McCain: Kudos, With Some Big Fat Caveats

Last week, John McCain said a lot of stuff about how, if he becomes president, he will actually do something about climate change. The video of McCain’s speech is at youtube. The nice thing is, when John McCain says something about this issue, we can still believe him- unlike Bush, what with his laughable lip service to the problem last month.  *heavy sigh*.  But McCain’s sponsored climate bills in the Senate before, he’s got cred. His resounding break from the shilly-shallying of the current administration:

I will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears. I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges. I will not accept the same dead-end of failed diplomacy that claimed Kyoto. The United States will lead and will lead with a different approach — an approach that speaks to the interests and obligations of every nation.

First caveat: as much as McCain is trying on this issue, his proposals don’t go far enough. He wants mandatory limits on emissions, free-market trade of emissions vouchers, and lots and lots of nuclear plants. And that’s all he’s got now. Which is odd, because he gave the big speech at a wind farm, so you’d think he would have serious plans for wind. But no, he wants nuclear. Given that it’ll take years for any new nuclear plants to even get on the grid, plus we’ll still have to import nuclear fuel, that’s not going to work so well- how are we moving away from a carbon-based economy if we’re just trading carbon credits around and using the same old carbon-based energy?- plus the mandatory reductions don’t go far enough. Climate progress has a full analysis, in several parts, for the wonks out there.

But at least McCain is talking lots about this issue. So the kudos are for the talking, and making it an important part of the race- even if it hurts him with his own party.

Unfortunately for him, the second caveat is that McCain’s positions aren’t anywhere close to to the Republican consensus on climate change. As of April, Pew Research found that less than half of Republicans even believe that global warming exists– and less than a third of them think humans have anything to do with it. For Democrats, that jumps to 84% and 58% (Pew link via climateprogress). Republican belief in global warming has dropped dramatically in the past few months. McCain sure is going out on that Maverick limb again, claiming that it not only exists, but that something ought to be done about it. As indication of conservative dissent, FoxNews Junk Science section (look, they picked the title, I just cite it and giggle) opines on how dangerous McCain’s “embarrassing” speech could be to um, something. America, the economy, humanity, everything. Doooooom! I mean, I guess republicans will have to vote for him anyway given the alternative, but he’s not making them happy about it.

And the third caveat- the alternative. I sure hope that junk science expert (again, his words, not mine) doesn’t get ahold of Obama’s climate proposals, because he’d probably have a heart attack. Obama’s already outlined a much more specific and broad-based energy and climate change plan in his position papers, and gave a big speech on climate change back in October- text and video here. Back in October, he was already an also-ran, so that’s why we forgot. He’s got alternative energy, he’s got mandatory caps, he’s got renewable energy, he’s got research and commercialization funding, he’s got job programs- it’s almost climate policy paradise! Or at least it will be, when he starts talking about it again.

Barack Obama has had his hands full with the final stages of the nomination process, and he will for a few more weeks- so I’ll let him off the hook right now for not engaging McCain on climate.  But when he begins his national campaign, he needs to make a lot more noise about his energy and environment policies.

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2 Responses to “McCain: Kudos, With Some Big Fat Caveats”


  1. 1 Cameron May 21, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    I actually had a talk with Ben Rusek and some other nuclear scientists a few years ago at the International Pugwash meeting. I asked (being raised in the 1980’s cold-war anti-nuclear everything era), if nuclear energy is still a viable idea for energy. They all said that with the correct safety (non-proliferation, disposal, melt-down tech, etc) precautions, that nuclear energy is the most effective “clean” energy we have. On top of the idea that we could use the building of more power-plants to upgrade our ridiculous energy grid, “they” made it sound like a good thing!

    That all being said, any plan that doesn’t actively encourage, fund, and implement wind, hydro-electric-(sea and river currents and damns)-thermic(earth heat) energies, as well as funding alternate fuel usage, is just a pipe dream and another delay-tactic!

    The republican party might think twice about letting all their candidates drop out of the race 7 months before the action starts. McCain no longer has to make back handed and secret deals to get votes……I still don’t trust him to be Bush 3 (we are on Bush 2) in his policies….just a little smarter about they way he says things!

  2. 2 virescent May 22, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Yeah, nukes aren’t a horrible idea, and they’re certainly cleaner than oil and coal power. I’m not convinced we’ve got a good solution for disposal of nuclear waste, and building anything like the number of plants we’d need to meet significant energy demands is going to be a long, tough process- and McCain’s not really giving us anything else to work with in the meanwhile. Check out the climateprogress guy- he’s got some good reasons why nukes aren’t the wisest answer. Of course, Wired just published a lead article this month that claims they are. I’ll be doing a post on that soon, actually.

    The debate rages, and nothing’s done by the governmnet either way, blech.


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