Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has garnered attention lately for refusing to back down on climate change. He recently told a town hall meeting in Manchester New Hampshire: “I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that. It’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors.”
I’m relieved that at least one GOP candidate for president is willing to accept the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. But I am disheartened that he has yet to offer any solutions to meaningfully address the problem. And, I can’t help but feel saddened by the flurry of chatter about Romney’s position.
Has climate denial become so routine nowadays that any candidate who acknowledges the facts makes headlines?
In this phase of the presidential election cycle, candidates are jostling over which political strategies will best fix our government’s problems. I expect to see disagreement over policy solutions, but opting out of the facts shouldn’t be an option. It’s one thing to fight over how to fix Medicare. It’s another thing to decide that tumor growth, the evaporation cycle, or other physical phenomena do not exist.
Against this backdrop of denial, Romney looks like a clear-eyed savant.
Of course, he has his own political reasons for sticking to the facts. He doesn’t want to be tagged with the dreaded “flip flopper” label that hovers around him. And he astutely believes that his reasoned stance on climate change will appeal to the majority of voters who value science and want to protect their children from an altered climate.
Romney thinks acknowledging climate change is enough. That is only the beginning. I want to know what he and all our elected officials are going to do to stop the climate crisis.
Romney says he doesn’t believe cap and trade is the answer. This surprises me, considering cap and trade is a Republican-crafted approach first promoted by President George Bush to address acid rain that relies on free markets to drive down the cost of reducing pollution. One would think that a man who built his fortune in the private sector would appreciate a market-driven solution.
But like other fence sitters, Romney would like to play it both ways: acknowledge that climate change exists but don’t actually try to fix it.
That isn’t leadership. Belief without the determination to act is cowardly. What if President Roosevelt said the economic realities of the Depression were grim, but failed to take steps to get America out of it? What if President Reagan had said the Soviet Union was a threat to democracy but hadn’t done anything to deter it?
America needs presidents who don’t just name a problem, but actually solve it. To be considered a serious contender for environmental voters, he needs to propose solutions.