In selecting Rep. Ryan as his running mate, Gov. Romney is said to have transformed the presidential campaign into an ideological debate. This might refer to Ryan's ideas about the budget deficit, Medicare and Social Security, tax codes, gay rights, or women's concerns, but today I am not interested in these. What I want to know is: what are Mr. Ryan's ideas about climate change?
Ryan's Web page on environment asserts that he wants to "develop legislation that is based on sound science and will continue our efforts to maintain and strengthen our environment." He goes on to list budget increases for the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Fish and Wildlife Agency, and conservation orientated agencies within the USDA, Department of Commerce, Corps of Engineers, and EPA. This all sounds great.
The first clue that my interpretation may be different from his is the sentence, "Bigger government has not equated to better government, and it has only led to duplication, waste, and mismanagement." This is code-speak for the need to cut funding for these programs.
The second clue is his endorsement of the American Energy Initiative, which is designed to remove government barriers to energy production and stop policies that drive up gas prices. This means he wants to "remove government roadblocks and bureaucratic red tape that hinder and delay American energy production", code-speak for let the fossil fuel industry do whatever they want without regulation or controls.
The fourth clue is that half of the page is devoted to the spread of Asian Carp of the Mississippi River. I do not mean to belittle the importance of this issue, but to make this the centerpiece of his environmental policy seems out of balance, shall we say?
The fifth clue is that there is no mention of "climate change" or "global warming", none whatsoever. Nor is there any mention of "climate" or "warming" on his energy page. The energy page talks about "reforming outdated fuel regulations". He pays lip service to "investing in alternative energy sources", but seeks to remove any "discriminatory distortions" for such projects while saying nothing about tax breaks for the highly profitable fossil fuel industry.
Though Ryan says nothing on his website about global warming, he wrote an editorial during the 2009 international climate talks in which he laughs that "fighting global warming has been a tough sell in our communities, where much of the state is buried under snow," and accused climatologists of a "perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion," in order to "intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change." His record in Congress has been to oppose every measure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2010 he wrote that "there is growing disagreement among scientists about climate change and its causes", which was not true then, nor now. Overall his environmental voting record for 2011 was only 3%. Not all of these votes were related to climate change, of course, but I think the message is clear.
Now, in all fairness, Mr. Ryan is not the head of the ticket, which would be Gov. Romney. What does Mr. Romney think about climate change? That can be difficult to pin down. In 2004, as governor of Massachusetts, his administration unveiled a detailed plan to curtail the state’s carbon pollution. In 2011, he told voters in New Hampshire:
"I don't speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world's getting warmer. I can't prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that. I don't know how much our contribution is to that, because I know that there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past but I believe we contribute to that. And so I think it's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you're seeing."
Yes, he does hedge a little, but mostly he seems quite clear. Climate change due to human activity is real. Since then, however, he has backed off considerably without being specific or definitive. Frankly, I don't actually know what Mr. Romney's views on climate change are.
By contrast, President Obama has established the Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. Wow! He acknowledges the findings of science. I'd say this is an ideological debate!