George P. Bush, heir apparent in the family political dynasty, just acknowledged that climate change is real, linked it to sea level rise and extreme weather, and suggested we find ways of adapting to it. That’s pretty remarkable, given that Republicans almost never say such things—and that Bush, who is running for the office of state Land Commissioner, is already touted by some as the party’s future.
Here’s the key excerpt from the Texas Tribune’s Neena Satija interview with Bush published over the weekend:
Well, I think people can agree that there has been warming, you know, in recent years. The question is whether or not it’s 100 percent anthropogenic, which means man-made. So I’ll leave that to the experts to discuss on that. But as it relates to the coast, you’re absolutely right, the studies show in the last few years that we average about 4 feet of erosion per year. Some counties are experiencing as high as 20 […] I mean, how do we respond in an effective way to hurricanes, or the next category 3, 4 or 5 [hurricane] that hits the greater Houston metropolitan area? I mean, that’s something that honestly keeps me up at night.
Though he says it may not be “100 percent anthropogenic,” (a familiar GOP line that the "debate isn't settled" over whether climate change is manmade), Bush does seem to suggest carbon pollution is a problem, just like science says it is. I’d be curious to hear his answer if pressed on this point. Satija did ask about his views on protecting coastal properties, which face significant threats due to flooding and sea level rise. Investments in beach mitigation and protecting the Gulf Coast for future generations, Bush argued, “are the most prudent thing to do.”
He didn’t stray quite as far from the usual Republican line when he derided the Obama Administration’s “war on coal.” But, interestingly, he remarked that the decline of coal is inevitable, and touted the Texas’ natural gas and renewable energy industries as replacements for some of that energy.
Consider just how unusual these statements are these days, particularly in Texas. Climate change denial is actually a plank in the state Republican Party platform. Still, even George W. Bush, who had a dismal and destructive legacy on climate and the environment, at least talked about greenhouse gas pollution. George P. Bush’s statements could be a sign that the family’s next generation—and maybe even the Republican Party’s next generation—will take the issue more seriously.
Rebecca Leber is a staff writer for The New Republic.