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|Sarah Palin is such a cold-eyed skeptic
about the Copenhagen summit on climate change that it's no surprise
she would call on President Obama not to attend. After all, Obama
might join other leaders in acknowledging that warming is a "global
challenge." He might entertain "opportunities to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions." He might even explore ways to "participate in
Oh, wait. Those quotes aren't from some smug Euro-socialist
manifesto. They're from an administrative order Palin signed in
September 2007, as governor of Alaska, establishing a "sub-Cabinet"
of top state officials to develop a strategy for dealing with
Back then, Palin was the governor of a state where "coastal erosion,
thawing permafrost, retreating sea ice, record forest fires, and
other changes are affecting, and will continue to affect, the
lifestyles and livelihoods of Alaskans," as she wrote. Faced with
that reality, she sensibly formed the high-level working group to
chart a course of action.
"Climate change is not just an environmental issue," wrote Palin.
"It is also a social, cultural, and economic issue important to all
Palin mentioned having created the climate change unit in an op-ed
she wrote last week for The Post. What she didn't acknowledge was
the contrast between what she says about climate change now and what
she said -- and did -- about it as governor of our most at-risk
state. When she was in office, Palin treated the issue as serious,
complex and worthy of urgent attention. Now that she's the iconic
leader of a populist movement that reacts with anger at the
slightest whiff of pointy-headed, "one world" intellectualism, she
writes as if the idea of seeking ways to mitigate climate change is
"Alaska's climate is warming," Palin wrote to Alaskans in a July
2008 newsletter. "While there have been warming and cooling trends
before, climatologists tell us that the current rate of warming is
unprecedented within the time of human civilization. Many experts
predict that Alaska, along with our northern latitude neighbors,
will warm at a faster pace than any other areas, and the warming
will continue for decades."
In her administrative order, Palin instructed the sub-Cabinet
group to develop recommendations on "the opportunities to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions from Alaska sources, including the expanded
use of alternative fuels, energy conservation, energy efficiency,
renewable energy, land use management, and transportation planning."
She also instructed the group to look into "carbon-trading markets."
But in her op-ed last week, Palin -- while acknowledging "natural,
cyclical environmental trends" and the possibility that human
activity might be contributing to warming -- states flatly that "any
potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far
outweighed by their economic costs." What she once called
"carbon-trading markets" she now denounces as "the Democrats'
Palin cites the "Climate-gate" e-mail scandal as reason enough for
the president to skip the Copenhagen summit. I've written about
those e-mails and why, despite what skeptics say, they do not begin
to prove that climate science is fraudulent, politicized or
fundamentally flawed. The most compelling evidence for climate
change is found in the Arctic, and Palin has seen it firsthand.
In her 2008 newsletter, Palin mentioned one coastal village, Newtok,
that would have to be relocated because of flooding due to the
effects of warmer temperatures. Since then, relocation plans have
been developed for two more towns, Shishmaref and Kivalina. The Army
Corps of Engineers has identified more than 160 villages that are
threatened, according to a recent newsletter from Palin's successor,
Gov. Sean Parnell. At least 31 are judged to be in "imminent" peril.
In case anyone was wondering, Palin's home town of Wasilla sits at
an elevation of 333 feet -- high and dry.
The chairman of the Cabinet working group that Palin assembled to
develop a climate change strategy, Larry Hartig, is scheduled to
deliver a presentation at Copenhagen. Posted in advance on the
Internet, the presentation shows that Alaskans aren't just fretting
about the abstract possibility of effects from warming. They're
dealing with a real, live situation.
I predict we'll see more artful dodges of this kind from Palin. She
made any number of pragmatic, reasonable, smart decisions as
governor -- and now, it seems, will be obliged to renounce them all.
Her tea-party legions have one answer -- a shouted "No!" -- for
Palin knows better, but she has to fiddle her followers' chosen tune
not while Rome burns, but while Nome melts.