In Connecticut yesterday, President Obama delivered a commencement at the Coast Guard Academy, and devoted much of his remarks to one specific topic: the national security implications of climate change.
”I am here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security, and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country,” the president said. “And so we need to act, and we need to act now.”
Just a little further north, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) was campaigning in New Hampshire, where he offered a very different perspective on the climate crisis. The Washington Post reported overnight:
“The climate is changing. I don’t think the science is clear on what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It’s convoluted,” he told roughly 150 people at a house party here Wednesday night. “And for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you. It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t have a conversation about it even.”
In response [to Obama’s remarks], Bush said that climate change should be just “part of, a small part of prioritization of our foreign policy.” He suggested that the United States should encourage countries that have higher carbon emissions rates to reduce them.
The Florida Republican went on to argue that President Obama deserves no credit for recent decreases in U.S. carbon emissions. Instead, Bush said fracking and new drilling techniques have helped.
Clearly, some of these claims are very hard to take seriously. President Obama’s policies, for example, have made a positive impact. To see fracking and new drilling techniques as contributing to reduced emission is a stretch.
But the real problem here is Bush’s rejection of the scientific consensus. The GOP candidate thinks the debate is “convoluted.” It’s not. Bush rejects the idea that the science is “decided.” That’s backwards.
The former governor believes it’s “intellectual arrogance” to skip the “conversation” between people who believe reality and climate deniers. That’s ridiculous – the conversation has already ended, and the deniers lost.
What’s actually arrogant is the belief that confused politicians can ignore a scientific consensus on a global crisis.
Oddly enough, during another swing through New Hampshire last month, Jeb Bush told an audience that “we need to work with the rest of the world to negotiate a way to reduce carbon emissions.” His concerns about “arrogance” have apparently emerged in the weeks since.
In the larger context, Bush’s latest nonsense further undermines the reputation he worked so hard to cultivate. The former governor was supposed to be “the smart one” – the one who takes his responsibilities seriously, the one who cares about policy details, the one who describes himself as a “wonk.”
But in recent weeks, Bush seems to have decided to shed that reputation for, well, this new-and-not-improved model. This more recent iteration of the Florida Republican can’t speak coherently about Iraq, thinks his Apple Watch is part of an anti-Obamacare vision, isn’t up to speed on immigration policy, and thinks people who believe in climate science are “arrogant.”
I’m reminded of Gail Collins’ column from last week: “As a presidential hopeful, Bush’s most attractive feature was an aura of competence. Extremely boring competence, perhaps. Still, an apparent ability to get through the day without demonstrating truly scary ineptitude.”
The more he dabbles in climate nonsense, the more that “aura” disappears.
Steve Benin, MSNBC