Boehner: What's the Big Deal with CO2, Anyways?

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The award for this week’s most understated headline goes to Politico’s Lisa Lerer for this little doozy: “GOP grapples with climate confusion.” Though little of her article actually breaks new ground, it perfectly encapsulates the Republicans’ current predicament – that of being stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to taking action on climate change.

On the one hand, the Republicans need to marshall their resources and come up with a coherent alternative to the proposed Democratic plan, lest they wish to lose the PR game and suffer another legislative defeat in the House of Representatives (the Senate, unfortunately, will be a much larger hurdle to overcome); on the other, they need to be wary of not alienating their base by devoting too much time to addressing a “hoax.”

For the moment, the Republican leadership seems to have discarded the wiser course of action – formulating an alternative to the Waxman-Markey climate bill that could peel off moderates from the Democratic ranks – in favor of a full-throated denialist approach. (I guess you can’t blame them, since their efforts to twist the science and numbers have proven equally futile.) Step forward House Minority Leader John Boehner.

When asked by George Stephanopoulos to present the Republican “answer” to climate change during a recent interview on ABC News, Boehner scoffed at the notion that high carbon dioxide emissions could be problematic. “Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide,” Boehner opined, calling to mind the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s memorable ad celebrating the virtues of “our friend,” CO2.

After inexplicably labeling carbon dioxide a “carcinogen,” he skirted the question of whether greenhouse gases contributed to climate change, only saying “it’s clear we’ve had change in our climate,” before retreating to the position that “everyone in America is looking for the proper answer.” That “proper answer” proved elusive, as Boehner continued to dodge and weave his way past an increasingly exasperated Stephanopoulos’ repeated entreaties.

It may not have been a very enlightening interview (to put it mildly), but it fell well within the norm of typical Republican speak – even discounting the likes of Senator James Inhofe, who has been paving the way for his party. Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and nominal head of the party, raised more than a few eyebrows when he boldly proclaimed: “We are cooling. We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I am using my finger quotation marks here, is part of the cooling process.”

And let’s not forget Rep. John Shimkus, who dismissed the need for timely climate action by arguing that the dinosaurs had managed to thrive in an era of much higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels:
“Today we have about 388 parts per million [of carbon dioxide] in the atmosphere,” Shimkus said. “I think in the age of the dinosaurs, when we had most flora and fauna, we were probably at 4,000 parts per million. There is a theological debate that this is a carbon-starved planet, not too much carbon.”

With talking points like these, who needs the Democrats?

You know your party is in trouble when Sarah Palin – putting aside her ulterior motives – appears to be one of the few prominent voices of “reason.”

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