McCain's environmental record

On environmental issues, the Republican nominee for president has gone from hero to zero.

By Ben Whitford

In January 2006, Brad Miller, a Democratic congressman from North Carolina, joined Sen. John McCain on a legislative fact-finding delegation to the South Pole. Miller recalls the lawmakers, still bundled in their emergency cold-weather gear, huddling into a tiny conference room a stone’s throw from the pole itself, where nervous climate scientists showed them ice-core data that a few months later would serve as the dramatic centerpiece of Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth. “We were all fairly taken aback,” says Miller. But McCain was less interested in the science, which he seemed to accept at face value, than in finding ammunition to use against his opponents back in Washington; during the presentation, he bombarded the scientists with questions about whether the Bush administration or his rivals in the Senate had tried to suppress the researchers’ findings. “McCain absolutely grilled them,” Miller says. “He was really pushing these guys about whether they were allowed to say what they really thought.” Later that night, with the midnight sun still overhead, McCain buttonholed Miller in the dingy prefab hut that served as the research station’s bar and, over a beer, held forth about the importance of tackling climate change. McCain had recently read Jared Diamond’s book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, and lectured Miller on the story of Easter Island, whose inhabitants wrecked their ecosystem and ultimately their entire society. “He seemed to be trying to impress upon me that he was a kindred spirit on the subject of the environment,” Miller says. “He said it needed to be our urgent business.”
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