Posted by: Barry Bickmore | November 16, 2011

Rustlings From Republican Environmentalists

Let’s face it–it’s a bad year for Republican Environmentalists like me.  About half of the field of Republican presidential candidates once promoted the idea of addressing climate change in some way, but all but Jon Huntsman have backed off this stance to one extent or another.  Even Huntsman hasn’t suggested doing anything about climate change in the near term, and in any case, he’s consistently polled at 1-2%.

How are we supposed to respond?  There is a clear scientific consensus, based on clear scientific evidence, that humans are causing climate change, and this poses significant risks.  And yet, it’s become a litmus test for Republican candidates to either deny or express agnosticism about human-caused climate change.  Republican “environmentalists,” by definition, aren’t a single-issue kind of people.  If that were the only issue we cared about, we would clearly not be Republicans, so we often have to hold our noses and vote for candidates that don’t fit all our ideals.

The thing about people like us is that, since we sort of straddle the fence on some issues and can see some truth in alternative points of view, we are more likely to set aside ideology and vote for candidates that seem like they have some modicum of integrity and are, well… capable of abstract thought.  But in the current GOP presidential race, who are our choices?  We’ve got Huntsman, who seems pretty good (and was a great governor,) but who has no chance in the Primary.  We’ve got Romney, who isn’t so terrible, but badly needs to grow a spine.  We’ve got Rick Perry, who comes across as a dumb jock who is real proud he can name Galileo, but we’re not sure he knows much beyond the name.  (Prove me wrong, Rick!  Tell us three new things about Galileo!  I want you to go out there in that next debate and give 110%!!!  “And the third thing is… uh… uh… oops.”)  We’ve got Newt Gingrich, whose recent conversion from being a sleazy hypocrite is less than convincing, and who alternates between sounding intelligent and like Archie Bunker.  We’ve got Michelle Bachmann, who comes across as a saucer-eyed devotee of a UFO cult… and unutterably stupid.  (Being a Mormon, I find this amusing.  Go into any Evangelical Christian bookstore, and you will find countless books on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that ask whether we are “Christian or Cult”.  For many Evangelicals, anyone who isn’t an Evangelical belongs to a “cult”.  Ok, I completely understand that many LDS beliefs sound weird to outsiders–what religion doesn’t sound weird to outsiders?  But just look at the GOP presidential candidates, and if you want to tell me that Bachmann and Perry come across as more sane than Huntsman and Romney, I’ll politely mumble something as I back away.)  We have Herman Cain, who is very likely a groper, is ridiculously uninformed, and who now answers all uncomfortable questions with “999”.  No, I’m serious.  Frankly, I don’t know anything about Tim Pawlenty except that “T-Paw” looks like a total pansy in debate.  Makes me want to pants him and shove him in a locker.  [UPDATE:  I realized just after I posted that it’s Rick Santorum who’s still in the race, rather than Pawlenty.  Nobody cares.]  And Ron Paul… I’m at a loss for words.

Maybe there aren’t very many of us, but we’re beginning to hear some rustlings from Republican environmentalists.  The Salt Lake Tribune reported today that Tim DeChristopher, who is in jail for obstructing the sale of resources on sensitive government lands (even though these sales were later deemed improper,) would support Jon Huntsman for president, because he had showed some integrity on environmental issues while in office as Utah governor.  DeChristopher describes himself as “a lefty activist felon in prison,” but the article also quoted me.  Here’s what it said:

Brigham Young University geoscientist Barry Bickmore, a Republican who speaks out on the importance of dealing with climate change, said he also would back Huntsman in sticking with the science.

Like DeChristopher, Bickmore said he would like to put climate change at the top of the agenda for more voters.

But the GOP, with candidates like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich backing away from the issue, it appears as though the GOP is becoming an anti-science party and imperiling its own future as a result, Bickmore said.

“If the Republicans don’t get together and stop pretending the problem doesn’t [exist],” he said, “in a couple of decades it will become so apparent that we were in denial about this that the party will be gutted, we’ll be turned out on our ear.”

Huntsman has warned much the same thing in recent debates.

Meanwhile, an article in The Boston Globe quotes several environmentalist Republicans in New Hampshire, who are not too happy with the current field of GOP candidates.  Here’s an excerpt.

On Thursday, Farrell Seiler, a Republican-leaning independent, and Republican Antonius Blok will host a workshop in Portsmouth, N.H., examining the impact of climate change on the Seacoast. They also will officially launch a new group, “New Hampshire Republicans for Climate.”

The subject line of their e-mailed press release says it all: “NH Republicans Hosting a Climate Conference? Really.”

Seiler said: “There needs to be an opportunity for enlightened conservative Republicans to raise their hands and say you can’t deny what the science is telling us. We don’t share the anti-science denial-ism of six and a half of the eight Republican candidates who are in New Hampshire running in the primary.”

Former Republican EPA officials – including the agency’s first administrator, Bill Ruckelshaus, and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman – have begun to respond to use their national platforms to rebut the candidate criticism.

I hope more of us start speaking out, making the consequences of the GOP’s current trajectory clear.

[UPDATE:  Be sure to watch my seminar on “How to Avoid the Truth About Climate Change.”  See below.]



  1. Please don’t tell me that John Huntsman can’t win in the primaries. None of them have even happened yet.

    The real problem with the Republican nominating process is that it has been co-opted by the Tea Party. That’s why you have Rick Perry and Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann and their ilk. You want to save the Republican party? Take it back from these nutballs. That means *moderate* Republicans, *thoughtful* Republicans, have to get just as influential as Tea Partyers.

    So get yourself a “Huntsman ’12” bumper sticker and lapel pin. Make a donation to his campaign. Write a letter about his virtues — and his sanity — to the editor of the local paper. Put a “Huntsman ’12” sign in your yard. And don’t believe those “Huntsman can’t win” stories — they’re no more true than “no global warming since 1998.” For God’s sake, you’ve got a good candidate — instead of calling him a loser, make him a winner.

    • Ok, maybe I’m too depressed about his poll numbers.

      • Heck, with enough support, Democrats cheesed off with Obama letting the Republicans be the government may decide that it’s better to have a Republican in power running the government than not in power and still running the government.

        They could find themselves able to vote for Huntsman.

  2. Barry, this reminds me, have you considered asking the Deseret News to add a new Desallscience Climate section to complement the existing Desallright Climate section?

  3. The best comments on climate change, I’ve ever heard from a U.S. politician, are the speech by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The full text is at a Climate Progress article.

    To me, not a Republican, the current GOP/tea party is so extreme, that to find an equivalent on the left, you would have to imagine about 100 Abbie Hoffmans and Jerry Rubins from the 1960s radical activists, actually in congress, with several running for president.

    Hate to tell Rick Perry, but he resembles the religious authorities who persecuted Galileo, rather than Galileo.

    • Yes, I find the republican/TP stance remarkable. I feel for Barry having to be associated with these people.

      The one thing we should all be clear on, particularly the leftish greenish types who constantly criticise ‘the conservative’ mindset. There’s nothing conservative about these people.

      Do the words cautious, responsible, steady …. or sensible, stodgy, too conscious of history, too slow to act come to mind when you hear and read the words of these people? Not a bit of it. They’re radicals. Right wing radicals, but radicals nevertheless.

      They’re prepared to throw multitudes of babies out with the tiniest drop of bathwater. Then do it again tomorrow.

      I know how I feel when some nitwit on my side of politics drops an almighty clanger. But I can dismiss it as ‘that’s just him’. And hope for a nice long gap before the next dimwit in line gets their turn on the stupid stage. I can’t imagine how Barry must feel when he’s busy dancing out of the way of the avalanche of anvils dropping far too close to his own toes.

  4. […] […]

  5. “And yet, it’s become a litmus test for Republican candidates to either deny or express agnosticism about human-caused climate change.”

    Both are deny.

    One denies it exist.

    The other denies we need to do anything about it.

  6. Barry… I think you’re so on target with these comments. While I’m clearly a liberal it is deeply concerning to me when one party goes too far to the extreme (I don’t like extreme liberals either). What strengthens our nation is healthy debate from people of differing positions. The founding fathers were notoriously battlesome, to the point of sometimes being downright nasty. But they found ways to make things happen. They found ways to take the manure and turn it into fertilizer.

    Governing is all about compromise. We don’t get compromise today. Every president in recent memory has had to make deals that we’re not perfectly in line with their political position. Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush1, Clinton… They all had to make hard choices in order to do what was right for our nation as a whole but today all we (the American people) get are road blocks. Idealogical road blocks that are stifling our economy and our ability to address extremely important global issues like climate change.

    I believe you’re right on the money suggesting this could be disastrous for the Republican party in the long run. As liberal as I may be I think the worst thing for the nation would be to have one of the two major parties have a complete meltdown. And I think this is the direction the Republican party is headed if they can’t get control of the extreme elements.

    We need the manure more than ever and right now all we have is a cesspool.

  7. I agree it’s useful to hear about tackling climate change from a Conservative point of view. However the Republican Party as it now stands has nothing to do with Conservative principles — beneath its veneer of Conservatism, the party is now nothing more than a party of greed, lawlessness, and nonsense.

    I think Prof. Bickmore should make it clear that he’ll stay home on polling day and refuse to help raise funds and resources for Republican candidates unless they heed the pro-science voices. The Democrats recently did this regarding the Keystone XL issue, to great effect (and even then, perhaps not enough). As long as the candidates think they can get away with their current behaviours, they will continue with them.

    Or, Prof. Bickmore might consider aligning with a saner minor party of Conservative bent, or simply declaring himself as an independent.

    — frank

  8. […] Rustlings from Conservative Environmentalists The thing about people like us is that, since we sort of straddle the fence on some issues and can see some truth in alternative points of view, we are more likely to set aside ideology and vote for candidates that seem like they have some modicum of integrity and are, well… capable of abstract thought.  But in the current GOP presidential race, who are our choices?  We’ve got Huntsman, who seems pretty good (and was a great governor,) but who has no chance in the Primary. […]

  9. Great presentation. clear. concise. honest.

  10. I have always been very conservative, but I also have always been an environmentalist. What should I do?!

  11. […] Can’t Be True (Even Though it is) Environmentalism poses a problem for libertarian ideology Rustlings From Republican Environmentalists The Conservative as Environmentalist Conservation is Conservative Former top Republican […]

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