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Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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May 27, 2008 2:42 PM

Rossi warms to climate change

Posted by David Postman

I see in the P-I that Dino Rossi is going to battle Gov. Chris Gregoire for the environmental vote. (He’s already got a hybrid campaign SUV.) It’s going to be tough for Rossi to overcome the Democrats’ traditional alliance with the environmental movement.

And there's no doubt that Democrats will play on Rossi's particularly close connections to the Building Industry Association of Washington. The BIAW is the group the environmentalists love to hate. The BIAW opposes the state and King County’s efforts to tighten environmental regulations as a way to combat global warming. The builder’s group called one of this year’s major climate change bills “the foundation for more enviro lawsuits.”

In a global warming report sent to its members, the BIAW listed a number of things it was doing to oppose the state’s efforts to reduce global warming. The list includes potential litigation to stop the Department of Ecology’s climate-change rulemaking, intervening in environmentalists’ lawsuits, and “Endorsing Dino Rossi for governor.”

But Rossi has had a recent epiphany on global warming. The P-I reports that “Rossi said there's no doubt the planet is warming.”

Rossi was asked about global warming at the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce in March. There he said “there’s still a lot of debate going on in this.”

I know a lot of people say, ‘Why bother with long-term planning if Al Gore says the world’s going to end in 10 years or 15 years. But there are a lot of scientists who disagree, so we’ll see how this debate goes.

Two weeks ago, Rossi wouldn’t say whether he thought global warming was real. He was quick to say it didn’t matter whether it was real because it was important to clean up the air regardless of whether there is scientific consensus on climate change. He told Times reporter Andrew Garber:

It doesn’t matter whether you believe in one scientist or another. The bottom line is we need to make reasonable plans to reduce carbon emissions and make improvements in our environment.

Despite repeated questions, Rossi refused to say whether he personally believed global warming was real, saying, “I’m not a scientist.”

That puts Rossi somewhere between the BIAW and Republican presidential candidate John McCain. McCain believes global warming is real and that there is a strong scientific consensus about the issue. He thinks most of the world agrees with that assessment. I asked McCain earlier this month how he responds to leaders in his own party who won’t say whether global warming is a fact.

Well, I’ll be glad to continue the debate on climate change. We will continue to accumulate scientific data. NASA, I think, has proven to most Americans and most people in this world as we’ve seen pictures of the globe and the receding ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctic and the profound changes that have taken place.

McCain uses a similar line to Rossi’s about how it really doesn’t matter what you think about global warming as long as you believe more environmental protection is needed.

I asked Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the BIAW, what he thought of Rossi’s global warming position.

“That’s fine,” he said. “He has his own perspective.” McCabe doesn’t think Rossi will be able to win much environmental support. “No matter what he does it’ll never be enough for them,” he said.

Rossi and McCabe agree in their opposition to this year’s major legislative action on global warming. House Bill 2815 set up goals for carbon reduction, but does not fund those efforts. Gregoire signed the bill and has called it a major accomplishment.

Rossi, according to spokeswoman Jill Strait, would not have signed the bill. Strait said Rossi believes “we should focus on rewarding people, not punishing them.”

The bill she just signed aims to use the power of the government to force people to cut vehicle miles traveled down to the level of 1980 in just ten years, and that is only the first step.

Dino’s vision is based on personal freedom and engaging Washington’s creative economy. His plan provides incentives for people to use new, clean technology.

After the jump, read more from Rossi on global warming.

Garber talked with Rossi earlier this month about McCain’s plan to combat global warming and climate change in general. Here are some notes from that interview.

Q: Personally, do you believe global warming is occurring?

A: It doesn’t matter whether you believe in one scientist or another. The bottom line is we need to make reasonable plans to reduce carbon emissions and make improvements in our environment. Everybody should agree on that.

Q: Yeah, but do you believe global warming is occurring?

A: I’m not a scientist, are you? I don’t believe all scientists actually agree on climate change. But it really shouldn’t matter because our goals should be the same. Let’s conserve our resources and move ahead with ensuring we have a clean environment.

Q: Is it fair to say you’re not convinced global warming is occurring?

A: I don’t think it’s fair to say that. What is fair to say is what I told you.

Q: I’m not clear what you’re saying, other than it’s beside the point whether it’s occurring.

A: You should be clear. What I said is not all scientists agree on this. And I’m not a scientist but I don’t think that really matters. We should all have a similar goal of cleaning the earth.

Q: That question aside. How do you feel about McCain’s plan?

Rossi said he hadn’t read about all of McCain’s plan, just the cap and trade proposal.

A: I think that it would be better done at a federal level. If we do this, whether it’s federal or in some sort of compact, we need to make sure it recognizes hydro is a renewable clean source of energy. …. We should be getting credit for that.

Q: What about McCain’s target of 60 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2050?

A: I don’t have the science on that to tell you about that. But we should include hydro power in that.

Q: Well, do you agree or disagree with goals to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions?

A: I don’t disagree with that. It’s one of the reasons we had such a big section in my transportation plan.

Rossi said that one of the best ways to reduce emissions is to relieve traffic congestion.

If you truly do care about carbon emissions and do care about the environment, then you should be for congestion relief.

Q: Circling back to McCain’s proposal, he talks about a 60 percent reduction. Part of the way he talks about doing that is through this cap and trade system. Could you support that?

A: I wouldn’t rule it out as long as hydro power is included.

Q: When people say, 'Dino Rossi, do you believe global warming is occurring or not?', your answer is?

A: Whether you believe one scientist or another we can all agree that we can reduce emissions and that we can all individually do things that will make a difference.

Q: Why isn’t it a fair question to ask what you personally believe?

A: I’m not a scientist.

Q: McCain isn’t a scientist and he states his opinion.

A: Right, but there are scientists on both sides of the issue. No matter where you are, we’re past that debate. The key is, what can we do to actually clean up the environment. …

Q: But if it’s not clear to you, why..?

A: What’s the worst case scenario? We’ve got a clean environment. That’s the way I look at it.


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