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Sun, Feb. 23

Cantlon: Republicans and climate change

A leading state Republican wrote a recent opinion piece encouraging Republicans to take climate change seriously, but he framed it in a way that is, remarkably, simultaneously positive and sad.

The piece (links with this column online) was written by Nathan Sproul, who has a political consulting firm, is the former director for the state for the Christian Coalition, and former director of the state Republican Party. In the piece he tries to prod Republican leaders that it’s OK to acknowledge climate change and work toward things like renewable energy.

Right at the top he talks about pitching this to “a senior Republican official in Arizona” and how the official laughed at the idea that someone could be both conservative and an environmentalist.

Sproul opinion column

Stanford poll



I say Sproul is trying to convince party leaders in particular because that’s who seem to need convincing. Major polls for years have shown most conservatives and Republicans are more concerned about the environment than GOP leadership seems to be. Recent polls by Gallup and by Stanford and Monmouth universities show that, among Republicans, two-thirds don’t want environmental efforts cut, about half would vote against someone who thinks climate change is a hoax, and two-thirds believe climate change is happening. In addition, Sproul quotes similar results from another poll he lists in the piece.

His entire pitch to Republican leaders to act on climate change focuses on matters of gaining voters and saving money. He points out that, just as those polls show, voters, even Republican voters, want action. “Republican voters are agreeing that it’s OK to be green.” And he says leaders need to catch up to the fact that “clean stuff is the most economic”, “green also means dollar savings”, and “renewable energy is also a fiscally responsible choice for ratepayers.”

He says if state GOP leaders don’t act on these issues then GOP voters, within their own primary elections, “may very well give someone else a chance.”

I’m glad to read some GOP leader acknowledging realities that anyone objectively following the facts has known for quite a few years: the need for environmental care, the need to shift to renewable energy, the need to minimize climate change. I’m glad to see some GOP leader trying to move other GOP leaders on these points. But it’s amazing at this stage that they still have to be appealed to on the basis of votes. That they better act concerned about these issues, regardless what they think, or risk losing elections.

Never mind that it’s simply true. And I don’t mean just what the scientists report. You don’t have to be a scientist, merely an ocean-going fisherman, to know the schools are moving further north, or a doctor or nurse to know that diseases that used to stay further south are now here, or a member of the Navy to know that your commanders are having to work on adapting strategic ports to deal with rising waters.

It’s simply adult life. We all, constantly, have to accept realities that we wish weren’t true, but it’s the most basic adult behavior to accept them and deal with them. GOP leaders might wish climate change wasn’t real, but what does that have to do with anything? How about acknowledging it because it’s real? How about dealing with it because it’s the right thing to do if we’re going to govern ourselves well?

Having to be maneuvered into dealing with these issues strictly on the basis that it might win votes, or that it might be good for business, is just sad.

Tom Cantlon is a local business owner and writer and can be reached at comments at

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