The nation’s newspaper editorial pages used Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s mid-May climate change speech in Oregon to vent, pro and con, on the Arizona Senator’s policy prescription. A sampling of the commentaries, drawn from the climate change reporting database maintained by Environmental Health Sciences.

USA Today

“… The next President, Democrat or Republican, will undoubtedly be more attentive to the issue than President Bush, who for the most part of his tenure has reflected skepticism over whether global warming is real and correctable.

“While important differences remain among the candidates’ approaches, the good news is that the next occupant of the White House sees the need for aggressive action. That alone is significant progress.

“If the fate of the planet truly hung in the balance, it would be nice to make saving it the priority.”

Pittsburgh Tribune

“… the presumptive Republican presidential nominee embraced perhaps the least efficacious system to deal with CO2 emissions.

“Now, let us reiterate at the outset that all these ‘remedies’ for global warming are a bit like concocting ‘solutions’ for easing the angel overcrowding problem on pinheads. Yes, that’s right – much of this global warming nonsense is a solution in search of a problem.

“… there are growing indications of global cooling. But even then, the evidence mounts of natural, cyclical trends rather than man-made causes.

“… And we’ve not even gotten to the supersized government bureaucracy that would be needed to command and control this mistakenly titled and twisted ‘free-market’ exercise.

“History will look at global warming as the largest farce ever perpetuated on mankind and the rush to ‘solve’ it as one of its greatest miscalculations. That John McCain has chosen to blindly jump on this bandwagon rather than to lead reasoned minds out of the briar patch is a troubling omen.”

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“It’s refreshing to hear that Sen. John McCain is willing to lead on global warming, based on the scientific consensus.

… the next President will be playing with a full deck of facts on climate change. McCain clearly and honestly distinguished himself from President Bush on the issue …. he starts the debate with one point over n-reactors’ [nuclear reactors’] current White House champion: McCain can pronounce ‘nuclear.’”

The New York Times

“John McCain has been engaged in the fight against global warming for years … But it was still an important moment this week when Mr. McCain, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, decided to raise the profile of climate change in the 2008 campaign. We have clearly entered the post-Bush era of policy and politics on climate change.

“… Politically, of course, Mr. McCain could also be helping himself. Endorsing an aggressive and potentially expensive effort to reduce carbon emissions will not win him friends on the right wing. But it allows him to make the case (at little cost given his well-known record on the issue) that he is not a Bush clone, even as he embraces the president’s views on taxes, the federal judiciary and the war in Iraq.

[There are differences among the three remaining major candidates, but] … “At this stage, it would be a mistake to make too much of these differences, including the overall targets …. Above all, it will require determined and courageous leadership from a president capable of conveying hard truths and asking a lot of the country.

“Assuming that Mr. McCain and the two Democratic candidates mean what they say, on this issue at least, we seem assured of such a president.”

Austin American-Statesman

“… McCain, in a speech in Oregon, did criticize the Bush administration’s long indifference to global warming, saying, ‘I will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears. I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges.’

“Nor is he going to waste any more time ‘idly debating the precise extent of global warming,’ he said, because the nation has been ‘warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great.’

“McCain’s willingness to face the problem is welcome news …

“… a huge change for America’s production facilities, particularly power plants. But science tells us that’s what it will take to have an impact.”

Albany Times Union

“McCain’s proposal isn’t that much different from the weak clean air plan Mr. Bush announced during a visit to the Adirondacks in 2002.

“Mr. McCain talks tough.

“… The devil, as they say, is in the details.

“A better way to reduce pollution is for government to impose mandatory reductions on industries and heavy financial penalties for violators. If Mr. McCain wants to be taken seriously, he should say so.”

The Washington Post

“… Mr. McCain said nuclear power should be part of a basket of alternative energy sources that must be pursued ‘to put the age of fossil fuels behind us.’

[After posing a number of detailed policy issues to be addressed] … “Answering such questions would be a worthwhile discussion to have. It will be a refreshing change to have the White House taking part.”

The Wall Street Journal

“… This is one of those issues where Mr. McCain indulges his ‘maverick’ tendencies, which usually means taking the liberal line. That was the case yesterday, no matter how frequently he claimed his approach was ‘market based.’

“In fact, if ‘the market’ is your favored mechanism, Mr. McCain’s endorsement of a ‘cap and trade’ system is the worst choice for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

“… His plan is ‘market-based’ insofar as it requires an expensive, invasive government bureaucracy to interfere with the market.

“…. The problem is that once government creates an artificial scarcity of carbon, how the credits are allocated creates a huge new venue for political rent-seeking and more subsidies for favored industries. Some businesses will benefit more than others, in proportion to their lobbying influence and how well they’re able to game the Beltway. Congress itself will probably take the largest revenue grab, offering itself a few more bites out of the economy and soaking politically unpopular businesses.

“Then there’s the question of whether any of this will even reduce greenhouse gasses. The McCain plan would allow businesses unlimited use of domestic and international offsets to comply with the carbon cap. So a chemical manufacturer, say, would pay an industry not covered by the program – most notably, agriculture – to reduce its emissions. Or it could pay a coal plant in China for plucking low-hanging efficiency fruit, like installing smokestack scrubbers. In other words, U.S. consumers would be paying higher prices for energy in return for making Chinese industries more efficient and competitive. Europe is in the midst of that experience now under the Kyoto Protocol, and most of its reductions so far have been illusory.”

“… Given the distance between Mr. McCain’s rhetoric and the policy reality, we wonder if he even knows what he’s proposing.

“… But he will never be green enough for the climate-change fundamentalists.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer

“… a welcome and needed swing away from the stubborn policies of the Bush administration.

“…. all sorts of voters, liberal and conservative alike, accept global warming and want something done. Businesses everywhere already are scenting the air and going green.

“… McCain’s proposal is hardly bold, but he may have a better chance of wangling it through Congress.

[Commenting on the Department of the Interior’s decision to list polar bears under the Endangered Species Act] …. “At least with all three presidential hopefuls calling for greenhouse caps, the Bush way now seems endangered.”