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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

George Shultz: A Republican Who Accepts the Reality of Global Warming

By Phil Plait

When I write about attacks on reality, I wind up shining a light on Republicans more than Democrats. Thatâs mostly because although thereâs plenty of anti-science to pin on the far ends of the political spectrum, the right has made it more of a party platform than the left. As an example, youâd be hard-pressed to find any Republican on the House Science Committee who would say evolution is real or that the Earth is warming up.

But in fairness, when someone of either party does support the science, Iâll support them in that effort, even if I might disagree with them on other issues.

Which brings me to George Shultz. Among other political appointments, he was Ronald Reaganâs secretary of state. While I might disagreeâvehementlyâwith much of Reaganâs policies, there are plenty of places I imagine Shultz and I would agree. Of late I might disagree with him strongly on many things as wellâhe is, after all, a Republican strategist, as well as being an adviser to the George W. Bush campaign in 2000.

But he sat down with Scientific American magazine and gave a thoughtful and excellent interview about global warming. The takeaway: He accepts the reality of warming and says in no uncertain terms we need to be doing something about it.

One of the more clear statements he makes, among many, is this simple pronouncement:

You know, a new ocean is being created for the first time since the Ice Age [in the Arctic with the meltdown of sea ice]. How could that happen? It's getting warmer.

Boom! Yes. Arctic sea ice is dropping at a precipitous rate, and no amount of denier spinning will change that.

I also have great admiration for this:”

You've got solar panels on your home. Why did you do that?
I figure I've got to walk the talk. They've been on [the roof] for about six years. I have a little chart that has my electricity bill before and after, and if I take the amount of money I've now saved, I've paid for the panels plus the opportunity cost of that money. I also have an electric car. I drive it around campus and around town. I don't have any range anxiety.

Thatâs a remarkable statement: Reaganâs administration famously tore down the solar panels installed on the White House during the Carter administration.

The entire interview is quite remarkable, and I highly recommend reading it. I disagree on some points, like when he gives a blanket approval of fracking, which is fraught with environmental issues, but overall heâs on the mark.

Iâm very pleased to see this. If Shultz canâpardon the expressionâlight a fire under some of his fellow Republicans, then we may actually be able to make some progress toward turning the global thermostat down a notch or two.

Tip oâ the thermometer to DeSmogBlog.

Correction, Aug. 14, 2013: This post misspelled George Shultz's last name.

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