“Rick Santorum also said that global warming is politics, not science. And he said he’ll defend that position to the edge of the earth. “If I have to fall off…” –Jay Leno
“Rick Santorum also said that global warming is politics, not science. And he said he’ll defend that position to the edge of the earth. “If I have to fall off…” –Jay Leno
Yesterday Jon Huntsman flip-flopped on climate change, appearing to join the deniers. Today he tried to pull back on this:
“Let me be very clear on this: there is no change,” he told reporters after his speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition. “I put my faith and trust in science. So you have 99 of 100 climate scientists who have come out and talked about climate change in certain terms, what is responsible for it. I tend to say this is a discussion that should not be in the political lane but should be in the scientific lane.”
Huntsman also said:
When you have 99 out of 100 climate scientists, there’s enough there for us to say we have an established body of science. Now it would be a very good thing to coordinate that science with the other major emitters on the globe, recognizing that it is an international problem,” he said. “I don’t want to disadvantage this country during a time when we are weak economically and want to get back on our feet.”
I wonder how his views will change depending upon which group he is speaking to. Regardless of his statements on whether global warming is a real problem, Huntsman has been consistent in opposing any government action to respond to the problem.
A conservative columnist recently wrote that Jon Huntsman is not doing well in the GOP nomination battle because of failing to deny science like the other candidates. It looks like Huntsman is taking his advice to reject science and fit in better with conservative voters:
GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman shifted his position on global warming Tuesday, telling a conservative audience that there is “not enough information right now” on the issue to formulate policies.
In August, Huntsman drew attention and criticism from the right for tweeting that he believed scientists’ claims on global warming.
“To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy,” Huntsman wrote at the time.
But speaking at the Heritage Foundation, Huntsman veered to the right of his former position.
I wonder how long it will be before Huntsman speaks at the Discovery Institute and says he believes that evolution is only a theory and backs intelligent design as a valid alternative.
Ross Douthat has unintentionally demonstrated that one cannot be a successful Republican candidate without rejecting science (or at least hiding their beliefs) in a post on why Jon Huntsman’s campaign for the Republican nomination has been unsuccessful. Douthat says that Huntsman has failed because, “He picked high-profile fights on two hot-button issues — evolution and global warming…” He considers this to be “political malpractice at its worst.”
In other words, it is now political suicide in the Republican Party to openly acknowledge acceptance of science. Evolution is firmly established as a factual explanation for the development of complex organisms from simple organisms and is the foundation of modern biology. The science behind global warming is accepted by well over ninety percent of scientists in the field. Despite this, conservatives reject both fields of science. The typical conservative not only rejects, but is totally ignorant of the evidence for evolution, and considers creationism to be a valid alternative. Conservatives see climate change as a conspiracy and a hoax while creating their own hoax with the bogus claims surrounding “Climategate” which have been debunked by five separate investigations.
Some climate change denialism is due misinformation on the subject spread by the petroleum industry in a campaign which is remarkably like the older campaign by the tobacco industry to deny that tobacco is harmful to health. Others deny climate change because acknowledging a problem which requires government coordination to solve is not allowed in their political worldview. Some are misled by misunderstandings about the predictions made by climate science, such as having increased snow because a warmer atmosphere holds more water. Some are confused by the difference in the ways certain words are used in science as opposed to the general public. (The different use of the word theory is also significant regarding the misinformation spread by creationists.) The table above shows some examples of how words are used in science as opposed to the way the words are used by non-scientists. (From “Communicating the Science of Climate Change,” by Richard C. J. Somerville and Susan Joy Hassol, from the October 2011 issue of Physics Today, page 48.)
Anyone who knows anything about global warming knows that the predictions include increased moisture in the atmosphere, with increased snowfall. Of course the anti-science right continues to base their ignorant views on climate change based upon the logic that, “it is cold outside now, therefore global warming is a hoax.” Instapundit has an example of the type of scientific ignorance common on the right with their post today asking: IS AL GORE IN TOWN? New Jersey Declares Snow Emergency.
Increased changes in the climate, including both an overall warming trend and increased snowfall in the fall and winter, is exactly what was predicted, and exactly what is happening.
The scientific evidence for climate change is quite overwhelming. As disturbing as it is to open-minded, rational people who accept scientific evidence, this is far more of a problem to those who profit from the sale of petroleum and/or hold a philosophy that the market as opposed to government provides the best solution to all problems. This leaves global warming denialists in the position having to deny the scientific evidence, concoct bizarre conspiracy theories involving scientists (including fabricating a “Climategate” scandal which didn’t hold up to scrutiny), promote published in the right-wing media based upon junk-science denying climate change, or attack Al Gore (who, while doing valuable work to publicize the issue, is not what the issue is about).
Conspiracy theorists on the right believe that climate change is actually part of a conspiracy to undermine capitalism by leftists. Among the many things which these right wingers fail to understand that, other than a tiny minority, it is liberals who are trying to preserve our market system in a manner which actually works to benefit the nation while opposing conservative policies which are harmful to the economy. Climate change, while considered a hoax by those on the anti-science right, is seen as a real problem by scientists who have interpreted the data as well as businesses which are affected, as seen in the two stories which follow.
The wonderful thing about science, as opposed to views based upon ideology which dominate the right wing, is that the evidence is out there for anyone to evaluate. Richard Muller, a physicist who was skeptical about climate change, decided to go back and analyze the data, hoping to find that the right wing claims of errors in the previous analysis is correct. Brad Plumer summarized his findings:
Muller’s stated aims were simple. He and his team would scour and re-analyze the climate data, putting all their calculations and methods online. Skeptics cheered the effort. “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong,” wroteAnthony Watts, a blogger who has criticized the quality of the weather stations in the United Statse that provide temperature data. The Charles G. Koch Foundation even gave Muller’s project $150,000 — and the Koch brothers, recall, are hardly fans of mainstream climate science.
So what are the end results? Muller’s team appears to have confirmed the basic tenets of climate science. Back in March, Muller told the House Science and Technology Committee that, contrary to what he expected, the existing temperature data was “excellent.” He went on: “We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups.” And, today, the BEST team has released a flurry of new papers that confirm that the planet is getting hotter. As the team’s two-page summary flatly concludes, “Global warming is real.”Here’s a chart comparing their findings with existing data:
The BEST team tried to take a number of skeptic claims seriously, to see if they panned out. Take, for instance, their paper on the “urban heat island effect.” Watts has long argued that many weather stations collecting temperature data could be biased by being located in cities. Since cities are naturally warmer than rural areas (because building materials retain more heat), the uptick in recorded temperatures might be exaggerated, an illusion spawned by increased urbanization. So Muller’s team decided to compare overall temperature trends with only those weather stations based in rural areas. And, as it turns out the trends match up well. “Urban warming does not unduly bias estimates of recent global temperature change,” Muller’s group concluded.
While the petroleum industry and conservative movement both have a vested interest in denying climate change, regardless of the evidence, people in other industries are more likely to be concerned about how climate change will affect their businesses. Scientists working for Starbucks recognize that this is a problem which can impact their business:
In a telephone interview with the Guardian, Jim Hanna, the company’s sustainability director, said its farmers were already seeing the effects of a changing climate, with severe hurricanes and more resistant bugs reducing crop yields.
The company is now preparing for the possibility of a serious threat to global supplies. “What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road – if conditions continue as they are – is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean,” Hanna said.
It was the second warning in less than a month of a threat to a food item many people can’t live without.
New research from the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture warned it would be too hot to grow chocolate in much of the Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world’s main producers, by 2050.
Hanna is to travel to Washington on Friday to brief members of Congress on climate change and coffee at an event sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The coffee giant is part of a business coalition that has been trying to push Congress and the Obama administration to act on climate change – without success, as Hanna acknowledged.
The coalition, including companies like Gap, are next month launching a new campaign – showcasing their own action against climate change – ahead of the release of a landmark science report from the UN’s IPCC.
Hanna told the Guardian the company’s suppliers, who are mainly in Central America, were already experiencing changing rainfall patterns and more severe pest infestations.
Taking action to limit the damage from climate change is not part of a conspiracy to overthrow capitalism as paranoid conspiracy theorists on the right believe. Taking action is necessary to preserve our market economy.
I’ve disagreed with some of Paul Krugman’s writings when he as discussed politics recently, but he is certainly correct with this warning:
Now, we don’t know who will win next year’s presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect.
This comes at the end of a column which primarily deals with Republicans who deny climate change, pointing out that “the scientific consensus about man-made global warming — which includes 97 percent to 98 percent of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences — is getting stronger, not weaker, as the evidence for climate change just keeps mounting.”
Krugman targetted not only Rick Perry, but Mitt Romney who has been running away from the issue out of political expediency:
According to Public Policy Polling, only 21 percent of Republican voters in Iowa believe in global warming (and only 35 percent believe in evolution). Within the G.O.P., willful ignorance has become a litmus test for candidates, one that Mr. Romney is determined to pass at all costs.
So, yes, Krugman’s warning is valid. There is an excellent chance that the Republican nominee in any given year will be anti-science. In a two party system, there is a high probability that sooner or later the Republican nominee will be elected.
John Huntsman is still fairly conservative, but at least he avoid some of the really off the wall beliefs held by current Republican leaders. Here are some excerpts from an interview to air on ABC’s This Week. Huntsman will never win the Republican nomination if he keeps saying things like this:
In response to Rick Perry’s denial of climate change:
I think there’s a serious problem. The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party – the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012. When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Science – Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man’s contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position.
The Republican Party has to remember that we’re drawing from traditions that go back as far as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, President Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and Bush. And we’ve got a lot of traditions to draw upon. But I can’t remember a time in our history where we actually were willing to shun science and become a – a party that – that was antithetical to science. I’m not sure that’s good for our future and it’s not a winning formula.
On Michele Bachmann’s belief that the United States should have defaulted on our debts:
Well, I wouldn’t necessarily trust any of my opponents right now, who were on a recent debate stage with me, when every single one of them would have allowed this country to default. You can imagine, even given the uncertainty of the marketplace the last several days and even the last couple of weeks, if we had defaulted the first time in the history of the greatest country that ever was, being 25 percent of the world’s GDP and having the largest financial services sector in this world by a long shot, if we had defaulted, Jake, this marketplace would be in absolute turmoil. And people who are already losing enough as it is on their 401(k)s and retirement programs and home valuations, it would have been catastrophic.
On Rick Perry calling Ben Bernanke treasonous:
Well, I don’t know if that’s pre-secession Texas or post-secession Texas. But in any event, I’m not sure that the average voter out there is going to hear that treasonous remark and say that sounds like a presidential candidate, that sounds like someone who is serious on the issues.
Science is the way in which we seek to understand the universe around us in an objective manner, based upon evidence as opposed to relying on personal opinion or superstition. Republicans have been increasingly promoting ignorance as a virtue, ignoring science whenever it disagrees with their personal opinions or political platform. Rick Perry, who has suddenly become a front-runner from the GOP nomination, displayed his view of science in this comment on global warming:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday told a New Hampshire business crowd that he harbors major doubts about human contributions to global warming, questioning the motives of scientists who have warned about accelerating climate change and arguing against expensive “anti-carbon programs.”
Fielding audience questions after brief remarks that dwelled largely on fiscal and economic issues, Perry encountered one skeptic who said he was quoting from Perry’s 2010 book, Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America From Washington, then asked whether misgivings about climate science fueled distrust of federal research in general.
“I do believe that the issue of global warming has been politicized,” Perry answered. “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. Yes, our climates change. They’ve been changing ever since the earth was formed.”
Pegging the global cost of implementing “anti-carbon programs” in the billions or trillions of dollars, Perry said, “I don’t think from my perspective that I want America to be engaged in spending that much money on [what is] still a scientific theory that has not been proven, and from my perspective, is more and more being put into question.”
Perry is also a creationist who also says that evolution is a theory, repeating the common error of the anti-science right of failing to distinguish between the word theory as used in science as opposed to by the general public.
Perry is, of course, wrong, but this is what no-nothing Republican voters want to hear. Saying nonsense such as this undoubtedly does give Perry an advantage over Mitt Romney, who has agreed with the proven facts that human action is affecting the climate.
Greg Laden explains why global warming denialism should end now. A portion of his post:
This year, we have experience the most expensive year of weather disasters in our history. The total cost of disasters this year, and we are still only in July, is in the tens of billions of dollars, perhaps 32 billion. A typical year in recent times has been about 6 billion. The cost in human lives has also been high, with over 600 people killed from flooding, tornado outbreaks, and other storms.*It is hard to attribute specific damage or death to global warming, but guess what: It is also hard to attribute specific deaths to influenza during the influenza season, but we manage to count the effects of flu anyway. For the latter, certain categories of morbidity or mortality which are known to be linked to influenza are monitored all year, and we see an increase during flu season while at the same time a smaller sample of people are showing up with influenza demonstrated through blood tests. Similarly, with global warming effects, we can see a broad association between heat and storms, and we know where that heat is coming from. We know that because the science on this is pretty good.
2011 will almost certainly turn out to be the hottest year on record. 2010 and 2005 were previously tied for the hottest. June 2011 was the 315th consecutive month above the 20th century average. The last time we experience a month with global temperatures lower than the 20th century average was February. February 1985.* Five years before I wrote that article I mentioned.
The arctic sea is no longer covered with ice as it used to be. Now, the ice cycles are fundamentally different. The change that is happening there is difficult to track and a few more years needs to pass before we’ll fully understand it. But ice that has not melted in many many years has melted, and ice that normally forms no longer does.
The denialism should end, but it won’t. The facts never matter to right wing propagandists.
Jon Stewart discussed the controversy over his recent statement that Fox viewers are, “The most consistently misinformed media viewers.” It turns out that Jon Stewart was not one hundred percent accurate if you use the bizarre interpretation of this statement used by PolitiFact to claim this is not true.
While PolitFact has done a lot of good work to debunk Fox lies (some of which are demonstrated in the video above), they ignored the types of facts which Stewart was referring to and appeared to be unaware of several of the polls which back up Jon Stewart. Sometimes fact checking organizations appear to try to put out an occasional report attempting to show inaccuracies from the left to balance the far more frequent reports which often show outright lies from the right in order to look objective.
As Chris Mooney explains in greater detail, the criticism of Fox raised by Stewart, and measured in the polls he was referring to, is based upon politicized, contested issues:
What Stewart obviously meant—and what I mean—is that when it comes to politicized, contested issues where the facts have been made murky due to political biases, it is Fox viewers who are the most likely to believe incorrect things—to fall prey to misinformation. A quintessential example of such an issue is global warming, or whether Saddam Hussein’s Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction or was collaborating with Al Qaeda. There are many, many others.
PolitiFact, ignoring the many polls which showed that Fox viewers are misinformed on such issues, looked at matters of general knowledge such as, “who the vice president is, who the president of Russia is, whether the Chief Justice is conservative, which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives and whether the U.S. has a trade deficit.” In cases such as this, people who watched no news at all wound up being even more misinformed than Fox viewers, which is hardly a surprise. I’m sure Fox viewers are more likely than someone who watches no news at all to know who the vice president is. The problem is that any “news” reports from Fox are likely to be biased in a positive manner when the vice president is a Republican and in a negative manner when a Democrat is a vice president.
In conclusion, if we are looking at basic information, then Fox viewers are only the second most misinformed. They are not dumb as a rock, but come pretty close. If we are looking at politicized issues, which there is no doubt Stewart was talking about, multiple polls show that Fox viewers are the most misinformed.
Those on the anti-science right have been jumping on junk-science news reports of a new ice age. Typically they get excited by any news report, regardless of how weak the evidence, which could be used to deny climate change, while ignoring all the scientific evidence which contradicts their opinions. Today’s excitement is over reports that the earth may be entering a new ice age.
The story, like many stories distorted by the right wing, does have a grain of truth to it. The sun appears to be going into a cycle with decreased solar activity, possibly an absence of sun spots, and possibly even some cooling. The major changes are expected to involve changes in the sun’s magnetic field and ionizing gas, not in heat. Sci-Tech Today includes this report on the impact on climate change:
Skeptics of man-made global warming from the burning of fossil fuels have often pointed to solar radiation as a possible cause of a warming Earth, but they are in the minority among scientists. The Earth has warmed as solar activity has decreased.
Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria, said there could be small temperature effects, but they are far weaker than the strength of man-made global warming from carbon dioxide and methane. He noted that in 2010, when solar activity was mostly absent, Earth tied for its hottest year in more than a century of record-keeping.
Hill and colleagues wouldn’t discuss the effects of a quiet sun on temperature or global warming.
“If our predictions are true, we’ll have a wonderful experiment that will determine whether the sun has any effect on global warming,” Hill said.
This will be an interesting experiment which might lead to some changes in predictions, but is not likely to change the major problems related to climate change. Recent models of reduced solar activity predict that the effect will be to lower temperatures by 0.3 degrees C at most. In other words, the benefits are likely to be a less severe heat wave at best, not a new ice age.
When combining the effects of natural phenomenon, including this change in solar activity, with man-made effects, it would not be surprising if there will be minor adjustments in current models as new evidence is available. That is how science works–not by jumping on whichever newspaper stories provide the prediction you want. Even if this should result in a greater reduction in global warming than expected, the prudent course remains to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and achieve greater energy independence.
The anti-science right, always alarmists over plans to reduce our use of fossil fuels while ignoring the evidence for the necessity, have an advantage in the debate. Not caring about the facts, right wing media can make noise about a new ice age coming, while scientists would prefer to take more time to study the data before making predictions. Understanding this problem, some climate scientists have released arguments as to why the predictions of a new ice age are unlikely.
Scientific denialism has become common place on the right, with today’s conservatives finding it more comforting to just make up their own facts on science, history, economics, and anywhere else where they find that reality has a liberal bias. The Union of Concerned Scientists has attempted to respond to the right wing denial that, regardless of the misinformation conservatives pass on for the petroleum industry, there is a strong scientific consensus that global warming is a real problem and is being caused by human activity. They have accumulated quite a list of sources to demonstrate this:
Scientific societies and scientists have released statements and studies showing the growing consensus on climate change science. A common objection to taking action to reduce our heat-trapping emissions has been uncertainty within the scientific community on whether or not global warming is happening and if it is caused by humans. However, there is now an overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is indeed happening and humans are contributing to it. Below are links to documents and statements attesting to this consensus.
National Science Academies
Doran surveyed 10,257 Earth scientists. Thirty percent responded to the survey which asked: 1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant? and 2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
“Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”
IPCC defines “very likely” as greater than 90% probability of occurrence.
Next I imagine we need a listing of sources to demonstrate the scientific consensus that complex life forms evolved from simpler life forms.
The value of science can be seen in its ability to not only explain the world around us but to make predictions based upon this knowledge. Climate change, despite the propaganda from the petroleum industry which is spread by the anti-science sheep of the conservative movement, represents the consensus of scientific thought. Repeatedly the predictions made by climate scientists have come true, except that usually the consensus panel was overly conservative in their predictions. This is the case with melting of the Arctic ice, which is occurring more rapidly than predicted. AP reports:
Arctic ice is melting faster than expected and could raise the average global sea level by as much as five feet this century, an authoritative new report suggests.The study by the international Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, or AMAP, is one of the most comprehensive updates on climate change in the Arctic, and builds on a similar assessment in 2005.
The full report will be delivered to foreign ministers of the eight Arctic nations next week, but an executive summary including the key findings was obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday.
It says that Arctic temperatures in the past six years were the highest since measurements began in 1880, and that feedback mechanisms believed to accelerate warming in the climate system have now started kicking in.
One mechanism involves the ocean absorbing more heat when it’s not covered by ice, which reflects the sun’s energy. That effect has been anticipated by scientists “but clear evidence for it has only been observed in the Arctic in the past five years,” AMAP said.
The report also shatters some of the forecasts made in 2007 by the U.N.’s expert panel on climate change.
The cover of sea ice on the Arctic Ocean, for example, is shrinking faster than projected by the U.N. panel. The level of summer ice coverage has been at or near record lows every year since 2001, AMAP said, predicting that the Arctic Ocean will be nearly ice free in summer within 30-40 years.
Its assessment also said the U.N. panel was too conservative in estimating how much sea levels will rise — one of the most closely watched aspects of global warming because of the potentially catastrophic impact on coastal cities and island nations.