There are probably a couple of reasons to vote for Mitt Romney. Yet, climate change shouldn’t be one of them. If anything, his position climate change should be a deal breaker for any American concerned about the issue.
Even Boyd Cohen who presented the argument that climate change might actually be a good reason to vote for Romney last year believes this is not the case anymore. “My rationale was that at the time, Romney was on record as accepting humanity’s culpability associated with climate change while Obama failed to deliver on his promises leading up to and following Copenhagen’s Conference of the Parties,” Cohen explains. “Unfortunately since then Obama has not done much more on the topic, but Romney has actually gone backwards,” he adds.
Romney had changed his mind about climate change a couple of times and 2012 Romney is not similar to 2011 Romney or certainly not to 2004 Romney. As Cohen wrote me, no one can be sure if Romney’s current anti-climate stance is because he suddenly stopped believing in the growing scientific evidence or if it is just a political move to the right.
Yet, no matter what the reasons are, I believe there’s enough weight of evidence to argue that voting for Mitt Romney wouldn’t be a good idea for anyone concerned about climate change. Here are four reasons why:
1. Lack of climate change pragmatism –Maureen Dowd wrote recently: “We thought Romney was secretly moderate, but it turns out that he’s secretly cruel, a social Darwinist just like his running mate.” This certainly seems to be the case with climate change, where Romney fails time and again to present a pragmatic approach.
Take for example the wind production tax break that is supposed to expire by the end of the year and is extremely important for the future of the American wind industry. Romney could easily adopt an approach that calls for a short-term extension of the tax break – Since he enjoys budget cuts, it shouldn’t be that difficult to find $1 billion a year to offset its cost.
Not only that such a pragmatic approach would be appreciated by many fellow Republicans (including House members) who support the extension, but it also makes a political sense given the wind industry’s economic role in swing states like Colorado and Iowa. Yet, Romney’s response was (as provided by his spokesperson): “He will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits.” In other words, not even a pinch of pragmatism whatsoever.
2. “No Regrets” policy – You can’t really find a climate change policy on Romney’s website (though he does have an energy policy). To find it you’ll need to go to Science Debate 2012, a website cosponsored by many leading U.S. scientific organizations, where Romney presents the following position:
“So I oppose steps like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system that would handicap the American economy and drive manufacturing jobs away, all without actually addressing the underlying problem. Economic growth and technological innovation, not economy-suppressing regulation, is the key to environmental protection in the long run. So I believe we should pursue what I call a “No Regrets” policy — steps that will lead to lower emissions, but that will benefit America regardless of whether the risks of global warming materialize and regardless of whether other nations take effective action.”
A policy based on resistance to any regulation, be it carbon tax or cap and trade, while offering no serious alternative is a recipe for nothing but regrets.
3. It’s Bain’s world – Romney doesn’t believe in climate capitalism. He believes in the Bain Capital’s version of capitalism, which is reflected again in his campaign’s response to the issue of wind tax break: “Wind energy will thrive wherever it is economically competitive, and wherever private sector competitors with far more experience than the President believe the investment will produce results.”
In other words, this is capitalism where the rules of ‘fair play’ allow billions of subsidies to oil and gas companies, not to mention costly externalities, but condemn tax breaks or any sort of government support for clean energy. These rules of economics might have worked well at Bain Capital, but the climate seems to be working with a different set of rules.
4. Attitude problem – When it comes to climate change, Romney seems to have not only the wrong (no) policy and approach, but also the wrong attitude.
Just think about the ways the two candidates mentioned climate change in their acceptance speeches. While Romney said: “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family,” President Obama said: “And, yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet – because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They are a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.”
In a world where our ability to tackle climate change is diminishing by the day, the world, not just the U.S., needs an American President with a serious and thoughtful attitude. Unfortunately this is not the one Romney has to offer.
Raz Godelnik is the co-founder of Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry in the digital age. He is an adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware’s Business School, CUNY SPS and the New School, teaching courses in green business, sustainable design and new product development.