- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich yesterday called himself a “green conservative,” saying Republicans shouldn’t argue that global warming is a myth but should offer market-based solutions to the problem.

During a debate with Sen. John Kerry on climate change, Mr. Gingrich touted his upcoming book, “A Contract With the Earth,” and mused that Republicans have avoided environmental platforms because they think it equates to bigger government and higher taxes.

“There has to be, if you will, a green conservative [with] a willingness to stand up and say, ‘All right, here’s the right way to solve these’ … rather than get into a fight over whether or not to solve it,” the Georgia Republican said.

He made a passing reference to his name sounding like “Knut,” the polar bear cub born in the Berlin Zoo and abandoned by his mother, whose plight has attracted global attention.

The forum was hosted by New York University’s John Brademas Center. Mr. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and Mr. Gingrich traded a few political barbs but lauded each other’s work and agreed that the effects of global warming must be curbed. Where they disagreed, often comically, was whether government should use “pleasure” or “pain” to stimulate change.

Mr. Gingrich said he thinks science proves the Earth is warming and humans have contributed to the change, but he doubts the urgency. He said the marketplace and entrepreneurs can respond to the challenge, without government mandates, through a system of tax incentives and innovation prizes.

Mr. Kerry said government action is required to force consumers, automakers and polluters to effect changes that could ward off dire consequences for the planet within a decade.

Several fans crowded Mr. Gingrich after the two-hour debate and urged him to run for president next year. Mr. Gingrich said, “I’m not even thinking about it” this early in the election cycle.

Mr. Kerry, who drew a warmer response from the audience yesterday, has said he will not mount another White House bid next year.

Mr. Gingrich said emotions on climate change have hindered progress. “People get enormously angry, but in fact common sense could lead to solutions that work,” he said.

The former speaker lauded Mr. Kerry’s recently published book, “This Moment on Earth: Today’s New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future,” saying he agrees with 60 percent of it.

Though the two men were cordial, Mr. Kerry noted that Mr. Gingrich said in a speech a few years ago that there was “no evidence at all” of global warming.

“I don’t think you can have it every which way. You either believe the science or you don’t believe the science,” Mr. Kerry said. “Science is science. Newt knows that.”

He disagreed with Mr. Gingrich’s assessment that catastrophes resulting from climate change are not imminent.

“This is a crisis,” Mr. Kerry said. “Glaciers are melting. … Delay dramatically increases the risks, ladies and gentlemen.”

Mr. Kerry said the Earth is at a “tipping point” and that waiting for market-based solutions was like saying, “Barry Bonds, go investigate steroids” or “Enron, go investigate pensions.”

Backing Mr. Kerry’s point was a U.N. report showing that rising global temperatures could melt Latin America’s glaciers within 15 years, cause food shortages affecting 130 million people across Asia by 2050 and wipe out Africa’s wheat crop.

The report, written by scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said dramatic effects of climate change include rising sea levels, the disappearance of species and more intense natural disasters. It added that 30 percent of the world’s coastlines could be lost by 2080.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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