate.

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  5. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    Kevin- Agreed, and if so the EUization of US climate politics will be complete.

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  7. Bill F Says:

    I think the partisan divide also comes about in the way people view the role of government, and to some degree mankind. Democrats in general seem to welcome a much larger role for government in solving any given problem, whereas republicans tend to believe individuals should take responsibility and do things for themselves or rely on market forces to handle them. This plays out in the form of one side saying “we believe that this is a big problem and government should act now to fix it”, while the other says “we aren’t convinced it is a big problem …and if it is, we distrust government to provide the right solution and will instead adapt to it or let the free market select the best solution”.

    It doesn’t matter if it is health insurance or global warming…that same set of underlying beliefs is a pretty common thread in the arguments of both sides. You are correct in that the partisanship gets amplified by who carries the torch for both sides and how they present their case, but the underlying disagreement in most of these cases can be traced back to a fundamental disagreement as to whether government or the free market is the best provider of solutions to our problems.

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  9. Paul Higgins Says:

    It’s worth keeping in mind that:

    1) Over the last few years John McCain has been one of the most engaged politicians on climate change legislation

    2) Conservatives in the UK don’t seem to view climate science with the same skepticism as many republicans

    3) Agreement on what we know and understand (science in this case) doesn’t imply agreement on policy choices.

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  11. tom Says:

    Roger could you clarify this statement you made..

    “There is an endless supply of climate science to debate and discuss and always the presence of irritating skeptics who challenge the current consensus (see discussion at RealClimate). ”

    Do you think anybody who challenges the consensus is an annoying skeptic???

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  13. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    Tom- Thanks, in some circles anyone who challenges the consensus view is indeed treated as as an irritating skeptic, or worse. So that comment was a bit tongue-in-cheek ;-) The reality is that science advances best when challenged, irritating or not.

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  15. Anthony Cagle Says:

    In this context, his [GWB's] early-2001 decision to unceremoniously abandon the Kyoto process and flip the bird at Europe more than anything fed the partisan nature of the climate debate.

    This is simply not the case. Bush never ‘abandoned’ Kyoto because the US never adopted it. Gore signed it, Clinton completely ignored it because the Senate voted unanimously to ignore it, and Bush simply stated outright that the US was not going to adopt it. This bit of partisan screed of your own rather weakens your argument in that regard.

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  17. bpbatista Says:

    This is a partisan issue because Al Gore and his acolytes are attempting to shut off all debate on the issue, are demonizing those who disagree with them as the equivalent of Holocaust deniers, and are attempting to enact a radical socialist agenda under the guise of combating “Global Warming”. Remember, “The green tree has red roots.”

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  19. Anthony Cagle Says:

    Oops. That first paragraph above should be in quotes.

    BTW, to add something to the above, while Dr. Pielke did say it as “the Kyoto *process*” and not “Kyoto” itself, I don’t believe even this is adequate. A 95-0 vote doesn’t seem to me to be negotiable at any realistic future time. I think it is abundantly clear that the Senate would simply never ratify Kyoto if India and China were not on board as well, and even then it would be a tough sell. They know as well as anyone that Kyoto would hamstring our economy with absolutely no measurable impact on warming.

    Well, they all know it, but most, I think, would not ignore that fact and vote to ratify it anyway. . . .

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  21. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    Anthony- Thanks for your comments, I do indeed equate “Bush simply stated outright that the US was not going to adopt it” with “flipping the bird” (and appreciate your later distinction about the process as this is really the key, it is one thing to say that you disagree another thing altogether to say that you won’t even discuss) — either Bush knew how his actions would be received in Europe and did not care or he was ignorant and did not care. Neither seems particularly defensible regardless of ones political leanings or views on climate policy.

    I agree that Clinton/Gore climate policies were substantively very similar to Bush’s, the point I am making here is about diplomacy and its resulting effects on partisanship.


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  23. Russell Seitz Says:

    Interesting piece, and its treatment of self segregation deserves to be widely reprinted . Yet it neglects the memorablerefusal of one Echt Conservative Republican to humor the echt Contrarians of his day — Ronald Wilson Reagan flipped the bird at S.Fred Singer by up and signing the Montreal Convention.

    One wonders how Iain Murray of CEI , having exhorted his Planet Gore audience to read your piece through to the end , intends to get the Editors of National Review to start at the beginning?

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  25. TokyoTom Says:

    Roger, thanks for this very perceptive and informative post.

    I do think that various aspects of human cognition are playing key roles, as I have noted before. We are cognitive misers, and subconsciously filter out and minimize information that would otherwise create cognitive dissonance. We are also extremely tribal, which tends to black-white views, suspicion and hostility – and if the atmosphere is charged then even fence-sitters had better watch out! Of course we CAN change our minds, but a key problem here is that individually we have a hard time directly confirming or denying climate change through our own sensory experience of the world. It is a well-known phenomenon that the more the information tends to challenge our views, the stronger we struggle to defend to defend them. This “eeping an open mind” is essential, even while unattainable.

    But allow me to stress two aspects that deserve greater emphasis. First, you mention the “deeper history” of “the Republicans as the party of the extractive resources industries and the Democrats as the party of alternative energy”, but fail to note that this played a dominant role during the Bush administration/Republican party, which deliberately aligned its policies with the fossil fuels industry (Luntz memo etc.) and took an aggressive partisan approach in attacking both AGW science (viz. “uncertainty”) and the motivations of “enviros”, Dems and the EU/UN. Why? Mainly because of an extremely close relationship with this industry (oil and coal) and because they considered it to their political advantage to do so – the us vs. them (on other issues as well, from Islamofasicts to gays) mentality worked really great for quite some time. (Now we need to start cooling down and walking away from this, but payback is just so hard to resist, isn’t it?)

    A related point is that of course no political side has entirely clean hands, and there is constant pressure on politicians to provide benefits to special interests, especially when those interests are powerful and those with their hands on the spigots are relatively unchecked and think they can get away with disposing lucre in a fashion that benefits them as well. Sound familiar? That’s the main reason why our Founding Fathers were concerned about keeping government small and setting up alot of checks and balances. The temptations are just too great when the “checks and balances” are powerless, silent or in cahoots.

    It’s clear that the Republicans had a good ride, but that it’s coming to an end. Exxon has publicly endorsed the IPCC and is advocating action. But unless we are careful, we may end up with ineffective policies that simply provide alot of pork barrel to another set of pigs (and maybe some of the same). As Dems won in November, suddenly a whole other set of industry captains are coming out of the woodwork to support policies that will benefit THEIR bottom line and handicap their competitors.

    Accordingly, while we should, as you urge, “keep a focus on policy options and their likely consequences”, we should not let all of this devolve into more pork. In fact, there are ALOT of “no regrets” policies that ideologues from all sides can support that cost NO MONEY or very little, but take political courage – they involve eliminating the billions in subsidies that we give to fossil fuels. To the extent that we need to put a price on CO2 emissions we should try to do so explicitly, so we can avoid the urge to pour out the Treasury on porrly-thought our pork barrel for more favored special interests. And much of the adaptation agenda also involves cutting back subsidies that may be politically attractive but in the long run are dangerous.

    I hope you will keep an eye on this point about how politicians are frequently involved in aiding and abetting the misuse of government – even while I agree with Exxon that action on climate change is now warranted.

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  27. Brock Says:

    I appreciate the piece, however, I believe the comment that GWB will go down as one of the worst Presidents in U.S. history is simply incorrect. His handling of the economy alone deserves recognition. And we should not dismiss his handling of 9-11 and the immediate aftermath was outstanding. His education plan leaves something to be desired, along with his perscription drug policies, however, said decisions were made with broad, albeit hollow bipartisan support. The War on terror has had its problems, but what historian can make the honest argument that anyone else would have handled it differently given the circumstances.
    As for the claim that Bush somehow mishandled the “abandoning” of Kyoto only demostrates a bias of the author. GWB made a decision, which as the majority of the country agrees, was the right decision. Perhaps he could have made his decision along with a spoonfull of sugar for Europe, but can anyone honestly argue that the sugar would have made a substantial difference in the outcome.

    To make the claim that GWB is one of the worst Presidents in U.S. history, requires that facts be ignored and requires a negative spin on most of his decisions. That being said, I have no beef in calling GWB one of the worst politicians ever to be President. I dispure hether that equates to being a bad President.

    Thank you for your post.

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  29. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    Brock- Thanks. You are absolutely correct that my evaluation of Mr. Bush is a judgment call, and reasonable people will disagree on that. In my opinion, spoonfuls of sugar are often underrated in politics. Thanks!

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  31. Mark UK Says:

    An irritating skeptic is not somebody who legimetely questions science and a specific theory. However, the climate change debate in particular has attracted many “skeptics”, people just repeating already refuted ideas or just trying to distort the science. It’s a shame they manage to get so much attention as the whole field of climate science has plenty to debate on a proper scientific level…

    Then there is this:

    “Democrats and Republicans alike are adept at making decisions without letting the facts get in the way, a new study shows.

    And they get quite a rush from ignoring information that’s contrary to their point of view.”

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  33. Jeff Carlson Says:

    The “Greens” have more blood on their hands from pushing bad science (the DDT Ban) that Hitler, Stalin or Mao … Until the enviromental movement can be honest about their abject failures in the past that have caused and continue to cause immense human suffering I will continue to treat the AGW movement as yet another con job to try and destroy capitalism.

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  35. Mark UK Says:


    Your post is an excellent example of rational reasoning and logical thought… Anyway, here’s some reading material on this ever continuing DDT myth being spouted:


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  37. Will Howard Says:

    Proponents and opponents of fossil-fuel emissions limitations should beware of a philosophical pitfall: the assumption that settling the scientific issues will make any particular policy step inevitable.

    Some in the pro-Kyoto camp labor under the implicit premise that if only policymakers and society at large could be convinced that global warming is real and due to human action, the Kyoto Protocol would be universally ratified and put into action. I’m critical of Gore, for example, for pushing this premise.

    What I think Gore omits from his rhetoric (though as a politician he can hardly be unaware) is that climate science is not the only – and indeed may not be the most important – factor driving energy and carbon-emissions policy, and Kyoto is not the only possible carbon limitation scheme. Many “solutions” to global warming, such as nuclear power, carry environmental risks of their own.

    Dr. Pielke is quite right to point out that collectively and individually we make many choices in the face of science, not because of it. If science dictated action, no one in the world would smoke.

    Similarly, many opponents of limitations on fossil fuel emissions seem intent on discrediting the science of global warming as a way of forestalling action. But there are other, more immediate reasons to cut back our dependence on fossil fuels, and these rationales have much more certain science behind them. Examples include local and regional pollution which pose a public health risk. Aside from environmental risks, let’s not forget the geopolitical and economic risk posed by dependence on fossil fuels.

    For those who oppose steps to reduce fossil-fuel emissions, global warming may be the perfect issue. The uncertainties of impacts, and long time frames, make global warming an easy target for economic arguments for doing nothing. After all, the costs of many mitigation steps are easier to estimate than the costs of adaptation to still-uncertain impacts.

    By making global warming the only issue in the fossil-fuels debate, environmentalists and “Green” ideologues may be unnecessarily and counterproductively limiting the scope of the argument and narrowing policy choices.

    So I think we have to separate the scientific assessment of global warming from the policy response. If the science answers the detection-and-attribution question in the affirmative, what, if anything, should we do about it? Well one perfectly valid policy response is to do nothing. Keep going the way we’re going and deal with the consequences later. Personally I think doing absolutely nothing would be a mistake, and I agree with Dr. Pielke that we have many “no-regrets” mitigation strategies available.

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  39. koolchg Says:

    Roger, if I have given you too much credit for providing a balanced view on the question “Why is Climate Change a Partisan Issue in the United States?” please let me know. Allow me to explain.

    When I read the following…
    “1. George W. Bush. Everything George Bush touches becomes a partisan issue (and seems to break). George Bush squandered an opportunity to become a great president in the aftermath of 9/11 and instead will be remembered as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. In this context…”

    My interpretation was simply this…
    In order to understand the partisan nature of climate change, it is first necessary to understand the “context” in which George W. Bush is viewed by his critics. Namely that everything he touches “becomes a partisan issue” and he will be remembered as “one of the worst presidents in U.S. history.” In this “context”, any position taken by George W. Bush transforms the issue into a “partisan” one and since his status in history has been predetermined, he must be on the wrong side of the issue. Thus, the initial groundwork for “why” this is a partisan issue has been posited.

    However, I was disappointed to read this from the comment section…
    “You are absolutely correct that my evaluation of Mr. Bush is a judgment call…”

    As the climate change debate has piqued my interest of late, I have been increasingly amazed at the vitriolic exchanges on the subject. I am evermore skeptical of authors who interlace reasonable discourse with such indefensible statements as those quoted above. Alas, it appears as though my initial interpretation was incorrect and this is nothing more than your personal assessment of Mr. Bush. Such bias seems to do more to encourage the “echo chambers” within the “chorus” instead of creating an environment of meaningful debate.

    I am a first time reader of your material and my initial question was largely rhetorical. However, to those who use the statement that Mr. Bush “will be remembered as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history” let me add the following comments.

    - At least use “may be remembered…”; use of “will” implies precognition of which you can formulate your own opinion.
    - It is certainly possible to establish a “worst presidency” measurement. Questions like… What criteria are used to evaluate each presidency? Who establishes said criteria? How does each criterion combine to determine an overall rating? etc. would need to be answered in order to rank each presidency.

    My point is this… until you can “show your work”, like elementary teachers tell students, the statement rings hollow. And at least to me, this serves as an indication that… your bias is showing.

    I did enjoy reading your post,
    Best regards…

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  41. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    koolchg- Thanks for visiting and thanks for your thoughtful comments. Around here we try hard to be fair, but we also believe strongly in letting biases show .. it beats the alternative. Thanks!

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  43. Chris Mooney Says:

    Great post, Roger, but watch out. With sentences like this–”On the very hot-button issues of climate change and the teaching of evolution, Republican political agendas require confronting current scientific consensus”–it almost sounds like you’re buying into the Republican War on Science thesis (wink).

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  45. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    Thanks Chris … almost!

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  47. hank Says:

    So — what was different when the Montreal Protocol was implemented? And why is it still different?

    Seriously — this ought to be the subject matter of political science. The CFC problem was addressed. The lead and tobacco problems were addressed with half a century of more of delay. The fossil fuel problem is being thrashed over.

    What’s the difference in the way politics handles these?

    Add in say antibiotic use in agriculture, comparing the EU with the USA. Add in say the use of radium in patent medicine, for an opposite extreme.

    What factors make the difference?

    And why is the US currently urging modification of it to _strengthen_ it, shorten the time for phasing out the HCFCs and reduce the problem further?

    Seriously — the same sort of attacks were being made on the science. Was it the Nobel Prize award, perhaps, that ended them?


    “The Montreal Protocol for the ozone layer is clearly a success story,” says Dr. Guus Velders, a senior scientist specializing in climate change and ozone depletion at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and lead author of a research paper that calculated the benefits.

    The paper, being published this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that international treaties to deal with environmental problems can be successful and that the implementation of the Montreal Protocol has bought more time for dealing with climate change.

    “It clearly shows that things are possible in a global treaty,” Dr. Velders said. “We gained about 10 years for climate change.”


    While the Montreal Protocol has already made tremendous strides to heal the ozone shield, the United States believes more steps can be taken to reduce HCFC consumption further and achieve a total phaseout sooner than the scheduled dates. Based on analysis, experience, and more rapid technology development, the U.S. technical team believes we can move faster by as much as ten years.

    The U.S. Continues Its Strong Leadership In Ozone Layer Protection. Since the Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987, the U.S. has achieved a 90 percent reduction in the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances ending the production and import of over 1.7 billion pounds per year of these chemicals. Faster healing of the ozone layer will help prevent human health damages caused by excess UV radiation, including skin cancer.

    U.S. Actions Under The Current Montreal Protocol And Clean Air Act Requirements Have Also Helped Protect Against Climate Change. Ozone-depleting substances particularly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are damaging to the Earth’s climate system. In 2005, the U.S. reduced annual emissions of ozone-depleting substances by 1,500 million CO2-equivalent metric tons per year. U.S. actions achieved a cumulative emissions reduction of about 13,000 million CO2-equivalent metric tons from 1987-2005 (not accounting for some offset from the influence of ozone depletion on the climate). Worldwide, The Montreal Protocol Has Cut In Half The Amount Of Global Warming Caused By Ozone-Destroying Chemicals That Would Have Occurred By 2010 Had These Chemicals Not Been Controlled.

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  49. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    Hank- Thanks, we tried to address the lessons of the ozone case here:

    Pielke, Jr., R. A., and M. M. Betsill, 1997: Policy for Science for Policy: Ozone Depletion and Acid Rain Revisited. Research Policy, 26, 157-168.