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Bill Moyers: Why Are We Giving the Silent Treatment to the Crisis Which Could Make All Others Irrelevant?

Global warming is a planetary emergency on that should be on every politician’s mind, so why are any of us still silent? And what can we do about it?

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ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: And I totally agree with that.

BILL MOYERS: So why can't we get the Republican Party to see what you have been talking about?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: I think basically the Republican Party has reached the conclusion themselves that they are appealing to the dismissive wing of their own base. I mean, it's actually quite remarkable when you look back over the history of this. I mean, remember the figure in the US Senate who repeatedly put forward the nation's best and most sophisticated answers to the climate challenge for many years was Senator John McCain.

The nominee of the Republican Party was the premier architect of responding to climate change. How far things have changed in the past four years where we ended up in the primaries of-- the Republican primaries of 2012 and we found that all of them, with the one exception of John Huntsman, were calling into question the basic reality of the problem itself. Were basically saying in some cases saying that it was a hoax, okay. This is a remarkable turn for the party itself.

And you know -- and what we're seeing of course right now is that in the aftermath of the loss of 2012 -- Republicans are beginning to look inward and they're trying to say, "Where have we gone wrong? Where are our new opportunities to engage the public?" Immigration is one of those issues that they're beginning to say, "Maybe it's time to change our position." Climate change could be another of those.

Because it's one of the ways that they can appeal back to the middle. Our own work, we found that Independents are much more like Democrats on their beliefs about climate change than they are Republicans. So if Republicans want a way back, this is one of the ways that they could do it. And there's actually a historical precedent.

We used to have a huge acid rain problem in this country. We created essentially a cap and trade system where we capped the amount of sulfur dioxide being emitted from these smokestacks, brought that cap down over years and allowed companies to sell their emission rights between each other. So a company that was really good at reducing their emissions could sell that remaining block to another company that needed more time.

It was one of the most successful programs in American history. It was put on the table and passed by a Republican president, the first George Bush, Bush Sr. And it solved the problem or it largely solved the problem at a cost far below what even the best estimates at the time were. We know that these kind of policies can work. It was a Republican idea, okay.

And so the irony of it is that the Republican Party has walked away from even one of their best ideas, one of their best proven ideas that really worked. So the question is how can we bring Republicans back to the table and say, "That's ours, we own that. This is our contribution to solving the problem. And in fact, we think our principles and our solutions are better than yours."

BILL MOYERS: So I'm Speaker of the House John Boehner and I ask you to come see me and I say I want to do what you're suggesting. Give me the sound bites a real conservative can use.

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: I think there are a couple things. One is they need to look at the threat, okay. So as an example could we think in a different way about climate change as a threat to our freedoms, okay? Climate change itself is a threat to our freedoms.

 
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