Politics of climate change still unsettled

Massachusetts is one of the greenest states in the nation, but even here the politics of climate change is unsettled.

Scott Brown voted for a regional carbon cap-and-trade system as a state senator, but in his successful run for the US Senate he balked at the potential cost of a national cap-and-trade initiative and said he didn’t know whether climate change was caused by man or whether it just happens naturally. (For details, click here and here.)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker is following a similar script. He told an audience last week that the country needs to reduce its reliance on foreign oil but said he wasn’t sure whether climate change was man-made or not.

“I absolutely am not smart enough to believe I know the answer to that question,” he told the Globe.

This climate-change skepticism on the part of Massachusetts Republicans is surfacing even as many local officials say the debate is over. Kerry Emanuel, a respected MIT scientist, wrote in this weekend’s Globe  that “theory, actual observations of the planet, and complex models — however imperfect each is in isolation — all point to ongoing, potentially dangerous human alteration of climate.”

The normally secretive Barr Foundation went public over the weekend with a plan to invest $50 million over the next five years to help make metro Boston a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preventing catastrophic climate change.   “If we fail to address climate change aggressively in the next five years, the consequences will be devastating to everything else we care about,” said Patricia Brandes, the foundation’s executive director, in a statement.

From Markey website:http://markey.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1&Itemid=2At a climate change conference in Boston last week, US Rep. Edward Markey (photo at right), co-author of the carbon cap-and-trade bill pending in Congress, said the country needed to address its heavy reliance on fossil fuels to boost the economy, improve national security, and save the planet.

“The planet is running a fever,” he said, pointing to the presence of snow in Dallas and the lack of snow in Vancouver, which is playing host to the Olympics. “There are no emergency rooms for planets so we have to engage in preventative care.”

Markey chided former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin for her views on climate change, but he never mentioned that Brown and Baker have adopted similar positions.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

After his speech, Markey was asked what he thought of the comments by Brown and Baker. His response was strangely muted. He said he hadn’t talked to Brown about his stance and made clear he had no interest in bashing either Brown or Baker for their statements. He did promise to make information on climate change available to everyone in the Massachusetts congressional delegation.

“I have great confidence in the science,” he said.