Huffpost Green
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

A. Siegel Headshot

"Bipartisan" Global Warming Denial?

Posted: Updated:

In South Carolina, the "Democratic Party" candidate is Bob Conley, who must be mentioned was recently a Republican, on a county GOP committee until winning the Democratic Party primay, and Ron Paul supporter. On the Repulbican side, Lindsey Graham. In this race, Saturday's debate could well be a telling one for anyone who cares for science and issues of Global Warming.

Conley, in Inhofe-scale like terms, very "firmly proclaimed his denial of global warming science". In face of a question as to whether Global Warming is real (come off, is this a real question people?), Conley's response:

CONLEY: It really is the arrogance of man to think that we are having any effect.

These are not words of someone interested in reality-based policy making.

CONLEY: It really is the arrogance of man to think that we are having any effect. I'm an engineer. So I understand that we don't have constant things in the physical world. We have a lot of fluctuations.

And when we see, looking back how we have had fluctuations in temperature over time. And when we see how when I was a child we were told whether it was global cooling. We've been told in recent years well there's global warming. Well then last year was the coldest -- the coolest record in the recent trend. It's something. I don't think we ought to be making really haphazard statements of policy or trying to change policies on this side.

It is hard to overstate the number of falsehoods, deceptive elements, and traditional denialist concepts fit into these few paragraphs.

  • It is "arrogance of man" to think that we can have an impact on God's creation. There are many responses to this, but how about this one: if there were all-out nuclear warfare, would that have an impact on weather and climate? If someone answers yes, then they believe humanity can have an impact on the earth's systems. If they answer no then, well, it is hard to see how one can hold a meaningful conversation with someone living so far distance from reality.
  • That there are "a lot of fluctuations" in "the physical world" and, therefore, somehow, it is impossible that humanity could have an impact on that natural fluctuation. No one who is serious in the study of climate change / Global Warming would ever argue that there are not natural factors at work. The conclusion of the science, to date, is that there is an over 90 percent chance that humanity / human activity (not just burning fossil fuels, but cutting down rainforests, paving over land, etc) is responsibility for the majority of the warming globally in recent decades. As noted over at Think Progress,
  • Of course, the reality is that the international scientific consensus, as embodied by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has assessed that there is a 90 percent certainty that human activity contributes to global temperature increases. Even a White House climate report has acknowledged this fact.

  • That scientists were warning about global cooling 30 years ago is a frequent canard from the denier / skeptic community. As discussed in Confronting a Global Warming Skeptic
  • The canard 'oh, those scary scientists, they predicted global cooling 30 years ago, now its global warming. They're just loony environmentalists who want to scare us and do bad things to us.' Well, today there is a widespread consensus (which will be, again, demonstrated with the coming IPCC report) as above, about Global Warming. In the 1970s, there was a popular science book on Global Cooling (The Cooling) that fostered some reaction in the popular press. There were magazine articles (includingNewsweek ), and some scientific speculation due to developing knowledge of glacial cycles combined with noted cooling trend from air pollution particles blocking sunlight. On the other hand, there was no IPCC, not 1000s of peer-reviewed studies, no ... Now, to understand just how strong the agreement was in the scientific community on Global Cooling, we have to go no further than the Professor Reid Bryson's (not the book's author) introduction to The Cooling:

    The Cooling will be controversial, because among scientists, most of the matters it deals with are hotly debated. There is no agreement on whether the earth is cooling. There is not unanimous agreement on whether is has cooled, or one hemisphere has cooled and the other warmed. One would think that there might be consensus about what data there is - but there is not. There is no agreement on the causes of climatic change, or even why it should not change amongst those who so maintain. There is certainly no agreement about what the climate will do in the next century, though there is a majority opinion that it will change, more or less, one way or the other. Of that majority, a majority believe that the longer trend will be downward. Nevertheless, it is an important question, as this book points out, and it is time for some of the questions to be settled. Lowell Ponte has summarized the data and theories very well, and has reasonably concluded that a rapid change in Earths climate is possible, perhaps even likely, within the next few decades, and that this would have serious consequences for mankind.

    The introduction to Ponte's book raises many questions and doubts about Ponte's work but says that this is interesting work, an interesting theory, and that this merits examination. Hmmm ... a scientist who is saying "interesting theory presented here, let's figure out if he's right and what it means". Isn't that how science is supposed to work with hypothesis / theory and testing? Well, Global Warming/Global Climate Change is far advanced beyond this test a theory/concept stage. And, pointing to one book and Newsweek article to discredit the Global Warming work is shallow efforts to create doubt rather than serious examination of issues that should be taken seriously.

  • By the way, as to cold 2007? According to NASA,
  • The year 2007 tied for second warmest in the period of instrumental data, behind the record warmth of 2005, in the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) analysis. 2007 tied 1998, which had leapt a remarkable 0.2°C above the prior record with the help of the "El Niño of the century".

    Membership in the global warming denial know-nothing wing of the Flat-Earth Society merits condemnation, no matter the letter after a candidate's name.

    And, where does Conley's know-nothingness leave him? As a supporter of do-nothingness:

    It's something. I don't think we ought to be making really haphazard statements of policy or trying to change policies on this side.

    Within the "skeptic" community, one could argue a basis for "no regrets strategy": uncertain over the extent of humanity's impact and the extent of risk, support aggressive pursuit of "no regrets" options that would help the nation whether or not global warming impacts are as dire as the science suggests. Energy efficiency can cut US energy use by 20 perent or more, at a "profit" compared to today's cost of energy (great example: Architecture2030 and building infrastructure efficiency potential). Renewable energy systems are now cost effective with new power from traditional power sources. No-till, organic agriculture can outproduce traditional agricultural processes while drastically reducing fossil-fuel use in agriculture (and sequestering carbon). We can, if we choose to, go a long distance to "solving" global warming using such no regrets strategy and approaches. But, Conley's blatant global warming denial suggests that he doesn't have the self-doubt to put him in position to support such no-regrets strategy.

    Quite simply, Conley is a man who shouldn't be allowed to give a talk to a High School science class let alone be in the US Senate.

    And, while far from a leading defender of the planet, Lindsey Graham showed himself closer to reality than Conley. Lindsey Graham's comment:

    I do believe man-made emissions are hurting the planet. I believe global warming is somewhat man-made.

    While not exactly a full-throated statement about humanity driving Global Warming and about an urgent need to act, at least Graham's comments suggest that he has at least a toe in the reality-based world. While Conley does not look competitive in this race, anyone with concern over the planet's future would have a hard time pulling the lever for him come 4 November.

    And, as for the title, "Bipartisan" Global Warming Denial?, it is not just that Conley (D) seems to be channeling James Inhofe when he speaks, but that Ron Paul supporting, until recently registered Republican Bob Conley is a "Democrat In Name Only" and thus represents, by himself, bipartisanship in the global warming denier wing of the know-nothing wing of the Flat Earth Society.

    NOTE: For some more background on Conley, see Flattop Bob Conley vs Lindsey Graham: Republican vs Republican in SC Senate Race including discussion of his 'neo-confederate' and separatist links/leanings.

    And, some Blue Man Group to wash our hands of Bob:

    From Our Partners