John McCain visited a wind technology plant in Portland Monday to tell the world that America wouldnt fritter away another eight years before confronting global climate change.
Its a message that the world needs to hear, from the halls of Congress in Washington to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. At Republicans for Environmental Protection, we thought it was a good speech, so we sent out a press release calling attention to it.
Thats when the creatures from the Internet black lagoon emerged, dripping with scorn about tree-hugging morons and filling up our presidents in-box with scientifically illiterate swamp gas about the global warming hoax.
The following day, a Tuesday, I attended a forum about environmental issues that McCain held near Seattle with a panel of Washington State business leaders, political dignitaries, and an Eagle Scout. He talked about seeing firsthand the impacts of climate change in the polar regions, developing energy technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and his confidence that America has the smarts to solve the problem, no matter what the doom-and-gloom, it-can't-be-done hand-wringers on the political right say.
As Seattle Times columnist and avowed liberal Danny Westneat commented in Wednesdays paper, the slogan that McCain is Bush the Third doesnt ring true, no matter how many times his fellow liberals nod at each other and dutifully repeat the already hackneyed line.
If any of McCains critics on the left think that lowering carbon emissions will be easy, McCains panelists offered real-world stories to show that it wont. It will be complex and difficult. It will cost money. It will require changes in conventional ways of doing business. We will have to be willing to let go of cherished assumptions that are contradicted by data. And we may find that what we think are perfect solutions are manifestly imperfect.
In analyzing his companys carbon footprint, a local banker told McCain that, to his surprise, one of the top sources of his banks carbon emissions are transit buses that bring employees to work.
The CEO of REI told McCain that her customers would not buy green products if the quality isnt up to snuff and the price differential is too large.
A local city councilman said his municipality would love to buy more hybrid cars for its fleet, but the first-cost premium is a barrier.
Whether No. 44 is McCain or Barack Obama, it will take careful leadership to work through these difficulties as America begins its urgently necessary move to a post-carbon economy. The next president will need to surround himself with practical thinkers and proven doers. Hard questions should be asked, experimentation with new ideas should be welcomed, and ideologues on the left and right who have all the answers should be told that they need not apply.
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