August 31, 2008 at 5:37AM
by Jim DiPeso
Politics had something to do with the draft Republican platform including an acknowledgment that human activities play a role in global climate change and not including a call for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The politicos decided it wouldnt be politic to adopt a platform that contradicts their presidential candidates views favoring climate legislation and opposing Arctic drilling.
The muttering was palpable. One of the platform committee members, Jeff Grossman of Oregon, said that John McCain has some catching up to do with the rest of the party on drilling the refuge.
In John McCains Navy, thats known as insubordination. An ensign who tells the admiral to get with the program will swiftly find himself reassigned to new quarters in the brig. Grossman, its you who needs to get with McCains program, not the other way around.
Despite the politics, the shift in platform language is still a noteworthy development, and testament to the power of a presidential candidate to set an agenda.
Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling has been a GOP article of faith for decades. One wonders whether Democrats would show similar deference by, say, leaving support for Roe v. Wade out of their platform if a pro-life candidate were their standard bearer.
And now that the GOP platform writers, frowns and all, have bowed to the remorseless science of global climate change, there can be no going back to the old comfort zone of denial and dithering.
Next year, regardless of whos president, a climate bill will need some Republican support to have any chance of success, even if some of the grudging lawmakers kick, scream, and leave fingernail marks on the old fossil fuel economy before casting reluctant aye votes.
And not a moment too soon. The retreat of Arctic sea ice this summer has reached what polar science experts believe could be a tipping point. The media buried the news beneath convention headlines and hoopla, but it has far greater significance.
The ice cap is the earths air conditioner. Ice-free Arctic summers will reinforce the warming trend. There are even worrisome signs of leaking methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The Arctic is chock full of methane. We depend on ice to keep it locked away from the air, where it would stoke the atmospheric heat engine.
Next year, when the political class takes a blessed respite from spin and slogans, it will be time for partisans to find a way to work together and pass a climate bill. The laws of physics take no notice of political agendas and wait for no man.