In the slew of remembrances that have poured forth since Arizona Sen. John McCain passed away on Saturday, few have said much about his legacy combating climate change. In fact, it’s an important one, writes Marianne Lavelle on InsideClimate News. While McCain’s record on the issue was by no means flawless, Lavelle marshals plenty of evidence to support her assertion that “the Arizona Republican did more than any other US politician has done before or since to advance the conservative argument for climate action.”
Between 2000 and 2008 in particular, he focused on the issue and tangibly shifted the political dynamic. He convened hearings on climate change in 2000, and in 2003 introduced bipartisan legislation with Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman to pass a cap and trade system that would have limited US carbon emissions. Before the topic was popular or mainstream, he bucked his own party to insist that citizens and government “should be concerned about mounting evidence that indicates that something is happening.” He demanded that his Senate colleagues listen to the scientific consensus.
McCain retreated from the subject not long after winning the Republican nomination for president in 2008, even coming out in support of expanded offshore oil drilling. Still, numerous leaders on climate change policy, from Al Gore’s former communications director to the president of the Environmental Defense Fund, remember McCain in this story as an important and influential voice.