Bobby Jindal’s Soft Climate-Change Skepticism

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wants a conservative alternative to the Affordable Care Act.
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Sept. 16, 2014, 11:31 a.m.

If Louisi­ana Gov. Bobby Jin­dal wants to be the next pres­id­ent, he faces a del­ic­ate polit­ic­al task in ar­tic­u­lat­ing his po­s­i­tion on cli­mate change.

On one end, en­dors­ing the sci­entif­ic con­sensus that hu­man activ­ity is the main driver of re­cent cli­mate change would be a haz­ard­ous move if he in­tends to nav­ig­ate a Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial primary.

But re­ject­ing any con­nec­tion between the two would pose its own chal­lenges if he tries to win over mod­er­ates in a na­tion­wide elec­tion, hand­ing his op­pon­ents fod­der to la­bel him as “anti-sci­ence.”

So where is Jin­dal? He’s stak­ing out ter­rain that could help in­ocu­late him from lib­er­als’ al­leg­a­tions of out­right “deni­al,” yet re­mains out­side the sci­entif­ic main­stream. He doesn’t re­ject a con­nec­tion between hu­man activ­ity and cli­mate change. But Jin­dal says that the de­gree of that con­nec­tion is un­known.

Here’s part of the cli­mate sec­tion in a new en­ergy policy pa­per that Jin­dal re­leased Tues­day through his Amer­ica Next ad­vocacy group:

“Nobody dis­putes that the cli­mate is al­ways chan­ging. The ques­tion is what is the role of hu­mans in that change—and what, if any, dangers that change presents for Amer­ic­ans.

“However, the highly politi­cized nature of this de­bate has taken real, prac­tic­al solu­tions to ad­dress po­ten­tial cli­mate risks off the table.”

And ac­cord­ing to the Los Angeles Times, Jin­dal told re­port­ers at a Chris­ti­an Sci­ence Mon­it­or-hos­ted break­fast Tues­day that he be­lieves hu­mans are caus­ing some amount of cli­mate change but “the real ques­tion is how much.”

But that fram­ing, which casts the role of hu­man-in­duced emis­sions as an open ques­tion, doesn’t line up es­pe­cially well with ma­jor sci­entif­ic re­ports and pro­fes­sion­al so­ci­et­ies.

Con­sider this year’s jointly re­leased ex­plain­er on cli­mate change from the U.S. Na­tion­al Academy of Sci­ences and the Roy­al So­ci­ety, a ma­jor Brit­ish sci­entif­ic body. “Sci­ent­ists know that re­cent cli­mate change is largely caused by hu­man activ­it­ies from an un­der­stand­ing of ba­sic phys­ics, com­par­ing ob­ser­va­tions with mod­els, and fin­ger­print­ing the de­tailed pat­terns of cli­mate change caused by dif­fer­ent hu­man and nat­ur­al in­flu­ences.”

The Amer­ic­an Met­eor­o­lo­gic­al So­ci­ety states: “It is clear from ex­tens­ive sci­entif­ic evid­ence that the dom­in­ant cause of the rap­id change in cli­mate of the past half cen­tury is hu­man-in­duced in­creases in the amount of at­mo­spher­ic green­house gases.”

The United Na­tions’ In­ter­gov­ern­ment­al Pan­el on Cli­mate Change, in the first piece of a massive re­port re­leased in stages over the last year, con­cluded: “It is ex­tremely likely that hu­man in­flu­ence has been the dom­in­ant cause of the ob­served warm­ing since the mid-20th cen­tury.” (“Ex­tremely likely” in their par­lance means at least a 95 per­cent chance.) The U.N. and oth­er bod­ies say cli­mate change has already be­gun tak­ing a toll world­wide.

Still, Jin­dal’s stance ap­pears to put him to the left of Sen. Ted Cruz, an­oth­er pos­sible White House con­tender, who has been more dis­missive of cli­mate con­cerns.

Jin­dal’s plan would block En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency car­bon-emis­sions rules that he al­leges would be eco­nom­ic­ally stifling and more broadly says the U.S. should avoid “uni­lat­er­al steps” that put the na­tion at a dis­ad­vant­age with trad­ing part­ners.

The plan does, however, of­fer sup­port for green en­ergy R&D to help ad­dress “pos­sible risks” of cli­mate, bet­ter forest man­age­ment to re­duce fires and some oth­er steps. He also calls for the U.S to walk away from the United Na­tions-hos­ted talks aimed at craft­ing a glob­al cli­mate pact, while pre­par­ing for a “real­ist­ic” pro­cess of fu­ture talks with ma­jor eco­nom­ies.

“We can take simple steps to ad­dress the pos­sible risks of cli­mate change but in con­cert with oth­er ma­jor eco­nom­ies,” he said Tues­day in re­marks at the con­ser­vat­ive Her­it­age Found­a­tion.

If Jin­dal is less dis­missive of dan­ger­ous, hu­man-in­duced cli­mate change than some oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans, he’s ced­ing little ground when it comes to bash­ing en­vir­on­ment­al­ists. “For most rad­ic­al en­vir­on­ment­al­ists, their re­sponse to any ques­tion­ing of their views on cli­mate change is simply to yell, ‘Heretic!’ ” the new pa­per states.

At Her­it­age, Jin­dal said that cli­mate change is a “Tro­jan horse” for the Left’s plans to try and re­shape the eco­nomy and people’s lives to their lik­ing. “It’s an ex­cuse for the gov­ern­ment to come in and tell us what kind of homes we live in, what kind of cars we drive, what kind of life­styles we can en­joy,” he said.

The policy pa­per con­tains a suite of policy ideas, many of them fa­mil­i­ar in GOP circles, such as ex­pand­ing areas avail­able for drilling, ap­prov­ing the Key­stone XL pipeline, and rolling back fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions.

“We truly can be an en­ergy su­per­power, we can truly har­vest our en­ergy re­sources grow our en­ergy re­sources to su­per­charge our eco­nomy,” Jin­dal said.

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