GOP Climate Denier Succumbs to Gospel of Science

Outlier: a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set.

Sometimes hell freezes over. Sometimes pigs fly. Sometimes politicians change their minds because of facts… becoming outliers of their former group while embracing a mainstream idea.

Former Congressman Bob Inglis (R-SC) lost his seat in 2010. Why? Because he not only believed climate change is real, but proposed a tax on carbon. This position is his passion: He runs a nonprofit, RepublicEn, devoted to having conservatives recognize the threat of climate change. As he recently began his second national tour, the committed Christian proselytized for a carbon tax, saying it would boost green fuels and spur prosperity.

While most older Republicans are skeptical (less than 1/3 of Republicans nationally believe the science of climate change), the young within the GOP have taken notice and become believers. As Inglis says,

For some people, it’s the first time they have heard about this in a small setting from a Republican, a member of the tribe, presenting a different point of view. And that creates some dissonance for them. (Editor’s Note: See for a discussion on cognitive dissonance.)

This is important. A recent study found that Republicans were the most likely to be persuasive to climate change deniers because they could be perceived as taking more of a political risk.

What prompted the “quiet conversion” that resulted in “Inglis 2.0”? Three things: (1) His son, 18, told his father that he needed to “clean up his act” on the environment; (2) In 2005 he joined a congressional delegation visiting Antarctica, where he watched researchers dig into polar ice, extracting cores marked by the carbon dioxide spike that began with the Industrial Age; and (3) In 2008 he made a second trip to the Great Barrier Reef on another congressional trip. The day was, he said, a revelation. The group’s guide, Australian oceanographer Scott Heron, “surfaced with unbridled joy, clutching the wonders of the world’s largest reef system. He was preaching the Gospel; I could see it in his eyes, I could hear it in his voice. I could see it written all over his face—that he was worshiping God in what he was showing me.” Inglis was profoundly moved, yet disturbed, to learn that spiking ocean temperatures were bleaching and killing the once rainbow-hued coral.

Back in Washington, Inglis introduced a bill to make polluting fossil fuels more expensive, with proceeds from the tax going to taxpayers in the form of payroll tax cuts. The bill never got a hearing. He was now a heretic.

Inglis’s first tour as a proponent of climate change awareness did not go well. One listener said later that while he seemed like a nice guy, he “has got to get off this Al Gore deal, stop all this damn global warming talk.” Others, however, slowly came to see him as “the adult in the room,” and were tired of Republican naysayers clearly in conflict with science. Younger conservatives, especially, were ready to listen.

At The Citadel, Inglis addressed 70 cadets, nearly all Republicans. The president of the Citadel Republican Society said that a carbon tax, rebated to citizens, might work. “I’m trying to bring in a perspective of different ideas, different viewpoints,” he said, “even if it’s not mainstream Republican thought.” 

Inglis told the Citadel’s warriors in training that it was up to their generation to “go beyond this crazy tribalism” of Republicans and Democrats seeing each other as enemies, not talking to each other. “We ask you to raise your hand and to be seen, to be seen by saying: ‘We love this country. We love this world. We are ready to be stewards of God’s creation.’”

An outlier to be proud of.






Categories: Issues, National

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