Was Reagan a Climate Leader?

There are probably some readers of this blog whose memory of the Reagan Administration only conjures up scary visions of former Secretary of the Interior James Watt. They might be surprised to learn (as would folks like Rush Limbaugh) that President Reagan had quite a few environmental accomplishments—both as governor of California and as president—not the least of which was his action as president to safeguard our atmosphere.

President Reagan (courtesy Ronald Reagan Library)

The most pressing climate issue of his day was ozone depletion. Climate scientists were warning that the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in refrigeration and other industrial applications were dangerously depleting the earth’s protective ozone layer—exposing us to ever increasing levels of  harmful solar radiation. Just as with the issue of climate change today, there were those who dismissed those warnings as overblown and objected to taking action. The Reagan Administration itself was split, with then-Interior Secretary Donald Hodel infamously suggesting the solution was simply to wear hats and apply more sunscreen.

Ultimately, the decision was up to the president. Would Reagan heed the warnings of climate scientists and take action, or would he side with those who wanted to ignore ozone depletion? To find out, and see how his decision is instructive for our elected leaders today, check out the recent op-ed by David Jenkins, ConservAmerica’s Vice President for Government Affairs, on Huffington Post.

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