Does the Pope care more about abortion or climate change?

A defunct coal-fired power plant that closed earlier this year in anticipation of new EPA regulations cutting power plants' carbon emissions. George Frey | Reuters

A defunct coal-fired power plant that closed earlier this year in anticipation of new EPA regulations cutting power plants’ carbon emissions. George Frey | Reuters

Cynthia: Both the Pope and President Obama have called for sweeping changes to confront the disastrous effects of climate change, Mike, and the president’s Clean Power Plan calls on each state to submit its own proposal for cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

How much do you want to bet that Gov. LePage will refuse to comply with the EPA rules, refuse to submit a Maine plan and waste more taxpayer money on frivolous lawsuits?

Mike: Lots of people had lots of concerns — legal and policy — with the first draft. The EPA recognized they were on shaky ground and made numerous changes.

But any challenge to the rules will be led by states in the south and west — Maine may join, but we’re not leading the charge. And, even as a former law professor, Obama’s track record before the Supreme Court is the worst in modern history. You might want to be careful playing the “frivolity” card.

Cynthia: President Obama won momentous cases at the Supreme Court combatting housing discrimination, providing access to health care and legalizing gay marriage! These victories are his legacy in the courts, and the anticipated legal challenge to the Clean Power Plan by Republicans will tee up another opportunity for Obama and Democrats to champion cleaner healthier air, lower health care costs and innovation.

Gov. LePage’s opposition to clean energy and Congressman Poliquin’s bootlicking big business interests fly in the face of what the governor’s own report concludes, namely that reducing carbon emissions and participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has coincided with increased GDP and lower energy consumption in Maine.

My diagnosis: Oppositional Defiance Disorder is threatening the GOP’s chances of success in 2016.

Mike: Yes, Republicans equal bad, and Democrats equal good. Gov. LePage is a strong proponent of hydroelectric power, but that isn’t “good” clean energy. I suppose acknowledging facts that upset the Democratic narrative are mere examples of ungoodthink.

Of course, if the purpose of these regulations is reducing carbon emissions, then make them effective only when other countries enact the same standards. Supporters acknowledge that the U.S. acting alone is insufficient — we need China, Japan, and others to mirror us. That was Joe Biden and John Kerry’s position; readopting it wouldn’t win over all opponents, but it would leave the U.S. on level ground and give some consistency to their argument. And I do love consistency!

Cynthia: I know a lot of good Republicans who want their party to do good things, and they are consistently disappointed. How’s that?

America must lead on climate change! The stakes are too high for us to wait on the sidelines for the world to catch up.

But Democrats are not perfect, either, or always consistent. Clobbering Sen. Collins over a cloture vote about abortion while letting Senator King slide on a cloture vote about equal pay doesn’t make sense.

Whether to defund Planned Parenthood — an organization that provides basic health care for hundreds of thousands of women — will be a hot potato in the 2016 election because the right wing of the GOP consistently tries to roll back the clock on women’s rights.

Mike: The attacks against Sen. Collins are disingenuous. Those who assail Republicans as “Do Nothing” proceed to pillory her for having the audacity to believe a debate should occur? To put it another way, Collins equals bad for doing nothing, but she is also bad for believing Congress should consider doing something? It’s dizzying!

And if Planned Parenthood is a 2016 issue, Democrats have a problem. The details of abortion are gruesome and have been crystallized recently, while 55 percent of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. And I’m pretty sure the Pope feels more strongly about abortion than he does about carbon. So how about a compromise: restrict both carbon emissions and abortion. Or does the Pope’s opinion only sometimes matter?

Cynthia: Most medical procedures are gruesome, Mike, but Republican extremists are fixated on eliminating only one. Women have a constitutional right to make their own health care decisions, including whether to become a parent. Women have a right to control their fertility without government intervention. That’s the law, and it’s overwhelmingly supported. Your statistic is not accurate or consistent. The same poll concludes 80 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal — and it is. So, no deal!

One in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, and 95 percent of them believe it was the right decision. Not only that, women vote and place reproductive rights close to the top of their list of priorities. If funding Planned Parenthood is the litmus test in 2016, Democrats win.

The Pope’s opinion matters and is respected. I wonder what he thinks about baiting, trapping and hounding bears….

Mike: We’re not going to solve the abortion debate in a brief column, and it is folly to try. It encompasses a question about when life begins, a question only answerable through a combination of science, faith, morals, ethics, and philosophy. We’d probably have better luck starting with a debate on the death penalty — everyone agrees convicts are alive, right?

And besides, wasn’t this column about carbon? We didn’t even talk about some of the lowest cost and lowest carbon power sources — nukes and dams! That is a Clean Power Plan we could all likely get behind.

Cynthia: Life begins and ends with carbon, Mike, and nukes be damned!