Fwd: Conservative US States Express Concern At Global Climate Change
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Sci/Tech > Environment
Hotter issue in red states: global warming
From evangelicals to students to business groups, climate
change is a rising political concern.
by Peter N. Spotts
Christian Science Monitor
Global warming isn't just a "blue state" issue anymore.
From the Rocky Mountain West to the Southeast, influential red-state
voices are beginning to call for more concerted efforts at local,
state, and federal levels to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.
And they are prodding Washington to address the challenge of
adapting to the effects of global warming, which many scientists say
are at work.
So far, movement in a handful of red states has been modest when
weighed against actions in California or the Northeast. But if this
momentum is sustained, it will be harder for congressional and
presidential candidates of either party to campaign in these states
without backing more aggressive action to reduce emissions than the
Bush administration has to date, some political analysts say.
"There is a much broader degree of support for action that is first
apparent" as many grass-roots groups in red states see what's at
stake, says Timothy Profeta, director of Duke University's new
Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy.
Often, it is framed in economic terms - either the costs of
disasters or the opportunities of turning native switch-grass into
Last week, however, 86 Evangelical Christian leaders - many from
conservative Sun Belt states - injected what they see as a critical
moral and religious element. The group called for more aggressive US
action on climate change, asserting that it is a "pro-life" position
in accord with the Gospels, which call on Christians to care for the
poor. The group noted that projected effects of global warming are
likely to have the most impact on the poor, worldwide. The
Evangelical group became the latest example of what some analysts
call "reframing voices" on global warming.
Others were evident when delegates from around the world met in
Montreal in December to discuss the next steps for two UN global-
warming agreements. In the past, often groups from developing
nations and island states would describe the potential effects
global warming would have back home. This time in an unusual twist,
a "first world" panel of local business leaders, city officials, and
sportsman's groups from the southeastern US did the same - with the
year's record-breaking hurricane season as a backdrop.
Many of the "nonpartisan" or "bipartisan" calls for action appear to
come from liberal enclaves in conservative states. Yet that belies a
streak of environmental stewardship that runs through many red-state
conservatives, notes Georgia Tech political scientist Richard Barke.
"I'm a native southerner, and I don't think that the South or even
the traditional Evangelical Christian southerners are as monolithic
as some people - perhaps ... some political operatives in
Washington - may think," he says, "especially when they are given
He examined students' attitudes on a range of issues, including the
environment in a survey in September.
"Our students tend to self-identify as rather conservative, rather
Republican," Dr. Barke says. Out of 130 students, "none of them said
they were in favor of weakening environmental regulations. And a
strong majority said they were in favor of strengthening
regulations, including some students who put themselves out on the
far tail of ideology and partisanship."
Indeed, some students were upset to learn that their "conservative"
views might be welcomed among tree-hugging liberal
environmentalists, he adds.
In addition to evangelical leaders, sportsman's groups are also
concerned about the regional effects of global warming - in
particular on hunting and fishing, which translates into tourist
"These people are on the front lines" as they traipse across the
countryside each season looking for game or a new fishing spot, says
Jeremy Symons, head of the climate change and wildlife program at
the National Wildlife Federation in Washington.
Elsewhere, coastal states look at the effects of hurricanes Katrina
and Rita and "sense that if global warming turns out to be real, the
effects on society would be significant," says University of
Tennessee political scientist David Feldman.
Yet perhaps taking a page from GOP strategist Karl Rove's 2004
presidential-campaign play book, advocates for more action in red
states are increasingly framing the issue in terms of values, as
well as in dollars and cents. The Evangelical leaders last week
termed it "creation care." For bird-watchers, hunters, and the rod-
and-reel set, global warming is often framed as stewardship of
resources and activities passed down for generations.
In some cases, these "reframing" voices may bring new people to the
table to press for new solutions to global warming. In other cases,
a business leader in North Carolina or Mississippi may hunt and
attend an evangelical church, and Barke says for some people, these
seemingly disparate voices reinforce each other.
"If you were to ask me how the tide will turn in red states, the
religious, the business, and the agriculture communities are going
to come together to change the dynamics," says Stephen Smith,
executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
Copyright � 2006 The Christian Science Monitor.
NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this
material is distributed to the SRT_eNews membership without profit,
for research and educational purposes only.
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