Monday’s L.A. Times gushed over the “bipartisan” gubernatorial legitimacy Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown have given efforts to fight climate change in Paris this weekend. The two former Governors “sat for a joint interview to put a bipartisan spin on fighting climate change,” showing the world that green-minded Democrats and Republicans can avoid petty bickering and find a middle ground in combatting this great issue of our times.
Here are the juiciest quotes the Times recounts:
“It’s important for people to know that Republicans can work with Democrats and vice versa,” Brown said.
Schwarzenegger added, “That is a very important message for the international community, that they should not look at [climate change] in a political way.”
Bipartisanship for broader goals is all well and good. Of course, the Times doesn’t recount the fact that Schwarzenegger is not, to put it mildly, a typical Republican, and that his participation in “bipartisanship” doesn’t mean much. In fact, on the climate change issue in particular, he arguably toes the liberal line with crossed t’s and dotted i’s. It’s perhaps a little bit ironic that a self-described Rockefeller Republican like myself should accuse a fellow Republican of being a “Republican In Name Only,” but on climate change, because of his joining hands with the green-and-blue liberal policy elite on cap-and-trade, renewables, and other fashionable green boondoggles, it’s hard to categorize Schwarzenegger as anything other than a post-partisan Donkey in Elephants’ clothing.
In an excellent article for the excellent journal National Affairs (read the whole thing) Troy Senik nicely outlines the self-imposed fate of the once-maverick Governor:
“…he began marshaling his political capital in the service of nationally fashionable issues like greenhouse-gas reductions… it began to feel suspiciously like Schwarzenegger was concerned more with buttering up the national media and the Beverly Hills cocktail circuit than actually forging an agenda to pull California back from the abyss.”
So the notion that the Schwarzenegger-Brown stand is anything like meaningful bipartisanship is, by all significant measures, bunk. Most Republicans, moderate or conservative, will rightfully oppose the anti-growth measures that modern environmentalism requires in the crusade against climate change.
Rather than joining hands with fashionable elites in pursuing self-defeating policies that aren’t likely to put much of a dent in carbon emissions, Republicans should live up to their tradition of conservation and environmental stewardship by living up to another one of their great traditions- innovation. Instead of fighting climate change by arbitrarily restricting carbon emissions and pumping money into zero-emissions, zero-results “renewable” sources, Republicans should pursue a climate strategy with what has worked empirically- high-energy, low-emission fuels like natural gas as substitutes for high-emission fuels like crude oil and coal. Peter Wehner and Jim Manzi argued for such a strategy in another article at National Affairs, and their middle ground makes for much more practical policy than either ultra-conservative denials of climate science or mainline liberal worship of cap-and-trade and solar energy.
As Joel Kotkin argues, the Paris climate talks aren’t likely to result in much more than self-righteous gabbing by the elite classes of developed nations, to the detriment of the lower classes of said nations. Developing countries like China and India, by far the largest carbon emitters, are unlikely to shackle their growth to the whims of Western experts and activists. So in the end, Schwarzenegger and Brown’s united stand against climate change will do much for their consciences and little for the climate or the struggling. It remains for another generation of pragmatic politicos to tend to this truly pressing problem. Let’s hope the glittering promise of accolades for “bipartisanship” doesn’t take precedence over reality for them.