What Does the Alaska Senate Race Mean for Climate?


I’ve been plenty hard on Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski for her problematic stance on climate change. She wants credit for acknowledging that climate change is a problem, but at the same time has proved the most effective and aggressive senator when it comes to undermining actual action on the issue.

After Tuesday’s unexpected upset by tea party candidate Joe Miller, Murkowski might be on her way out (though there’s talk of a third-party run). You have to wonder what this means for the climate (and, thus, the fate of poor melting Alaska). While Murkowski acknowledged that the changing climate imperiled her state, Miller’s not so sure there’s a warming issue at all. While plenty of Republicans acknowledge that the planet is getting hotter but insist it’s not because of human activity, Miller thinks the problem “may not even exist.” He actually thinks that “the trend in more recent years has been towards cooler temperatures” (which is, of course, just not true).

Here’s the full explanation from his issues page:

Alaskans face some of the highest energy costs in the nation, despite being near tremendous natural resources. We need to power our homes and businesses at a reasonable cost. For this and other reasons, I strongly oppose the unconstitutional Cap and Trade legislation. The science supporting manmade climate change is inconclusive. Nothing typifies that more than the metamorphosis in terminology being used. A few years ago, the dire warnings coming from Al Gore and others all spoke of “Global Warming.” The term “Greenhouse Gas” itself conjures up images of the unnatural heat found in a manmade environment. However, since the trend in more recent years has been towards cooler temperatures, those (like Senator Murkowski and others) pushing for cap and trade and other carbon emission reducing legislation have had to change their terminology to “Climate Change.” Should we take drastic measures to combat something that may not even exist, burdening our already struggling economy with billions in new taxes and regulations? Even President Obama said the cost of cap and trade legislation to businesses and individuals will be steep. We need good science, and a long-term climate trajectory before we jump in and make decisions that will profoundly affect the lives of ordinary Alaskans. California has already passed a Cap and Trade law, which has made it even more expensive to do business there and has increased unemployment.

One of the reasons Murkowski has been such an effective player in the climate debate is because she’s able to play both sides. She appears to care about the issue, but has done more to undermine action than anyone else in the Senate. Unlike, say, a James Inhofe, the senator from Oklahoma, who is basically ignored by most decision-makers, she’s regularly invited to White House meetings on the subject and Senate negotiating sessions. I’m guessing Miller’s approach would not be nearly as savvy. So while his actual beliefs about climate are far more absurd, he might actually pose less of a threat in practice. But maybe that’s overly optimistic.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate