THE BLOG

Conservative Discrepancy

05/19/2015 01:15 pm ET | Updated May 19, 2016
AP

Conservative Republicans are trumpeting the resounding election victory of the British Conservative Party as a triumph of kindred souls.

Not so fast. At least in regard to environmental policy, the two Conservative parties bear little resemblance.

British Prime Minister David Cameron favors aggressive action against global warming, which he considers a serious threat and attributable to human activity. His party is aiming for a stronger climate change treaty when the international community convenes in Paris this winter. (Prior to becoming prime minister, Cameron rode a bike to work and added solar and wind energy to his own home. He also at times voiced support for a gradual phase-out of coal. Hard to picture American conservative political leaders doing the same.)

Contrast Cameron's stance on climate change with that of the conservative faction of the American Republican Party. The latter at best dismisses climate change as natural variability, and at worst, as an outright hoax. Conservative Republican lawmakers here are doing everything in their legislative power to undercut the Obama Administration's position at the forthcoming Paris talks. Attempts are being made to put up roadblocks to the president's proposed regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, releases that are widely associated with global warming.

Cameron is not the first Conservative British prime minister to diverge from our modern day conservatives. The late Maggie Thatcher, so revered by the American Right Wing, once declared that "the core of our philosophy and the case for protecting the environment are the same."
That sentiment is hard to reconcile with the daily behavior of current Congressional Republicans. They have engaged in an unprecedented effort to roll back or nullify federal environmental regulations. Their arbitrary and widely rejected rationale: such rules are "oppressive".

To be fair, the British Conservative Party's fervent environmental pledges have not always come to pass. Nonetheless, the Party is on record with strong words for which it will eventually be held accountable if it falters.

You can observe a striking difference between the two parties by comparing the language in the 2015 British Conservative Manifesto and the latest (2012) Right Wing-dominated Republican National Platform.

The Brits vow to protect publicly-owned conservation land in perpetuity and add to the acreage when feasible. Their American counterparts despise federal government ownership of undeveloped public land. With the exception of national parks, they favor privatization or devolution of the federal acreage to the states.

The Manifesto contains an unequivocal promise to strengthen protection of air and water. The GOP Platform urges that environmental regulation be subordinated to economic development and job creation.

Cameron's party has been an enthusiastic subsidizer of clean, renewable offshore wind energy. Conservative Republicans in Congress maintain that the marketplace, not government, should determine our energy mix. Yet they remain conspicuously silent about generous subsidies to the heavily polluting fossil fuel industry.

By the way, the current American conservative movement is also a far cry environmentally from its original incarnation.

Russell Kirk, author of the 1953 treatise, The Conservative Mind, is a case in point. Many view this publication as the classic introduction to modern conservatism. In it, Kirk contended that "environmental quality transcends political boundaries."

Years after the release of his seminal work, Kirk complained that "practical conservatism has degenerated into mere laudation of private enterprise."

Any current conservative Republican politician on our shores caught uttering this apostasy would quickly be ostracized from his or her party.