Gingrich goes green?

Andrew Sullivan

And the enviro-left blows a gasket. It seems to me that if environmentalists actually care about the planet, they should be engaging in dialogue with those who want to do the same thing, even if they differ on policy. Here you have an impeccably credentialed conservative puling the GOP to a more eco-friendly position. And they can’t hurl enough vitriol in his direction.

Global warming and peak oil are immense problems that will require planetary-wide solutions. These aren’t political issues (although they will of course have political aspects) and will require working together, not temper tantrum articles like the Grist piece Sullivan links to.

Interestingly, much of the vitriol is aimed at Gingrich for saying technological solutions are needed. For whatever reason, this proposal can meet with snarling rage from enviros who apparently don’t want technology to solve anything. Better we go back to living in caves with heat from campfires as penance for our sins, apparently. The BreakThrough Institute has proposed a 10 year program of federal funding of $30 billion a year to find clean and better sources of energy and has met with much the same hostility from enviros (and no one else.)

Sure, we need to cut back on energy use as much as possible. Do an energy audit and cut your household emissions. Ditto for businesses. But that doesn’t preclude funding technological research to find better ways of creating and using energy. The fuel cell train is a perfect example of this. It can run on waste hydrogen and has no carbon emissions. Imagine the energy savings if trains were to run on fuel cells. So, technology has much to offer here too.

And so can people from all over the political spectrum. Has Gingrich done noxious things in the past? Sure. But the simple fact that he’s written a book about finding solutions for global warming indicates a sea change on the issue coming from the Right. That means they’re discussing the issue, and thus we should discuss it with them.

Stopping global warming will require enormous resources, huge amounts of money, and millions (billions?) of people working together. It won’t be magically solved by a bunch of greenies living in yurts and scrupulously recycling. If we don’t like the pro-business, anti-government regulation solutions proposed by Gingrich (and many others) then we need to be engaged in the discussion and solutions, not banging a rattle on the high chair because someone moved into turf enviros thought their own.

  • DJ

    Excellent point! Technological solutions ARE neeeded. But that’s not an excuse to sit around and do nothing until some entrepreneur in a garage figures out how to rescue us.

    The growing consensus among scientists– first George Monbiot and now the IPCC– is that we are ALREADY at the point where irreversible damage will occur from global climate change. That means we’re now at the stage of determining how bad the damage will be– and how many lives will be lost as a result of our action or inaction.

    Every day we delay– in conservation, in carbon offsets, in new technologies– we’re condemning people to death. And most Americans aren’t even concerned enough yet to do the basics, like use CFLs instead of incandescents, unplug their TVs when not in use, and do an audit of their carbon footprint.

    I applaud all those putting global warming in our faces– because we as a nation haven’t got the message yet.

  • Wes

    I would suggest that everyone who has read this also read the exchange between the NY Time’s Andrew Revkin and Grist’s Dave Roberts. Their email discussion is posted on at both places and puts Gingrich as well as Lomborg and Shellenberger / Nordhaus in proper perspective.

  • I read the chat transcript between Revkin and Roberts. Revkin is justifying his horse race reporting. There’s a “left” and a “right” and a “center” and discourse on all issues must be framed that way. Roberts doesn’t like it but doesn’t know why, because he’s a horse race guy too. Gag me with a spoon.

    Of course people like Gingrich are writing “entrepreneurs will save us” books. That’s the official line now. The General Electric peacock has green feathers. BP is Beyond Petroleum. The public relations industry isn’t stupid. They’re experts at sampling the public mind as well as steering it. They moved from denial to greenwashing because they had to.

    The only part of the Mighty Wurlitzer that hasn’t shifted yet is the hate radio complex. The hate radio addicts are just about the only population that still can’t admit industry is forcing climate change. Hate radio’s got a problem because it’s invested its whole credibility in denial and that will take a long time to undo. But even hate radio will come around to greenwashing and entrepreneurs will save us.

  • DJ

    You might also read this 2006 piece by Andrew Sullivan on why conservation is conservative. I was raised in a traditional conservative home, where “waste not want not” was a way of life. To us, the resource-wasting, planet-be-damned neo-cons are a bizarre liberal aberration.

    Must there be a left, right, and center view? Then many of the so-called liberal environmentalists are on the conservative right. Welcome back.

  • I say, let the Right and business devise new technological fixes, let the Left live in yurts and show us how to live less wastefully, let the Middle, well, be the Middle, and adopt the new ideas and show us how and if they work.

    We’re all in this together. I agree, there’s really no Left, Middle, and Center viewpoint if, say, your town just ran out of water because of a drought. You just need a solution.

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