Conservative Publication Challenges Pols Who Doubt Science of Climate Change
When politicians politicize facts about global warming, science takes a back seat.
Recently, a federal government report on the Arctic region indicates there is a loss of summer sea ice, spring snow cover and melting of the Greenland ice sheet. This was true even though air temperatures in the Arctic were unremarkable relative to the last decade, according to a new report.
The National Review, a respected conservative publication, recently challenged the anti-science politicians who are ignoring facts and politicizing the subject. More on that later.
“The Arctic is changing in both predictable and unpredictable ways, so we must expect surprises,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, during a press briefing at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco, Calif. “The Arctic is an extremely sensitive part of the world and with the warming scientists have observed, we see the results with less snow and sea ice, greater ice sheet melt and changing vegetation.”
Lubchenco participated in a panel discussion that presented the annual update of the Arctic Report Card, which has, since 2006, summarized the quickly changing conditions in the Arctic. A record-breaking 141 authors from 15 countries contributed to the peer-reviewed report.
“Popular perceptions of the Arctic as a distant, icy, cold place that has little relevance to those outside the region are being challenged”, said Martin Jeffries, co-editor of the 2012 Report Card and Arctic science adviser, Office of Naval Research & research professor, University of Alaska-Fairbanks. “As snow and ice retreat, the marine and terrestrial ecosystems respond, and talk of increased tourism, natural resource exploitation, and marine transportation grows. The Arctic Report Card does a great service in charting the many physical and biological changes.”
Arctic Report Card is available for download on Climate.gov. (Credit: NASA)
Apart from one or two exceptions, the scientists said the air temperatures were not unusually high this year relative to the last decade. Nevertheless, they saw large changes in multiple indicators affecting Arctic climate and ecosystems; combined, these changes are strong evidence of the growing momentum of Arctic environmental system change.
The record-breaking year also indicates that it is unlikely that conditions can quickly return to their former state.
“The record low spring snow extent and record low summer sea ice extent in 2012 exemplify a major source of the momentum for continuing change,” added Jeffries. “As the sea ice and snow cover retreat, we’re losing bright, highly reflective surfaces, and increasing the area of darker surfaces—both land and ocean—exposed to sunlight. This increases the capacity to store heat within the Arctic system, which enables more melting—a self-reinforcing cycle.”
In 2006, NOAA’s Climate Program Office introduced the State of the Arctic Report which established a baseline of conditions at the beginning of the 21st century. It is updated annually as the Arctic Report Card to monitor the often-quickly changing conditions in the Arctic.
The National Review, article “GOP Must Embrace Science to Survive,”cited a recent episode involving Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) when he was asked by GQ magazine about the age of the earth. Rubio responded, “Whether the Earth was created in seven days or seven actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that,” said the senator, who sits on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. “It’s one of the great mysteries.”
In fact, the magazine reported, scientists say the planet is 4.5 million years old.
“Yet Gallup polling shows that 46 percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years. Among Republicans, 58 percent take that view, along with 41 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of independents.”
“Those numbers give Rubio some political cover at a time when the Republican Party has become increasingly hostile toward scientific realities, from the age of the Earth to climate change.” As the leader of the Florida House in 2008, Rubio voted for a bill that would have backed up teachers who offer “critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.” Maybe Charles Darwin was right, maybe not—who can tell?
“On climate change, Rubio has been equally dismissive of science. He also has been inconsistent. Before the economy crashed in the fall of 2008, the then-state House speaker presided over a unanimous vote directing state officials to come up with guidelines to limit businesses’ carbon emissions. “This nation, and ultimately the world, is headed toward emission caps and energy diversification,” Rubio said the year before the vote. “Those changes will require technological advances that make those measures cost-effective. Demand toward such advances will create an industry to meet it. Florida should become the Silicon Valley of that industry.”
“Rubio also raised concerns back then about the potential costs of a cap-and-trade system and advocated tax incentives for energy-efficient companies and investments in ethanol and other biofuels. But by 2008, with then-popular Gov. Charlie Crist putting climate change at the front of his agenda, Rubio called a federal cap-and-trade system “inevitable” and hired a leading climate-change expert to advise lawmakers. Hal Wanless, chairman of the geology department at the University of Miami, also offered advice and said he talked to Rubio.
“I was up there with some other climate scientists talking about sea levels rising, and [Rubio] said he appreciated what we were doing,” Wanless told National Journal. “He seemed to accept the reality of climate change … but suddenly, when he started running for the U.S. Senate, he had a more uncertain point of view.”
The 2010 Senate between Crist and Rubio saw the issue of climate change arise with these results. “Rubio bashed Crist’s cap-and-trade “scheme” and went so far as to question whether humans contribute to climate change.
“I’m not a scientist. I’m not qualified to make that decision,” Rubio told The Miami Herald at the time. “There’s a significant scientific dispute about that.”
In truth, there is largely consensus in the scientific community about the root causes of global warming. Wanless said he was so alarmed by Rubio’s change of heart that he wrote him a letter offering to convene a meeting with a group of scientists. He heard nothing. He pressed the letter into Rubio’s hands at a fundraiser. Still no response.
“I understand that he’s not a scientist, but at some point people need to listen to scientists about science,” Wanless said. “It’s especially critical for a leader representing Florida to understand the reality of climate change. With a six-foot rise of sea level, which is probably where we will be at the end of the century, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Monroe counties are gone.”
“He has not changed his position” on climate change, said Rubio spokesman Alex Conant.
A decisive majority of Americans accept the scientific reality of climate change. In a September 2012 poll by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 70 percent of respondents said they believe that global warming is happening, up from 57 percent in 2008.
Mitt Romney didn’t lose the presidential election because he wasn’t conservative enough. As many Republicans are rethinking the party’s rough edges on immigration reform and other issues, Rubio adviser Todd Harris responded to the buzz over the senator’s GQ interview by digging in, posting on Twitter that the “liberal freakout re Marco’s ‘age of earth’ answer shows their intolerance of opinions different from theirs.”
Except that these are matters of science, not opinion. One doesn’t have to be a scientist, or even a telegenic member of the Senate Science Committee, to know that. If Rubio wants to be the man to rebrand the GOP, he should stick to the facts.
Read the full article, "GOP Must Embrace Science to Survive," at Nationaljournal.com.
This article appeared in print as "Facts Matter."
Visit your library for more resources on this topic.
The Encyclopedia of Global Warming & Climate Change
3v. , 2nd ed
S. George Philander, (2012).
The second edition of The Encyclopedia of Global Warming & Climate Change is a complete update, with 40 new articles. In addition, more than 50 percent of the content has been revised and updated in the four years since initial publication.
As in the first edition, multiple perspectives on global warming are presented. However, all are based in scientific reality and not in baseless opinion (as in some information collections found on the Internet.) Most of the articles are easy to understand and serve as an introduction to the large variety of topics related to global warming. This new edition is a useful purchase for public and academic libraries in a subject that is constantly in need of updating. Libraries owning the first edition will want to replace it with this updated version.
— Excerpt of review by Steve Stratton first published December 15, 2012 (Booklist).
The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You about Global Warming
Roger Pielke, (2010).
Pielke’s area of expertise is the crossroads where environmental studies and politics meet, and clearly he is very frustrated by how the hard cold facts of science have become subservient to the whims of political fortune. From Kyoto to Copenhagen, Gore to George W. Bush to Obama, he addresses the changing political winds, the myths used to justify weak political will, and the irrevocable relationship between environmental policy and the economy. For navigating a treacherous field with grace and aplomb, Pielke deserves much praise. Whether readers will feel reassured or not after reading his measured words and patient call for a broad-based climate policy will depend on future political response. Copious endnotes and sourcing material included.
—Excerpt of review by Colleen Mondor first published September 1, 2010 (Booklist).
The Whole Story of Climate: What Science Reveals about the Nature of Endless Change
E. Kirsten Peters, (2012).
Now that a strong scientific consensus holding humans responsible for the Earth’s latest warming trend has emerged, climate scientists are getting the lion’s share of media attention whenever the crisis gets airtime. Rarely consulted are the experts most familiar with our planet’s heating and cooling patterns, namely, the geologists. Partly to showcase geologists’ expertise on global warming and partly to provide lay readers a guidebook to interpreting rock formations, science writer Peters, aka the “Rock Doc” on public radio, here reviews what the geological evidence tells us about extreme climate changes across the centuries. Peters quickly shoots down the popular notion that worldwide temperatures would essentially be stable if not for the damage caused by greenhouse gases. Instead, natural history reveals that rapid shifts from hotter to cooler climes can occur over mere decades, and, if not for recent carbon pollution, an ice age might be just around the corner. Along with Peters’ lucidly written overview of geological science, unsettling surprises such as these will keep readers engaged as they are educated.
—Excerpt of review by Carl Hays first published October 15, 2012 (Booklist).
Perito Moreno Glacier, in Los Glaciares National Park, southern Argentina
1994 by Christof Berger.