A Newt Point

There are only so many things that one has time to think about in a day, and the strange beliefs of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are just so low on our list of things we’d like to ponder that rarely do we indulge a Gingrich-related thought.

There are exceptions. Today, for example, we learned from an L.A. Times article that during a debate with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Gingrich implied that when it comes to global warming, he doesn’t agree with fellow strange-beliefs maven Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK):

At one point during the free-flowing debate, in which the moderator barely intervened, Kerry asked his opponent what his message would be to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the Senate's most vocal critic of global warming, and others who doubt that the climate is changing.

"The evidence is sufficient that we should move toward the most effective possible steps to reduce carbon loading of the atmosphere," Gingrich responded, noting that environmentalism is a touchy issue for conservatives.

"I think there has to be, if you will, a green conservatism. There has to be a willingness … to have a dialogue about what's the most effective way to solve it rather than to get into a fight over whether or not to solve it."

Rewind back to October 2006, when Gingrich was interviewed by Discover. He spends two and a half pages talking about how very scientific he is—and then he turns around and equivocates about the human contribution to global warming:

Where should we stand on global warming?
I don't think people know, because science has been so involved in politics on this issue that it's very hard to know whom to believe.

Many scientists would say the opposite, that politics has been too involved in science.
I'm just saying it seems to me the data's not nearly as clear as the scientists imply. Let's start with the Gore movie [An Inconvenient Truth]. I haven't seen it, but everything I've read suggests he grossly exaggerates the probable dangers. I believe as a matter of prudence it is reasonable to try to lower the carbon load in the atmosphere.

Prudent because we don't understand the science fully, so we should err on the side of caution?
Unlike right-wingers who would say, "Since we don't know 100 percent for sure, we can keep carbon loading," I'd say there is enough evidence that it's reasonable to try to move toward renewables, to try to move toward conservation, to try to move toward a hydrogen economy. All those are reasonable steps. But none leads me to panic. We are dramatically cooler than we have been for large parts of Earth's history. We could do everything mandated by Kyoto [the Kyoto accord on climate change] times 10, and if the sun changes its behavior, it'll just swamp us. There's a certain human egocentrism that undervalues how big the system is.

Well now, isn’t that an interesting argument, that “human egocentrism” is evidence that we’re overestimating our effect on the earth. We actually happen to believe in human egocentrism, too—except in our version, it’s that very same egocentrism that has led us humans to value our carbon-heavy lifestyles more than the natural world.

Seems like Newt’s had a change of heart since then. Pity that because of his many other floridly bizarre beliefs it is still way too hard to take him seriously.   


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These people take him seriously......

Speaker Gingrich's comments in the event with Senator Kerry and the Discover Magazine article are not inconsistent. He is saying the same thing. We need a common sense approach to conservation. He is neither panicking nor is he proposing to do nothing.

Your readers may not know that since his days as an environmental studies professor at West Georgia College (now West Georgia University), Newt has been involved in a variety of environmental initiatives.

• He was the founding chair of the West Georgia College Chapter of the Georgia Conservancy.

• In 1998, he was named Legislative Conservationist of the Year by the Georgia Wildlife Federation.

• As the Republican House Whip, his leadership helped to pass the clean air act which used market systems to reduce sulfuric acid in the atmosphere by 50% for one tenth of the projected cost.

• He helped with to create the Chattahoochee River Greenway by working with the Trust for Public Land.

• The Gingrich Foundation supports the Trust for Public Land.

• In 1995, Speaker Gingrich made a rare floor appearance to defend and protect a Federal program to support the efforts of African and Asian nations to preserve three threatened species, the rhinoceros and the tiger and the elephant.

• Edward O. Wilson credited Newt Gingrich for saving the endangered species act.

• Prior to its creation, Newt publicly urged President Bush to establish the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

Later this year, Newt’s new book on a common sense approach to conservation called Contract with the Earth will be released.

The book CONTRACT WITH THE EARTH, by Newt Gingrich and Terry Maple, will be released by Johns Hopkins University Press in NOV 2007. This is a serious book, primarily authored by a real conservation leader, Dr. Terry Maple. It is a thoroughly researched and carefully thought-out book advocating an objective scientific approach that transcends partisan politics. It is not a "common sense" approach at all, as suggested above. It does advocate entrepreneurial environmentalism and incentives for innovation and constructive action. Most serious conservationists already appreciate that effective conservation programs must be designed in economically sustainable ways. The strength of this book is its insistence that economies cannot survive in the context of destructive environmental policies, but that economies can THRIVE when public policy is supportive of sound and effective science-based environmental conservation.

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