I’ve got two words for Gov. Bobby Jindal: If only.
They’re a direct response to two of Jindal’s own, his riff on a common, compelling criticism of those who reject the view that the world is facing a climate crisis. So-called experts may call them “science deniers,” Jindal said last week. But by opposing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, advocating reduced emissions and raising concerns about fracking, he argued, environmentalists are the ones who are willfully ignoring the evidence.
“Leftists tend to call skeptics of their utopian policies ‘deniers,’ but if they think that Yoko Ono and Lady Gaga should be setting American energy policy, I am happy to go on record denying that it’s a good idea,” he said. “The liberals who populate the Obama administration have made a religion out of opposing sensible energy policies. When it comes to energy policy, the Obama administration is best described as ‘science deniers.’ ”
That’s quite an assertion, and Jindal didn’t make it by accident. The words were right there in written remarks he delivered at the Heritage Foundation, where he unveiled a proposal to expand domestic energy production. They were written to produce headlines. Well, mission accomplished.
But if only his worldview supported his professed stance, this sudden embrace of “science.” If only the Rhodes Scholar with the Ivy League biology degree practiced what he preached in a broader sense, even if it put him at odds with the GOP base he clearly hopes will propel him to the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. If only he really did listen to the scientists as a matter of habit, not just when it’s politically convenient, like when he’s pushing back against President Barack Obama’s reluctance to approve the Keystone pipeline under obvious political pressure.
As big a deal as that project is, the planet’s overall sustainability is bigger. Much, much bigger. Jindal may not explicitly deny that climate change is a problem, but he doesn’t propose to address it, and he accuses those who do as having a hidden agenda.
“It’s not controversial to say human activity is contributing” to changes in climate, which in turn cause rising sea levels and other catastrophic shifts. But Jindal said he’d “leave it to the scientists to decide how much, what that means.”
Actually, they’ve already decided, by an overwhelming margin. A new report by the Global Carbon Project found that global emissions of greenhouse gases jumped 2.3 percent in 2013 and 2.9 percent in the United States alone.
“You can no longer have some countries go first and others come in later, because there is no more time. It needs to be all hands on deck now,” Glen P. Peters, of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, told the New York Times.
Plenty of nonexperts get what’s at stake, too. A massive march in New York City over the weekend called for action, in advance of a big United Nations meeting on the topic. Even the foundation run by the heirs of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller is divesting fossil fuel assets.
Yet Jindal dismisses those who want action, accusing them of using climate change as a “Trojan Horse” to kill jobs and “come in and tell us what kind of homes we live in, what kind of cars we drive, what kind of lifestyles we can enjoy. … It’s an excuse for (some) who never liked free-market economies, who never liked rapid economic growth,” he said.
Really? When exactly did the scientists come out against capitalism?
All of this begs comparison with another of Jindal’s, um, interesting takes on science. Peppered with questions about his support for a Louisiana law designed to allow religiously based theories to be taught alongside evolution, the governor again bobbed and weaved.
Does he personally believe in evolution? He wouldn’t say, despite repeated questions from reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast that same day.
“The reality is I’m not an evolutionary biologist,” he said. “I think that local school districts, not the federal government, should make the decision about how they teach science, biology, economics. I want my kids to be taught about evolution; I want my kids to be taught about other theories.”
So what do the biologists think of that? Well, one major professional society wrote in 2009 to say it would not meet in New Orleans because of “the official position of the state in weakening science education and specifically attacking evolution in science curricula.” Nobel laureates and even professors from his alma mater have called on Jindal to rethink his position.
Barring that, maybe Jindal could at least heed his own advice and let the science speak for itself.