Friday, November 05, 2010

Are there partisan differences between democrats and republicans on the environment (and by proxy) on coastal policy?

The article "A Widening Gap: Republican and Democratic Views on Climate Change" by Riley E. Dunlap and Aaron M. McCright offers and excellent and very comprehensive study of this divergence. Environment, Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, September/October 2008.

They point out that, "historically, support for environmental protection in the United States has been relatively nonpartisan. Republicans have pointed with pride to Theodore Roosevelt’s crucial role in promoting the conservation of natural resources by establishing national parks and forests, and Democrats have applauded Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s efforts to include conservation as part of the New Deal via the Soil Conservation Service and related programs."

This bipartisan support for the environment however, has undergone a major change.

"The situation began to change in the early 1980s, as the Reagan administration labeled environmental regulations a burden on the economy and tried to weaken them and reduce their enforcement. While this stimulated a temporary backlash from environmentalists and much of the public during Reagan’s first term, the “Reagan Revolution,” based on the theme that “government is the problem, not the solution,” provided electoral success for the Republican Party for a quarter century. The antienvironmental orientation of the Republican Party became salient again following the Newt Gingrich–led Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, sparking a modest negative reaction from the public, and has been greatly amplified during the George W. Bush administration but with little discernible political cost—probably because the war on terror and the Iraq war have until recently dominated the policy agenda. A consequence of these trends has been a growing divide along party lines over environmental protection, among other government programs."

What are the consequences of the Republican victory in the 2010 elections in the House of Representatives and state races as well as the accompanying weakening of the Obama administration?

The New York Times put it this way, "The Obama administration and the new Congress appear headed for early confrontations over the reach of environmental regulation and federal subsidies for fossil fuel development." New York Times, Nov 3, 2010.

While climate change is not the only coastal policy issue it is a proxy for understanding the tense dance that will occur between the GOP and the Democrats on all issues such as this.

The probable new Republican speaker of the House, John A. Boehner of Ohio, has " ... dismissed the idea that carbon dioxide is affecting the climate and has characterized cap and trade and other proposed solutions to global warming as job-killing energy taxes."

The Tea Party and conservative Republicans (are there any that are still moderate or liberal?!) are uniformly against such regulations. They may also move to reduce the regulation of the oil industry, revisit fishing quotas, building on the coast, and many other measures that are of interest to us as CZM experts and students.

For those of us who "do" coastal policy the p;roper perspective going forward is top now look at the policy environment in a much more segmented way. We nee to examine issues state by state, by "meta issues," and sector by sector.

State by Sate. In the sweep of Republicans into office California stands out as a maverick. Californians defeated Proposition 23, which the oil-industry-sponsored. It was an effort " ... to gut the state’s landmark global warming law that will set strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions and create a trading system for pollution permits. California voters also re-elected the Democrat Barbara Boxer to the Senate and returned a Democrat, Jerry Brown, to the governor’s office — both strong supporters of state and federal action on climate change." New York Times

Clearly there is a big opportunity for voters and leaders at the state and local level to take advantage of federalism and design policies that are popular, necessary and doable at those levels even while the federal government may be retrenching.

Meta Issues

In addition to the geocentric decentralization of policy we also will see many coastal policy opportunities revolving around specific strategies which can bring together stakeholders and create new useful alliances.

There are several models advocated by clusters of scientists, politicians and policymakers including:

1. Allowing market forces to resolve some of these problems

2. Regulating and reducing pollution and emissions as well as highly regulating construction on the coasts

3. Using geoengineering such as, "Pumping sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, as volcanoes do, is the most well established way to block the sun. Other proposals call for brightening clouds over the oceans by lofting sea salt into the atmosphere and building a sunscreen in space." Scientific American, November, 2008

Sector by Sector.

Finally sector interests can be brought together to address coastal sectors such as fishing, recreation, tourism and hospitality, alternative energy, conservation, shipping and port facilities, recreational boating and marinas, reef conservation and the diving industry, etc.

So the 2010 election brought significant changes to the American political landscape. The Republicans and the Tea Party conservatives are significantly less "environmental" than the Democrats.offer new opportunities for creative science and policy making focused on the coastal zones of the United States.

The new political environment at the local, state, and federal level in the United States may require new and different strategies for addressing coastal zone management and coastal policy. It's likely that the federal government will be much less activist that many had expected when Al Gore argued the case and when Barak Obama was elected president.

Steffen Schmidt

Professor of Coastal Policy

Video below. Is this REALLY a coastal zone?! Yes it is. Drive south from Hollywood Beach, Florida on route A1A and you will see the extremes to which we go in developing our beaches and barrier islands. The beach is on the other side of these buildings. There is almost no public access. the coast has been privatized.

What coastal policy is appropriate here?

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