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McDonnell imprudently shuts down a climate-change panel

Date published: 6/30/2011

IN LATE 2007, Gov. Tim Kaine appointed a Governor's Commission on Climate Change to assess and project Virginia's greenhouse-gas emissions, to predict how a warming world would affect the state, and to suggest mitigations of such harmful outcomes as rising oceans and the onslaught of heat-loving pathogens. It was a very sensible step.

The panel--an august group that included former Spotsylvanian Richard Cizik, a ranks-breaking Evangelical theologian convinced that global warming is a threat--made an impressive final report in 2008. But the panel was never officially demobilized--not in the last year of Mr. Kaine's term or during the first year and a half of Gov. Bob McDonnell's--until this week, when Mr. McDonnell put the quietus to it.

Brows furrow. If, as the West's scientific academies report and humans the world over from Eskimos to Equatoguineans have experientially concluded, the Earth is unnaturally warming, it did not stop doing so in the early summer of '11. And while it is true, as Mr. McDonnell's secretary of natural resources, Doug Domenech, says, "It's a global issue, and it's hard to say what changes we could make that would make that much of a difference," this is a poor reason to furl the flag and take a local opt-out.

The recent recession, after all, rocked the world, but "Bob For Jobs" McDonnell is doing his best to soften its impact in Virginia. Al-Qaida wages war on all civilization, but Virginia has heightened security more than most places. Energy shortages are ubiquitous, but Mr. McDonnell aches to drill off the Old Dominion's coast. And so with climate change. What Virginia does may be inconsequential in the grand scheme--but not to Virginians who stand to face its at-hand consequences in their own state. Why not at least keep the climate commission on standby alert?

One ill effect of the panel's summary disbandment is to boost the deniers--the True Non-believers--whom nothing short of global combustion would convince that something is climactically amiss. Mr. McDonnell's move smacks of politics, and violates the cardinal conservative principle of prudence.