Published for The Washington Post on November 17, 2011

In the GOP’s whack-a-mole primary process, Newt Gingrich is about to get thumped by conservatives.

The cause is likely to be climate policy. It is not only that Gingrich appeared next to Nancy Pelosi in a 2008 commercial calling for “action to address climate change.” A year earlier, Gingrich argued, “The evidence is sufficient that we should move toward the most effective possible steps to reduce carbon-loading in the atmosphere.” To that end, he supported “mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur.”

At the time, Gingrich’s position was not unique. John McCain had been the Senate sponsor of cap-and-trade legislation. His primary GOP opponents in the 2008 presidential campaign, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, had endorsed greenhouse gas limits in various forms. When Tim Pawlenty was criticized for similar views this year, he noted, “Everybody in the race — at least the big names in the race — embraced climate change or cap-and-trade at one point or another. Every one of us.”

There is a reason for such mass heresy: because the case once made by Gingrich and the others is perfectly reasonable. Conservatives have been open to market-oriented restrictions on pollution since Milton Friedman talked of “effluent taxes.” Recent studies, using increasingly refined methodologies, have confirmed a long-term rise in global temperatures and made a strong case for the contributing role of carbon emissions. In addition, many national security conservatives are disturbed by the massive U.S. payments to hostile, oil-producing nations.

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