The presidential debates are over and to the chagrin of earthly-minded individuals, the topic of global warming was roundly ignored by the moderators and both candidates. The lack of discussion wasn't due to a sinister corporate plot, but the reality that no climate legislation is even remotely in the works in Congress, and few foresee it happening anytime soon. How come? As New York Times columnist David Brooks pointed out last week, the outlook wasn't always so grim: "The period around 2003 was the golden spring of green technology. John McCain and Joe Lieberman introduced a bipartisan bill to curb global warming ... You’d go to Silicon Valley and all the venture capitalists, it seemed, were rushing into clean tech." Now, any sense of optimism is considered naive. So what killed climate change legislation?
Republicans. It's impossible to start a checklist any other way than with the Republican Party, which has shifted its position on climate change dramatically in recent years away from government fixes aimed at curbing carbon emissions. This is most clearly visible by comparing the GOP platform in 2008 [PDF] to the one in 2012 [PDF]. It might seem surprising, but just four years ago, the GOP had a lengthy section on "Addressing Climate Change Responsibly":
The same human economic activity that has brought freedom and opportunity to billions has also increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. While the scope and longterm consequences of this are the subject of ongoing scientific research, common sense dictates that the United States should take measured and reasonable steps today to reduce any impact on the environment. Those steps, if consistent with our global competitiveness will also be good for our national security, our energy independence, and our economy.
That platform came at a time when John McCain supported a cap-and-trade program as a presidential candidate and Republican Senator John Warner was co-sponsoring a bill to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. But fast forward to 2012 and the aforementioned section is nowhere to be seen on the platform language. Gone. Erased. In its place is a platform that opposes "any and all cap and trade legislation” and urges Congress to “take quick action to prohibit the EPA from moving forward with new greenhouse gas regulations.” So there you have it, in the span of four years, a transition from tepid openness to united resistance, which created an environment where only a filibuster-proof majority could break the partisan gridlock.