A Rare Duck In A Shrinking Pond Of Climate Change Deniers

e360: You’ve talked about a key moment in your [2010] campaign that occurred, I think, in Spartanburg at a big tent meeting. Can you describe that?

Inglis: Yes, at the Landrum airport. It’s a small landing strip, which is a great place to have events. There’s a big tent out there…  So a question comes to me from the Christian talk radio host who is moderating the forum, and he says, “This question starts with Bob Inglis. Congressman Inglis, do you believe, yes or no, in human causation of climate change?” And you know, I have a terrible habit of answering questions, so I said, “Yes.” And boo, hiss, comes the crowd. It’s audible hissing and booing…

The same question was then asked of the guy who ultimately beat me. He’s a trial lawyer, a prosecutor guy, and so he had what I thought – I had to give it to him – was a fabulous answer. He said, “Inasmuch as it hasn’t been proven to the satisfaction of the people that I represent, the answer is no, there is no human causation in climate change.”

e360: A very lawyerly answer.

Inglis: Do you think that’s how we should handle all scientific questions – put them up for people to decide? “What do you think? Gravity, yes or no?” Well, let’s let the people decide! It was a particularly good answer at the moment, for him. It won him the applause of the crowd.

e360: What do you believe the U.S. can do to really address climate change?

Inglis: I think we should send a price signal. That means fixing the economics so all costs are in on all the fuels and there are no subsidies. A bill I had in Congress is one way to do it. There are other ways, but the bill that I had was a $15 a ton tax on carbon rising to $100 a ton over 30 years. And I was always open to whether that trajectory should be changed. The reason I had such flexibility is because of what I would say next: You then offset that [carbon tax] with a reduction in payroll taxes, dollar for dollar. And that’s why I was so flexible. It’s a tax swap, that’s what I was talking about. It wouldn’t grow the government, and it would approximate the attachment of these negative externalities to combustion fossil fuels.

The Victorian side of Lake Hume in Australia (image credit: Tim J Keegan/Flickr)

The Victorian side of Lake Hume in Australia (image credit: Tim J Keegan/Flickr)

Another key element, I think, of what needs to be part of the package is that it should be a border-adjustable tax, so it would be removed on export and imposed on import – unless the trading partner has a similar pricing mechanism, in which case their goods would come in without an adjustment. But it’s very important, I think, that we not decimate American manufacturing by simply pricing carbon in our own economy with the effect of exporting productive capacity to countries that have greater energy intensity and therefore larger CO2 emissions.

e360: This was something that you offered in Congress as an alternative to the cap-and-trade bill that was out there at the time?

Inglis: Right. I voted against cap-and-trade.

e360: Why?

Inglis: It was hopelessly complicated, and it was embarrassing in the free allocation [of allowances to specific pollution sources or industries] that undermined the whole schema. It was dangerous to American manufacturing. I know they had a border-adjustable element, but I was never convinced that it worked. And it was a significant tax increase without any corresponding tax reduction. And I’m not into growing government. I’m a conservative. So I’m into getting the economics right, but not growing government in the process. And so you’ve got to give me a corresponding tax cut if you’re going to price carbon.

What I introduced is called the Raise Wages, Cut Carbon bill, and if you Google that, I think you can find it. It’s fifteen pages as opposed to the 1,200-page cap-and-trade.

e360: You’re taking your message now to conservative audiences and business audiences? Who are you aiming your initiative at, and how are you going about reaching them?

Inglis: We’re spending a lot of time on college campuses speaking to college Republicans, Federalist societies, and young evangelicals. The reason is that they’re open to it, because they’re taking economics and chemistry and physics. They’re really a little bit embarrassed by what’s on the [conservative] radio, because they know it doesn’t match up with what they are learning in economics, physics, and chemistry. And so we want to help them to see there’s a way that you can be conservative, not want to grow government, and actually be for social-issue accountability, which is a key component of what social-issue conservatives believe. You’ve got to be accountable. Behavior has consequences, so attach the cost to something so that the market can judge it.

These students are open to that message, and we hope these students will be ambassadors to their parents and grandparents. Those are the harder demographics for us. Their parents and grandparents are harder – especially the grandparents, who feel an attack on their way of life.

e360: Do you think environmentalists are in some ways to blame for this because the approach has sometimes been to hector people about their lifestyle and their responsibility for these things?

Inglis: I think so, because it’s like my ad guy on my campaign says to me. He says, “We all like change, just we don’t like to be changed.” We want to be the change agent, but we surely don’t want to be the one who gets changed by somebody else. We want to be in the driver’s seat on that.

And so what happens often when the left is talking to the right about these issues, it seems like it’s coming across as, “We know better than you do. You’re a bunch of hicks from the sticks. We’re so much smarter than you are. We’ve got scientists who tell us this and that. We’ll design a regulatory system that will fix things, because we can’t trust you to make good decisions.” That’s one way it comes across – and it’s offensive to conservatives.

Editor’s Note: EarthTechling is proud to bring you this article courtesy of Yale Environment 360. Author credit goes to Roger Cohn.

Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


  • Reply February 28, 2013

    Jon Casey

    The sun is responsible for a lot — like sustaining life. But humans are responsible for the global warming we see today. http://clmtr.lt/cb/pwg0cW

  • Reply March 1, 2013

    Toni Barton

    Scientists have known about global warming for decades. It’s real. So let’s move on to what we can do about it. http://clmtr.lt/cb/pwg

  • Reply March 1, 2013

    Scott Supak

    While this guy is teaching basic science to wingnuts, I hope he gets in a little economics, biology, astronomy, physics, and all the other things that most conservatives deny. Seems like a rather Sisyphean task, though, trying to teach people whose ideology tells them every thing they need to know, science be damned. I applaud him for his efforts, but I wonder if at this point we wouldn’t just be better off marginalizing the wingnuts and the tea party and moving on without them.

    So, stop voting Republican. Vote as if the whole world depended on it.

    • Reply March 1, 2013


      It’s good to see that at least some conservatives are willing to understand the science. Maybe those conservative students will feel a little less threatened to hear the scientific truth of global warming from one of their own. I hope he’s able to make a difference – we need all the help we can get.

    • Reply March 1, 2013


      I don’t believe it is very constructive to be calling them wingnuts, etc (even if you think they deserve it). Much like they would say libtards or something of the nature. Only with respect and not belittling them may we try to bring them to the climate reality which they are ignoring. Emotion of being insulted will get in the way of facts.

      • Reply March 1, 2013

        Scott Supak

        Gotta disagree. Liberals have been too nice and what has it gotten us? Iraq. Housing Bubble. No action on AGW, instead, we’re trying to stop the stupidest pipeline idea ever. The wingnuts have us on the defensive because they stand up strongly for what they believe. So, that’s what I do. I put right back in there faces what they deserve.

        Look at it this way: These people, who told us there were WMD in Iraq, that housing wasn’t the biggest asset bubble in the history of the world, that crap paper should be rated AAA, that tobacco didn’t cause cancer, are now telling us stuff that will lead to the biggest disaster in human history. And we’re supposed to be nice to them? Screw that.

        We’re not going to change those minds anyway. I’m talking to the people who might not know what all this is about, and they see me getting angry, and they think, wow, this must be important. They see people talking calmly and they think, well, how bad can it be? No one is really all that upset about it.

        My favorite tactic is to challenge them to bet on it. I saw Neil Degrasse Tyson on Bill Maher arguing with former GM chairman and AGW denier Bob Lutz. After Tyson took Lutz’s lunch money on the facts, he told him “You can go bet on it.” He was talking about Intrade.com, popular for real money markets that accurately predict elections and such, which has markets on global warming, arctic ice extent, and the like. I was making money in those markets, but, unfortunately, the CFTC recently took action against Intrade, and Americans aren’t allowed to bet there now. So, I have to encourage the wingnuts to help me lobby the CFTC to #FreeIntrade so they can put their money where their mouths are.

        But whatever. Don’t chastise me for my methods and I won’t chastise you for yours. I find the thought of what these people want to do to the planet horrifying, and I’m going to react strongly. They are science denying wingnuts, they’ve been disastrously wrong about almost everything, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to be nice to them anymore than I would be nice to any other blood thirsty murderer.

        • Reply March 1, 2013


          I think you have to rethink. When people see someone angry, people will see someone angry and wonder why. When they see someone angry and insulting they don’t give any credence to their statement and write them off. i.e. If your boss yells at you in an embarrassing manner constantly throughout the office for a mistake you made you aren’t going to try to perform better, you will resent him and try to subvert things that they say.

          Now- if you want the ultimate revenge and in a SMART way that will influence them, put the argument in their perspective, say like cleaning up all these disasters is going to kill the taxpayer when govn’t has to step in, etc (obama shoul’ve said that in his SOTU I think). Manipulation/influence (the revenge) not brute force (which that’s something you and dubbya have in common apparently) wins out. And that I’ll have my way and you have yours thing is a complete rehash of a right wing argument. Think.

          Being angry and effective and being outrageous and ineffective are two different things. Movements win out by PERSISTANT, impassioned – yet rational – action not the other way around.

          If you are angry be commanding and use more educating, stern and effective dialogue. Don’t become what you hate. And please, don’t set back our efforts by driving more away.

          And not all conservatives are against climate movement, maybe a VAST MAJORITY, but not all. Don’t discount them out (ConservAmerica- check them out).

          • March 1, 2013

            Scott Supak

            You’re not talking to some kid that just fell off the turnip truck here. I’ve been doing this a long time now. Ever since GW Bush’s little adventure in Mesopotamia really ticked me off. I come from a background of very aggressive people: stagehands. It’s like being in a Biker Gang. Seriously. Bunch of tough guys for the most part. I have many converts from that world who have seen me stand up to the wingnuts who insulted me, threatened me, and belittled me in public and on the job. I gave it right back to them as well as, or better than, they gave it to me. I earned respect. I did it by standing up for what I believe is right.

            You might not like my methods, and you might have some pretty arguments for why I should cool it, but I really don’t care. This is how I roll. Do I piss some people off? Sure. Then they lose it and look like even bigger fools. That’s what I call them taking the bait. Works wonders, and often sends them to Intrade where I can take their money, because, honestly, anyone who would bet against global warming at this point deserves to get fleeced. We’re not going to change his mind, but I can sure put my little version of a carbon tax on his ass.

            Now, if you’re calling me irrational, then you and I are going to have a problem. I might be over the top (this is the internet, and we do have to use a step up transformer to make sure we’re heard here in hyperbole land) but I’m not irrational. I back everything I say up with facts, I link to the supporting evidence, and if you care to follow me around the internet, you’ll see I get a lot of props for putting these bloodthirsty assholes in their place.

            I’m not becoming what I hate. I don’t hate them for their tactics, or their vile, or their smugness. I hate them for what their idiocy will do to the world. Because I do not support allowing that idiocy to do that to the world, I therefore cannot become what I hate.

            In fact, I often admire the way the GOP sets the tone of just about everything. The way David Gregory is sometimes on Meet the Press with John McCain. They do it through being mean, nasty, and even brutish. They intimidate people. They push people around. And they win. Maybe we should start getting back in their smug faces with Facts presented in the same way as they present Bullshit.

          • March 1, 2013


            Totally get your point now, Dubbya.

          • March 1, 2013

            Scott Supak

            Right. Because I wasn’t physically assaulted multiple times for opposing the lying bastards who got us into Iraq, I was the one spreading Dick Cheney’s lies via teleprompter to mouth implant.

            This is similar to the wingnut argument that a bunch of Democrats voted for the war. Does that make those Democrats as bad as the people who lied to those Democrats for their vote? Does adopting tactics successfully employed by right wing snake oil salesmen, namely in-your-face rudeness against perceived threats (real or not), make it more likely that I will connect with people who respond to in-your-face rudeness against perceived threats, in this case when I can prove that the threat is much more real than Iraqi WMD?

            In short, a lot of real macho types are on the wrong side of the facts on this argument. You talk nice to them if you want, but I’ve spent my life around them, and I know what gets their attention.

            Now, please, I saw in the news today that Intrade might have a way to open back up for Americans. Please encourage any wingnut you get in an argument with on global warming that you know a guy who is willing to bet on it at Intrade. Because if they won’t put their money where their mouths are, then it’s all just hot air.

  • Reply March 1, 2013

    Christopher Miles

    Good on Bob Inglis.

  • Reply March 1, 2013


    It was unclear if he wanted to price in things other than carbon into the cost of energy. I strongly believe that all (or at least most) items should be priced according to their total effect on Earth – pollution, waste, poisons, etc. Obviously, you have to simplify it a lot to make it manageable, but someone creating a large box for a small item (cereal boxes, toy packaging, etc.) should have to pay an additional cost to account for effect of additional waste on top of any additional mfg cost.
    That should encourage conservation or at least provides additional funds to deal with the waste.

  • Reply November 21, 2013


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