Whitman Urges Republicans to 'Open Their Eyes' to Climate Change

Thursday, 15 May 2014 11:34 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman has called on Republicans to "open their eyes" to the dangers of climate change to the environment before it’s too late.

In an op-ed piece for Politico, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the George W. Bush administration expressed her fears over global warming following a report that the West Atlantic ice sheet has begun collapsing.

The New York Times said that two groups of scientists had warned that sea levels could rise by 10 feet or more in coming centuries as the polar ice sheets melt, fueled by greenhouse gas emissions.

"A Republican president, Richard Nixon, and a Democratic Congress created much of our landmark environmental legislation, including the Clean Air Act and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency," Whitman wrote. "But Republicans have gotten away from those values in recent years. The only way to return the GOP to its roots and, in turn, make headway on climate change is by ensuring that Republicans — and all Americans — recognize the very real economic costs of not protecting our environment."

In the guest column, Whitman criticized Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for doubting that "human activity" is causing dramatic changes to the climate "the way these scientists are portraying it."

Whitman continued, "Rubio has expressed more reasonable positions on the topic in the past. But I do not entirely blame him for his rhetorical shift."

Whitman noted that in an annual Pew poll, only 14 percent of Republicans cited climate change as a top policy priority, down from 23 percent in 2007.

"The party has clearly changed in those seven years, and Rubio knows where his voting base for 2016 is on the issue," said Whitman, president of the Whitman Strategy Group.
"This is not simply a problem in the Republican Party, though. The American public routinely ranks addressing climate change low on its list of priorities for Washington. This year it ranked 19th among 20 issues tested by Pew."

Whitman also attacked environmentalists for claiming that mankind is the sole "cause" of climate change, saying they have "done a disservice" in making that claim too aggressively.

"Our activities are exacerbating natural phenomena, making us part of the problem, but the Earth and its climate has been changing since it was formed," she said. "Because of human activity, things are changing faster than nature or humans can adapt, and the sooner we start taking steps to slow things, the better off we will be."

Whitman, however, expressed hope that environmentalists and business leaders would eventually work together to help safeguard the future of the planet.

"As soon as my party recognizes the exorbitant economic costs of not acting on climate change, I believe we will start to make progress. It is imperative that Congress make this issue a priority. I only hope it’s not already too late."

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