Bobby Jindal’s Soft Climate-Change Skepticism

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wants a conservative alternative to the Affordable Care Act.
National Journal
Ben Geman
Add to Briefcase
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.

What We're Following See More »
Doesn’t Express Confidence in Marino
Trump to Declare Opioid Emergency Next Week
9 hours ago

After initially promising it in August, "President Trump said Monday that he will declare a national emergency next week to address the opioid epidemic." When asked, he also "declined to express confidence in Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), his nominee for drug czar, in the wake of revelations that the lawmaker helped steer legislation making it harder to act against giant drug companies."

Manchin Asks Trump to Drop Marino’s Nomination for Drug Czar
18 hours ago
McCaskill Will Introduce Bill in Response to “60 Minutes” Scoop
18 hours ago

In the wake of Sunday's blockbuster 60 Minutes/Washington Post report on opioid regulation and enforcement, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has introduced legislation that "would repeal a 2016 law that hampered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to regulate opioid distributors it suspects of misconduct." In a statement, McCaskill said: “Media reports indicate that this law has significantly affected the government’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are failing to meet their obligations and endangering our communities."

U.S. Military to Practice Evacuating Americans in S. Korea
19 hours ago

"The United States military said on Monday that it would practice evacuating noncombatant Americans out of South Korea in the event of war and other emergencies, as the two allies began a joint naval exercise amid heightened tensions with North Korea. The evacuation drill, known as Courageous Channel, is scheduled from next Monday through Friday and is aimed at preparing American 'service members and their families to respond to a wide range of crisis management events such as noncombatant evacuation and natural or man-made disasters,' the United States military said in a statement."

Ryan Threatens to Keep Members in Over Holidays
4 days ago

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation Thursday, Speaker Paul Ryan threatened, "We’re going to keep people here for Christmas" if tax reform doesn't get passed. He added, "I don’t care. We have to get this done." However, hopefully this won't happen. Senate is set to pass a budget resolution next week and then resolve differences with the House. Hopefully the House will pass the measure and send it to the Senate by November.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.