We're all poised to go green

GOP isn't

October 14, 2007|By DAN RODRICKS

As the future of the United States and the Earth gets closer - closer and closer every day, from what I see - you'd think someone in the Republican Party (besides Arnold Schwarzenegger) would be concerned about the GOP becoming irrelevant.

There is a large and growing movement toward green that most Republicans still don't seem to be picking up on, and many still dismiss, and that point could not have been clearer in the past two weeks.

The GOP's leader, President George W. Bush, skipped a United Nations summit on global warming Sept. 25, refusing again to get into the fight to improve the Kyoto Protocol and clinging to the empty, big-business-friendly idea that reductions in greenhouse gas emissions should be voluntary.

On the other hand, a leading Democrat and former vice president, Al Gore, gets a share of the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in bringing a sense of urgency to the threat of climate change.

At looks as if Gore is not running again for president - unfortunately - but he's still a Democrat, and the Nobel gives him even more influence in his party. In fact, it gives him credibility and stature beyond that of any declared candidate, and it advances the respect he has earned around the world. (Imagine that! An American leader respected among the peoples of other nations!)

Framed in the pre-primary stage of the 2008 presidential campaign, the contrast between the Gore (Democratic) approach to global warming and the Bush (Republican) non-approach could not be more striking.

This is not simply a difference of opinion.

It's a difference between relevancy and cluelessness.

One party looks like it's about the future, the other is just running in place. It's the hybrid versus internal-combustion. The Democrats, of course, enjoy this because of Gore.

If not for Gore, you have to wonder whether even the party most identified with environmental politics would be pushing global warming as 2008 draws near. Without Gore and An Inconvenient Truth, would we have seen the Waxman bill to cap greenhouse emissions in 2010 and gradually reduce emissions by 80 percent?

Maybe not.

Let's face it: Climate change scares people, makes them feel powerless. It's probably something most politicians, Democrat or Republican, would rather ignore. There are economic consequences, and it means talking about how we use too much energy and drive too much, and - you know - people just don't want to hear all that stuff. They'd rather keep their Hummers and not worry about tomorrow.

But Gore has changed that.

He's held up a lens on global warming and, surprisingly, millions of people have taken a look.

And a good number have been moved.

And a good number are now measuring political candidates by an environmental yardstick because they know that nothing - not the fine shoes they wear, not the car they drive, not the vacation they take - matters if we destroy the Earth and remain overly dependent on fossil fuels.

This nation and others are headed for a greener consciousness, a more holistic lifestyle, and there's not much that can stop that anymore.

Gore likes to profess that global warming should not be a political issue, and there are about 175 nations - those that signed the Kyoto pact - that agree.

But in this country, there isn't an issue that hasn't been politicized, and the GOP and talk radio count on that. So, we hear plenty from the junk-science crowd and those who seem to enjoy taking shots at anyone, like Gore, who gets passionate about a cause for the public good. Talk, talk, talk - that's all some people do, and most of them seem to be over on the Rush Limbaugh side of things.

They see in global warming almost nothing real and worthy of human response. In the age of talking heads, they regard the findings of an objective, lettered scientist as just another slob's opinion. To them, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is just another special-interest group.

You'd think none of those who condemn Gore had children, or that they ever think about the future and the kind of world their children and grandchildren will inherit from the SUV generation.

You'd think a conservative would be into conservation.

Whatever.

It almost no longer matters. The Gore-bashers and debunkers are on the losing side of this argument because, for growing numbers of Americans and people from other nations, there is no argument anymore. We have to change our ways, and everyone knows it, and we need leadership to show us how.

Gore and An Inconvenient Truth might provoke younger Americans to vote in greater numbers in the next presidential election, and that could be the crest of the new wave that pushes the world's last superpower to a state of greener consciousness.

What matters is when green arrives. It could be in 20 years; it could be next year. Next year would be better.

dan.rodricks@baltsun.com

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