The GOP gives up an inch on climate change

The 2008 Party Platform concedes humans could be messing up the weather. But the cost of fixing the mess won't be cheap. Just ask the Dutch

Published September 3, 2008 10:10PM (EDT)

How the World Works confesses surprise: The 2008 Republican Platform acknowledges that climate change is a problem, and humans might have something to do with it:

The same human economic activity that has brought freedom and opportunity to billions has also increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. While the scope and long term consequences of this are the subject of ongoing scientific research, common sense dictates that the United States should take measured and reasonable steps today to reduce any impact on the environment.

The language is a clear sign of progress -- in the 2004 platform, the single paragraph devoted to climate change called it a "challenge" but did not acknowledge any human contribution to rising temperatures. The closest this year's platform gets to a more ideological stance:

Republicans caution against the doomsday climate change scenarios peddled by the aficionados of centralized command-and-control government. We can -- and should -- address the risk of climate change based on sound science without succumbing to the no-growth radicalism that treats climate questions as dogma rather than as situations to be managed responsibly.

Sounds plenty reasonable! However, the GOP's prescription for "managing" the "situation" is a little vague: "technology-driven, market-based solutions" are all the platform has to offer.

It's possible that we might require something a little more dramatic. Exhibit A: the news that yet another ancient ice shelf that's been hanging around for thousands of years has broken loose of from its moorings:

One of Canada's five remaining Arctic ice shelves -- the 4,500-year-old, 50-sq.-km. Markham Ice Shelf -- has broken completely away from Ellesmere Island and drifted into the Arctic Ocean, the most dramatic sign yet of how rising temperatures and retreating sea ice are creating "irreversible" changes to the country's polar frontier.

Exhibit B: The Netherlands, where the Dutch have some experience with fending off floodwaters. A commission assigned the task of figuring out how climate change will affect the Netherlands announced on Wednesday its prediction that sea levels could rise between 2-4 feet by 2100, and that the Netherlands' elaborate system of dikes, dams and storm surge barriers needs to be significantly upgraded. (Thanks to MetaFilter for the links.)

The estimated cost of the upgrade: About two-billion-dollars-a year between now and 2050.

Adapting to climate change via technology-driven market-based solutions is laudable. But it's still going to cost us, dearly.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

MORE FROM Andrew Leonard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2008 Elections Environment Global Warming Globalization How The World Works