A few weeks ago the New York Times ran Climate Change Denialists in Charge. I used the quotations for a Science in the News item in my Univ. of Tampa Physics 125 class. Remember, our textbook is Physics and Technology for Future Presidents: What Every World Leader Needs to Know. I’d like to share some of these quotations and my remarks with you and our readers. You can find the full citations in the Times article.
In November 2012, Donald Trump tweeted: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U. S. manufacturing non-competitive.” At a 2015 rally in South Carolina he said “A lot of [climate change] is a hoax. It’s a hoax.”
Both assertions are blatant and outrageous falsehoods. Our president suffers from delusions, and this particular one will prove to be the most damaging to Americans and to the human race.
The claim that warnings about global warming are part of a world-wide conspiracy by climate scientists in cahoots with radical environmentalists out to destroy American capitalism is widely asserted from the political right. This claim is a pernicious and evil falsehood. Several of the others I cite below refer to this plot.
In a 2014 MSNBC interview, Mike Pence said:
It’s just a few years ago, we were talking about global warming, which is – we haven’t seen a lot of warming lately. I remember back in the ’70s when we were talking about the coming ice age. And, look, you know, we have – we’ve had a tough winter. And in the Midwest, we’re – we’re made of hardy stock. We’ve seen these kind of winters before. And we’ll shoulder through them. We’ll leave the scientific debates for the future.
In his first sentence, Pence is referring to the so-called global warming hiatus, a non-existent pause in global warming. 1998 was an unusually hot year because of a strong El Nino. Indeed, it set a record for the thermometric temperature record going back to the 1880s. For about 10 years, no year’s global average surface temperature exceeded it, and global warming deniers proclaimed a pause in global warming and even an apparent cooling. Yet the Earth continued to warm throughout those subsequent years as energy accumulated in the oceans, which is where most of it goes in any case. 2014’s temperature exceeded 1998, setting a new record high. Then 2015 exceeded 2014. 2016 exceeded 2015, smashing the previous record. I’m suspect that Mike Pence does not actually remember talking about a coming Ice Age back in the ’70s. He is an evangelical Christian who believes in an inerrant Bible and the Garden of Eden! No evolution for him. Astonishing, but apparently true. Then he mistakes weather for climate, as if global warming will produce warm winters. Finally, he falsely asserts that there are scientific debates about the reality and effects of global warming.
In an interview with CNN in September 2016, Mike Pence said:
There’s no question that the activities that take place in this country and in countries around the world have some impact on the environment and some impact on climate. But Donald Trump and I say let’s follow the science, but for heaven’s sakes let’s not go rushing into the kind of restrictions on our economy that are putting Americans out of work and, frankly, are driving jobs out of this country.
This is somewhat better, but he is wrong to imply, with “some impact”, that the effects of increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are unknown or poorly understood. Indeed, the effects of carbon dioxide are well-known, not in dispute, and have been since Svante Arrhenius, a Nobel laureate Swedish chemist, described what we now call the greenhouse effect in the 1890s. He’s also wrong that the kinds of plans to deal with carbon dioxide will cost jobs. Indeed, more Americans presently work in the solar power industry than in coal mining.
Steve Bannon told Fox News in 2010 that: [t]he national debt is “not a manufactured crisis like global warming or the health care crisis. This [the national debt] is a – this is an existential crisis.
Wrong. Mr. Bannon has the manufactured crises backwards. Although I am but an amateur student of economics, the professionals whose blogs I follow are confident that neither the national debt nor the deficit threaten the existence of the United States or even life as we know it. Whereas, global warming is going to produce a radically different world for our children and grandchildren.
Scott Pruitt, once Oklahoma’s Attorney General and now the Administrator of the EPA, said on CNBC’s Squawk Box on March 9, 2016:
I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so, no, I would not agree that it’s [carbon dioxide] a primary contributor to the global warming we see.
Mr. Pruitt is misinformed about our understanding of the impact of carbon dioxide on the climate, and he is misinforming his hearers. The world’s climate scientists and, basically, all other informed researchers agree that burning fossil fuels has increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from about 280 parts per million (0.028 %) to over 400 ppm (0.04 %) in the past 150 or 200 years. Carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas, or even the most important one, which is water vapor. But carbon dioxide is the one we are changing, and those changes are pushing the Earth’s climate to a new, hotter state.
Oklahoma’s Republican Senator James Inhofe wrote The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, published in 2012. In 2003 he said, “The claim that global warming is caused by man-made emissions is simply untrue and not based on sound science.” That statement by the Senator is simply untrue and not based on sound science.
Earlier this year at a Heartland Institute meeting, Senator Inhofe said, “Obama has built a culture of radical alarmists, and they’ll be back. You and I and the American people have won a great victory [Trump’s election, I presume], but the war goes on. Stay vigilant.”
Senator Inhofe famously hefted a snow ball on the floor of the Senate during a winter snowstorm to demonstrate that global warming couldn’t be happening. He doesn’t know the difference between climate and weather, apparently, and he thinks cold weather in the winter tells us something about the Earth’s climate, which it does, and about global warming, which it does not. He’s on the Senate Committee of Commerce, Science, and Transportation and was the chair for years.
(photo from the Washington Post)
In 2015, Texas Republican Representative Lamar Smith, chair of the House Science Committee wrote in a USA Today op-ed essay:
Climate change is caused by a combination of factors, including natural cycles, solar variability and human activity. Scientists still disagree about how much each of these factors contributes to overall climate change. What climate alarmists say is sometimes untrue and often exaggerated. We should rely on good science, not science fiction, when we evaluate climate change.
He’s correct that many factors influence the climate, but he’s incorrect that there is significant disagreement about the relative importance of these factors as causes of today’s climate changes. I grant that climate scientists, indeed all scientists, partake in the human condition and sometimes say things that are untrue. In the case of climate change and global warming, however, they are not the source of most untruths being spoken. The primary source of untruths in the political discussion of climate change are people such as Rep. Smith, Sen. Inhofe and the other climate change deniers. He’s right to advocate relying on good science and not science fiction, but he does the opposite. Take your own advice Mr. Smith.