Though former U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis took thousands of dollars from anti-climate science special interests during his time in office, he is back in the public eye and working to raise awareness about climate change — a decidedly un-Republican career change for the former South Carolina congressman.
According to campaign finance data collected from OpenSecrets.org, Inglis received $17,000 in contributions from Koch Industries during his time in office. The wealthy, ultraconservative oil magnates have put millions into anti-climate science programs — even creating fossil fuel-friendly children’s educational materials contradicting established climate science.
But despite voting against cap and trade legislation, Inglis did stress the importance of finding market-based solutions to cut environment-killing pollution. That probably explains why the Koch brothers revoked their support in 2010, giving money to Gowdy instead. Upstate conservatives did the same with their votes, with Gowdy beating Inglis 70-29 in the Republican primary.
Remember, it was at an Inglis town hall meeting where an irate tea partier uttered the now-famous “keep your government hands off my Medicare” line.
Shortly after his loss, Inglis criticized many conservatives for believing that the earth is “the province of God and will not be affected by human activity. If you talk about the challenge of sustainability of the Earth’s systems, it’s an affront to that theological view.” Earlier this week, he spoke to Grist’s David Roberts about the general refusal on the right to accept the realities of climate science — and how that may have played into his electoral defeat:
The thing where I’m obviously out of step is, I think it’s possible to be a conservative who wants to build community. That it is consistent with the ethical teachings of Jesus — to be a communitarian, to care for the sick. But right now what we have is anger and rejectionism. On energy and climate, there’s an element that just rejects action, rejects the science, rejects anything and anybody with a PhD.
I think you should respect people who have given their lives to learning about climate systems and listen to them carefully. They know a lot more than I do. But this is not where we are right now.
If I accept the science, and that leads to the conclusion that something’s up, and I’m a responsible moral actor, I should change my behavior. But if I’m not willing to change my behavior, it’s better for me, not to admit that I’m selfish, but to attack the science. Attacking the science is an easier way to dispense with the question.
Inglis’ Energy & Enterprise Institute isn’t the only Republican environmental group, as oxymoronic as that sounds. Another group, Republicans for Environmental Protection even uses Reagan’s own words to challenge the GOP consensus on climate change and energy legislation. In 2010, the group bought airtime on conservative talk radio stations in South Carolina during the Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh programs featuring Reagan speaking about the environment.
“Preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense,” Reagan said in 1984. “Our physical health, our social happiness, and our economic well-being will be sustained only by all of us working in partnership as thoughtful, effective stewards of our natural resources.
We remain skeptical whether Inglis or any other group pushing climate science — GOP or otherwise — will be able to change the GOP leadership’s minds on climate. Heck, many conservatives refuse to admit carbon dioxide can even be harmful. Still, it’s always nice to see a little bipartisanship when it comes to issues affecting the Earth’s survival.