November 25, 2007

Ron Paul On Climate Change

How can a presidential candidate so right about almost every other issue be so mistaken about climate change?

I've just spent the last three hours learning about Ron Paul, a U.S presidential candidate I knew nothing about earlier and one who has recently experienced an unusually strong upsurge of support surprising many. TIME is calling it "The Ron Paul Revolution." CNN went nuts when Ron's online campaign collected a record sum in a day. The Washington Post just did a story trying to make sense of the revolution.

People are excited for good reason. Watch him speak and it wouldn't take you long to say to yourself: "Wow, I love this guy!" His speeches call for an end to "the U.S. empire" - words you'd expect from an activist, not a presidential hopeful. He also frequently mentions the "military industrial complex" - when was the last time you heard a presidential candidate admit its existence since Eisenhower coined the term. He talks of abolishing the IRS and the federal reserve, getting troops back from Iraq immediately, following a dramatically modest foreign policy than any past presidents, he's for freedom of the internet, in favor of same sex marriages and says the biggest threat to our privacy is the government. Ron Paul wants to drastically limit the government's ability to play big brother.

In fact, all his suggested policy measures are radical. And this is the most striking thing about him. As the TIME story notes, Ron is the most anti-establishment of all candidates. He has the courage to admit big policy mistakes of the past and the vision of a radically different future based on a few simple principles he's been known to hold for decades. You can't get a better candidate than this. Or so I thought.

Until I Googled his position on climate change and found that he thinks this issue is overblown. His website doesn't even mention the term and in this clip from a visit to Google in July this year, Ron says "there are two sides of the (global warming) argument." In another video from August when asked whether increasing carbon dioxide in atmosphere is an important issue, he answers that it's debatable.

There are good people who are in politics, in both parties, who hold this [issue] at arm's length because if they acknowledge it and recognize it then the moral imperative to make big changes is inescapable.
- Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth

It's incredible for someone to say this in 2007. Although none of the presidential candidates have been known to completely grasp the severity of climate change problem, yet for a candidate to say that it is an overblown issue is frankly quite outrageous. To hear these statements after IPCC fourth assessment, after Stern report and dozens of independent scientific institutions have raised alarm over climate change, is...well, I've run out of adjectives. I don't know what to call it.

Needless to say, there is no debate, no other side. Global warming and other effects of climate change are a scientifically proven certainty. I can't imagine what ratio of denial, ignorance and bias would have combined to make Ron hold those opinions. It's very disheartening. On the one hand, I'd love to see him in the oval office - his term could really have a revolutionary impact on U.S politics and its relationship with the rest of the world.

But on the other, the world can't afford another five years of inaction on the issue after ten years of the worst environment and energy policy from Washington. It could be very dangerous to have a global warming skeptic as the U.S. president when we're in the midst of what Al Gore rightly calls a planetary emergency. There may be hope though. In the Google interview he also admits that he doesn't know enough about this issue. I hope he finds out soon because he'd putting a lot of votes at stake otherwise.

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