There’s never a shortage of false news on the climate change front. This week is no exception with the climate deniers flooding the airwaves to counteract Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama as they seek to jumpstart the global discussion on climate change.
Secretary Kerry’s Asian tour included an announcement that China and the United States will work together on climate goals and the reduction of air pollution. He also delivered a major climate change speech in Jakarta when he point-blank branded those who continue to deny climate evidence as “shoddy scientists”. President Obama addressed climate change and its increasing costs as he promised millions of dollars of relief to the drought-stricken San Joaquin Valley, despite the region’s Congressman being a member of the Flat Earth Society, as Secretary Kerry has taken to calling them. The President is no longer molly-coddling the issue, flatly stating that we must “combat carbon pollution that causes climate change.” He also addressed the increasing costs of extreme weather and the need to “address increasing risks such as fires, invasive pests, devastating floods, and crippling droughts on a regional basis.”
I thought that Marsha Blackburn would be a shoo-in for the queen of the Flat Earthers, but stunningly, real journalists with real educations beat her out. I don’t care who you are or whether you agree or disagree, but you know that the basic tenet of climate change is that the earth is warming. No matter how many snowstorm jokes you tell, you understand temperatures can change weather and over a course of years, will change climate. Not so Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday or Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal. (And you want to trust her on the economy?)
Here’s the learned exchange that took place on Fox News Sunday, after Wallace wondered how the President could make a case for climate change in the parched west, when the east was “in the grips of a brutal winter”:
WALLACE: So, Kim, what is going to happen to the climate change/global warming movement? And maybe, you know, because I don’t – when did global warming become climate change?
STRASSEL: It became climate change when you couldn’t prove that there was much global warming anymore, you know. As the temperatures didn’t change.
It would be fascinating to know whether guest George Will was startled by this news, because his stated view earlier in the show was that, “Of course the climate is changing. It’s always changing. That’s what gave us the medieval warm period. That’s what gave us subsequent to that for centuries the brutal Ice Age. Of course it’s changing.”
So there you have it. Climate deniers can pick their poison. Either climate change is happening and there’s nothing can be done about it – or global warming and climate change is just a big old game of charades, nothing to see here, move along.
Compared to this exchange, Marsha Blackburn was an intellectual marvel in her debate with every kid’s favorite professor, Bill Nye the Science Guy.
You would think the man who taught us inertia and moving molecules and barometric pressure would be above reproach. But Blackburn didn’t wait 30 seconds before attempting to belittle Mr. Nye by dismissing his life’s work as a scientist and engineer to that of an “actor”. An actor? I guess she missed his work at Boeing, his contributions to the Mars mission, his Cornell professorship, his three honorary PhDs, and his directorship of the Planetary Society. It shouldn’t be surprising; this is an important method of neutralizing the credibility of speakers for skeptical viewers. They don’t have to take the scientist seriously because the Congresswoman just gave them an excuse not to.
Then she pulled a different trick out of the hat, raising the names of trusted “liberal” sources promptly followed by taking quotes out of context to distort their views. I don’t know which strategy is more devious, flat out lying from your own mouth a la the Fox News guests, or putting your lies into the mouths of individuals who aren’t there to defend themselves.
Obama Administration Science and Technology Office Director Dr. John Holdren was quoted as saying “no one single weather event is due specifically to climate change,” in order to support Blackburn’s notion that nobody knows “exactly what is causing this.” In fact, Dr. Holdren (not “Mr.” as Blackburn reduced him to), is very clear on his belief that climate change is causing extreme weather, as are 97% of scientists globally. This is a strikingly different statement than saying a specific snowstorm or a hurricane is caused by climate change. Climate change does not cause a weather event. We will have daily weather events, regardless of the climate. If we should ever have ice storms in Jamaica, I think it would be fair to say climate change is actually causing weather events. Do we want to wait for that?
Blackburn next invoked Director McCarthy from the EPA, quoting her September 18, 2013 Congressional hearing testimony, that “reaching all of the 26 US goals is not going to have an impact globally.” Except Ms. McCarthy never said that. And when I say “never said that” I mean never said that. As in, at all. She never said those words, she never said words similar to those words, she never said words that could be distorted to mean those words. In fact, the phrase “impact globally” does not even exist in the testimony. What she did say is that, “It is unlikely that any specific one step is going to be seen as having a visible impact…” and that the 26 steps are “part of an overall strategy that is positioning the US for leadership.” The leadership that Secretary Kerry is able to show in his negotiations with China is likely a direct result of the administration setting these kinds of climate change goals.
This led the Congresswoman to the real bottom-line: money. A new refrain has risen in the climate change fight, the “cost/benefit analysis”. People of a certain age will have flashbacks of exploding gas tanks and Senate hearings and the shocking news that Ford intentionally used cost/benefit analysis “which places a dollar value on human life.” Certainly, Republicans have long complained about the damage to business from the cost of regulations and intimidated workers with the “lost jobs” bogeyman. What’s new is reaching into the liberal closet and pulling out, of all people, Bill Clinton and his Executive Order 12866 in order to insinuate that President Clinton’s rules are preventing us from addressing climate change. In this short Meet the Press segment, “cost/benefit” was mentioned six times. Blackburn says, “Cost/benefit analysis has to take place… that is something that goes back to a Clinton executive order. And it is required and it is unfortunate that some of the federal agencies are not conducting that cost/benefit analysis. They’re focused on the outcome.”
Big problem. The Office of Management and Budget has released a cost/benefit analysis. In May 2013, the OMB, the federal agency charged with “regulatory impact analysis,” released their report, “Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon”. It was completed in conjunction with just about every administrative cabinet agency, from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Treasury and beyond. While there are issues of global cooperation, as we all know, the report concluded, “When these considerations are taken as a whole, the interagency group concluded that a global measure of the benefits from reducing US emissions is preferable.”
So there it is. Take your pick: the earth isn’t warming; it’s a natural warming cycle; we don’t know why it’s warming; it’s warming but we can’t fix it; or if we can fix it, it will cost too much anyway. Sadly, these are just a few of the top myths that are part of the GOP’s “false news” campaign to convince folks to join the Flat Earth Society. Hopefully we can correct these ridiculous assertions before the suffering becomes cataclysmic.