McCain: "Facts of global warming demand our urgent attention"

In a speech, the presumptive Republican nominee laid out his views on global warming and the environment, prompting criticism from left and right.

By Alex Koppelman
May 13, 2008 3:39AM (UTC)
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On Monday, John McCain delivered a big speech, one that outlined his position on and plan to deal with global warming. It's a delicate issue for McCain, as his acknowledgment of the reality of global warming puts him to the left of most of his party while his plans put him to the right of many of those concerned about warming. And after his speech, he took flak from both sides.

In the speech, McCain said:

Whether we call it "climate change" or "global warming," in the end we're all left with the same set of facts. The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington. Good stewardship, prudence and simple common sense demand that we to act meet the challenge, and act quickly ...

We have many advantages in the fight against global warming, but time is not one of them. Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming, or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring ... To lead in this effort, our government must strike at the source of the problem -- with reforms that only Congress can enact and the president can sign ... For the market to do more, government must do more by opening new paths of invention and ingenuity. And we must do this in a way that gives American businesses new incentives and new rewards to seek, instead of just giving them new taxes to pay and new orders to follow. The most direct way to achieve this is through a system that sets clear limits on all greenhouse gases, while also allowing the sale of rights to excess emissions. And this is the proposal I will submit to the Congress if I am elected president -- a cap-and-trade system to change the dynamic of our energy economy.

(The McCain camp has also released an ad on the issue, which can be viewed at the bottom of this post.)

McCain's plan came in for harsh criticism from some on the left. At, editor Joseph Romm -- who is a regular contributor to Salon -- wrote in one post that McCain's strategy "is a fraud." "Such an offset strategy is little more than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, and would 'involve substantial issuance of credits that do not represent real emissions reductions,' according to a recent analysis by Stanford," Romm said. In a statement, League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski called McCain's plan "out of date." And in his own statement, Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope said, "Like President Bush, McCain's policies on global warming offer more of the same."

The Democratic presidential candidates also criticized McCain. Hillary Clinton called McCain's proposals "halfway measures" and said, "While Senator McCain's proposals may be improvement on President Bush's, that's not saying much." Barack Obama said, "It is truly breathtaking for John McCain to talk about combating climate change while voting against virtually every recent effort to actually invest in clean energy."


McCain's campaign apparently intends to use his stance on warming to burnish his image as a moderate, but it may well end up hurting him with his party's base. Conservatives in general have been wary of McCain, and this issue is one of the reasons. In responding to the speech on Monday, some conservative commentators made clear that their concerns persist. Writing on the Corner, the National Review's group blog, columnist and CNBC host Larry Kudlow called McCain's strategy "very hard for conservatives to swallow." On her blog, Michelle Malkin wrote, "A true 'free-market' approach to environmentalism means protecting the free market, not destroying it in the name of supposedly 'cost-free solutions' to a supposed crisis that rests on skewed science."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Global Warming John Mccain R-ariz.