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The Palin problem


In even-yet-another woefully inept interview with Katie Couric, Sarah Palin has managed to raise fresh doubts about her environmental credentials - no mean feat for a candidate who’s already denied global warming, fought against polar bears and sought to block a bid to reduce lethal emissions from ocean shipping. Here's an excerpt: 

Couric: What's your position on global warming? Do you believe it's man-made or not?

Palin: Well, we're the only Arctic state, of course, Alaska. So we feel the impacts more than any other state, up there with the changes in climates. And certainly, it is apparent. We have erosion issues. And we have melting sea ice, of course. So, what I've done up there is form a sub-cabinet to focus solely on climate change. Understanding that it is real. And …

Couric: Is it man-made, though in your view?

Palin: You know there are - there are man's activities that can be contributed to the issues that we're dealing with now, these impacts. I'm not going to solely blame all of man's activities on changes in climate. Because the world's weather patterns are cyclical. And over history we have seen change there. But kind of doesn't matter at this point, as we debate what caused it. The point is: it's real; we need to do something about it.

Palin's initial response is bad enough. She's already claimed that harkening from Alaska gives her expertise on foreign policy (Alaska is near Russia!), energy policy (Alaska has oil!) and national security (erm ... Alaska has oil!); now she wants us to believe that running America's northernmost state for two years is all the preparation she needs to solve the global climate crisis.

But it's Palin's follow-up that really grates. The would-be veep argues that planetary warming is due to cyclical weather patterns - a discredited theory that utterly fails to explain the changes we're currently experiencing. She also argues that whether she's right or wrong "kind of doesn't matter", because hey, at least she admits that there's a problem. That's nonsense, of course; our assessment of the causes of climate change dictates the solutions we adopt. If we don't accept that our smokestacks and car exhausts caused climate change, why should we bother cleaning up our act?

It’s obvious that John McCain, a climate realist, picked Palin out of political necessity rather than ideological kinship. Still, it says something about McCain’s priorities that he’s permitted the Alaskan governor to continue trotting out this kind of climate-denying tosh. The bottom line is that if the battle against global warming were a real priority for the Arizona senator, he would have ordered Palin to stay on message. McCain may not share his running-mate’s views, but neither does he care enough to set her right.