Why Republicans Still Reject the Science of Global Warming
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Hank Readon
2018-01-11 02:47:11 UTC
Why Republicans Still Reject the Science of Global Warming
Only one major political party in the world denies climate change, and it's
in charge of the most important political body in the world

November 3, 2016
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One day in 2009, Henry Waxman, the Democratic congressman representing Santa
Monica and Malibu, paid a visit to one of his Republican counterparts, a
ruddy-faced Texan named Joe Barton. After Democrats had won back the House of
Representatives the previous year, Waxman staged an intraparty coup and
seized the chairman's gavel of the Energy and Commerce committee, which
oversees most legislation on the environment. He vowed to address what he saw
as the gravest threat facing the planet: climate change. As an opening
gesture, Waxman approached Barton, the committee's top Republican, about
finding a way to work together on the new legislation.

For decades, climate-change deniers got away with dismissing the growing body
of science as speculation and guesswork, hysterical or politicized warnings
of a disastrous future. Now, their church is crumbling. Every month of this
year set a new record for the hottest monthly average global temperature in
history. Fifteen of the 16 hottest years ever recorded have occurred in the
21st century. The facts are at our doorstep in the form of drought-fueled
wildfires ravaging Southern California; rising sea levels in New York,
Norfolk, Virginia, and Miami Beach; melting glaciers in Alaska; bleached
coral reefs in the Virgin Islands. We've reached the point where the planet's
warming – and the extreme weather it causes – is outpacing the very models
scientists use to predict the future.

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping on
the sidelines of the COP21 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Le
Bourget, outside Paris, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015
President Obama meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of
the COP21 climate change conference near Paris last November. Evan Vucci/AP
The good news is this: Practically every nation on Earth grasps the severity
of the problem. In Paris last year, 195 countries, including the biggest
emitters on the planet – the United States, China and India – came together
and offered real, substantive plans to curb their emissions of greenhouse
gases. Long before Paris, the renewable-energy revolution was underway –
Germany can now power up to 87 percent of the country using renewable
sources, and in some areas of Australia wind power meets 100 percent of
demand for electricity. In September, Chinese president Xi Jinping and
President Barack Obama announced that their countries would ratify the Paris
Agreement. The Chinese leader's public comments at the event – "Our response
to climate change bears on the future of our people and the well-being of
mankind" – would've been unthinkable a decade ago.

In fact, about the only place left on Earth where lawmakers openly and avidly
deny the science of climate change is the U.S. Congress. More to the point,
says Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii and a leader on climate
policy, "There is only one major political party in the world that denies the
existence of climate change. And it happens to be in charge of the most
important political body in the world."

At this summer's Republican National Convention, the party faithful approved
their official platform for the next four years. It reads like a denier's
Christmas wish list, with nearly every point receiving the full-throated
support of the party nominee, Donald Trump: Build the Keystone XL pipeline,
cancel the Clean Power Plan, neuter the EPA and ban it from regulating carbon
dioxide, outlaw a carbon tax, stop all fracking regulations. The broader the
consensus outside Washington that climate change is real and man-made, the
more elaborate Republicans get in refuting its existence. To hear Sen. Ted
Cruz (R-Texas) tell it, climate change is a global conspiracy cooked up by
liberals who want to institute "massive government control of the economy,
the energy sector and every aspect of our lives."

House Republicans have subpoenaed the government's top climatologists.
They've invited discredited deniers to testify before Congress. They've even
fought the Pentagon – a normally untouchable institution in the halls of
Congress – over climate change. Twice this year, the House GOP majority voted
to block the Defense Department from studying the national-security
implications of climate change. In the words of one House Republican, Rep.
David McKinley of West Virginia, the military's efforts amount to partisan
gimmicks and distractions from fighting terrorism. "Why should Congress
divert funds from the mission of our military and national security," he
wrote to colleagues in 2014, "to support a political ideology?"

Republicans who've dared to buck party orthodoxy end up as cautionary tales.
Take Bob Inglis, a six-term congressman with an independent streak who
represented the South Carolina upcountry region. During his 2010 re-election
campaign, Inglis told a local radio host that climate change was real and
humans were responsible. His primary challenger, a local prosecutor named
Trey Gowdy, hammered Inglis as an out-of-touch kook more worried about carbon
taxes than the lives of his constituents. Inglis lost to Gowdy by a
staggering 42 percentage points. "The most enduring heresy that I
committed," Inglis later said, "was saying the climate change is real and
let's do something about it."

Inglis, who now runs a group that promotes conservative-friendly solutions to
climate change, is uniquely suited to diagnose what's gone wrong with his
party. Aside from the fears of being ousted from office by angry party hard-
liners, Inglis says, the GOP is stuck in a cycle of "rejectionism," the total
refusal to believe or concede any fact associated with the opposing side, no
matter how many experts attest to its veracity: "It's a rejection of the
science, rejection of all things Obama and rejection of the idea that we can
come together to solve really big challenges."

It wasn't always so. A Republican president – Richard Nixon – signed into law
the Clean Air Act, approved the Council on Environmental Quality and
established the two federal agencies most focused on climate change today:
the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration. In Nixon's day, environmental protection enjoyed bipartisan
support. At the signing of the Clean Air Act in December 1970, which passed
Congress with near unanimity, Nixon hailed it as "a historic piece of
legislation that put us far down the road toward a goal that Theodore
Roosevelt, 70 years ago, spoke eloquently about: a goal of clean air, clean
water and open spaces for the future generations of America."

The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 kick-started the conservative backlash
to the environmental movement. The new administration slashed funding for
regulators, laid off renewable-energy researchers and famously removed the
solar panels installed on the White House roof by Jimmy Carter. The
ultraconservative House Republican Study Committee issued a "special report"
titled "The Specter of Environmentalism," which cast activists as
"extremists" trying to block mining operations while snatching private land
away from its owners. Reagan's Interior secretary, James Watt, called the
environmental movement a "left-wing cult" and said his job was to "follow the
Scriptures, which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns."

Yet even Reagan saw the wisdom in signing the Montreal Protocol to protect
the ozone layer, one of the great success stories in the environmental
movement. It took a new generation of hard-line Republican politicians, led
by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to make the environment a partisan issue
while positioning the GOP as the party of the fossil-fuel industry. Oil, gas
and coal companies had typically divided their campaign donations evenly
between the two parties; now they began funneling tens of millions of dollars
to the GOP – two and three times more than Democrats received – and into
front groups and sham think tanks working to undermine climate science. Flush
with cash, the Republican leadership "started running the Congress from the
top down," Waxman recalls. "Committees had less and less say over policy,
decisions were made at the level of the speaker, and a lot of legislation was
being drafted behind closed doors with special interests."

Republicans cloaked their agenda in the language of "deregulation" and
"balancing the budget"; a New York Times editorial called it a "masterpiece
of legislative subterfuge." It was only natural, then, that in 2000, the GOP
picked as its standard-bearers George W. Bush, the scion of an oil-money
family, and Dick Cheney, a former CEO of an oil-services company.

The last real effort Republicans made to work with Democrats on climate
change brought together some of the biggest names in Congress: Republican
senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Democrat John Kerry and Independent
Joe Lieberman. McCain and Lieberman had introduced cap-and-trade legislation
on three different occasions, and McCain, during his 2008 presidential
campaign, had said, "We stand warned by serious and credible scientists
across the world that time is short and the dangers are great." But facing a
far-right primary challenger, McCain abandoned the effort early on, and the
so-called Kerry-Graham-Lieberman coalition collapsed in spectacular fashion
amid bickering with the Obama administration and outside conservative
pressure. Their bill was never put up for a vote.

In the years since, the GOP has only descended further into the madness of
anti-science denialism. And it's not enough to say Republicans have retreated
on the issue to protect themselves against well-funded primary challengers.
Today, denying climate change is a winning stance, the sure path to loads of
campaign cash, plus a way to wage ideological war on the Democratic Party.
With the GOP takeover of Congress, the most ardent deniers have been rewarded
with leadership positions on the committees that oversee our nation's climate

Look no further than Texas Republican Lamar Smith, the chair of the House
Science Committee, who has received nearly $700,000 from oil and gas
companies (more than any other industry) and launched a crusade to intimidate
scientists at NOAA and the Union of Concerned Scientists over climate
research. Since Smith took over in 2013, the Science Committee has issued
more subpoenas than in the preceding 54 years. Jim Inhofe, chair of the
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has gone even further, seeking
to block the Obama administration's efforts to limit methane emissions and
regulate the impact of fracking on water supplies. But what else could we
expect from a man whose biggest funders include Exxon and Koch Industries,
who brought a snowball to the Senate floor to disprove global warming and who
believes climate change is the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated"?

Rep. David Jolly of Florida is one of the rare Republicans to speak out on
climate change. Talking to me from the speaker's balcony one recent morning,
he traced the current inaction to the deep sense of divide and party anger in
Congress. "I have colleagues who tell me the climate-change science is not
real," Jolly says. "They say it with conviction, and I think it's simply
because this issue generationally was introduced in a highly toxic political
climate where both sides of the aisle dug in their heels and hardened their
positions. And so because of that, I think that legacy has stayed within our

As the evidence piles up that climate change is real and man-made, and an
existential threat to the planet's future, Americans of all ideologies are
coming around. A 2016 poll conducted by researchers at Yale and George Mason
University found that three in four registered voters believe the Earth is
warming, and more than half believe humans are causing it. The poll's biggest
shift occurred among conservative Republicans: The number of those saying the
climate is changing jumped by 19 percent from two years earlier. ExxonMobil
CEO Rex Tillerson accepts the prevailing research. Even Charles Koch has
begun to see the light. A top executive at Koch Industries caused a stir this
past spring when she said, "Charles has said the climate is changing. So the
climate is changing. I think he's also said, and we believe, that humans have
a part in that." In a subsequent interview with The Washington Post, Koch
himself didn't dispute the facts of climate change. "There is some science
behind it," he said. "There are greenhouse gases, and they do contribute to

Yet Koch is largely responsible for the one factor that helps explain why so
many Republicans cling to their denier talking points (from sunspots and
midcentury global cooling to "I'm not a scientist"). The GOP has come to rely
on (and fear) the spigot of campaign cash from the fossil-fuel industry. The
Koch brothers and their donor pals have pledged $889 million to push their
conservative agenda in 2016. "The Republican voters have moved, the
Republican icons have moved, but the Republicans elected won't move," says
Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist. "Isn't that interesting? You
have 889 million reasons to go against the facts, the voters and their

Oil and gas companies know that they've all but lost the war of public
opinion on the truth of climate change. So instead they have trained their
firepower on a single party in a single place in hopes of blocking progress.
"They came to the key strategic choke point: Congress," says Sen. Sheldon
Whitehouse (D-R.I.). A leading voice on the climate front, Whitehouse has
delivered nearly 150 speeches on the Senate floor, urging action and calling
out "the Web of Denial," the network of secretly funded groups that peddle
doubt on climate change. "They put a choke chain on the Republican Party that
they gave a couple of hard yanks to say, 'Line up with us.'"

It's a strategy born of desperation, but a clever one all the same. "They
punished the Bob Inglises," Whitehouse says. "They silenced the McCains. They
got [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell totally in their corner with the
floods of money they're pouring in to support his candidates. And once they
had accomplished that, they were able to take what is essentially dirty,
traditional, special-interest pleading and make it look like part of the
partisan wars."

According to congressional Democrats, plenty of Republicans in the House and
Senate know the truth about climate – most of them just won't come out and
say it. Whitehouse tells me he knows a dozen Senate Republicans who want to
help on climate change but say they can't, for political reasons. Sen. Brian
Schatz of Hawaii recalls one Republican senator telling him, "I'm not crazy
on this stuff, but we've got to wait till Obama's gone." The Republicans he
talks to "find their own position embarrassing," Schatz says, but that
embarrassment has yet to outweigh the fear of losing their primaries. "Part
of the evolution that has to occur is they have to be more scared of pro-
climate voters than these Super PACs that threaten them."

Even without Republican help, Democrats in Congress have managed to notch
major victories in the fight against climate change, such as the 2015 renewal
of key tax credits for the solar and wind industries. President Obama, acting
unilaterally, has begun to phase out the coal-fired plants around the country
with the Clean Power Plan. But in reality, the kind of sweeping, historic
legislation needed to address the threats facing our fast-changing planet –
picture a New Deal or a Great Society for the climate – can happen only when
Congress wills itself to act.

There are initial signs that heretics exist within the Church of Carbon. This
year's creation of the Climate Solutions Caucus, a group of 20 House members
equally divided among Democrats and Republicans, is evidence of an awakening
to the reality that waiting one day more to act on climate change is one day
too long. But Jolly, the Republican congressman, says he doesn't expect much
more movement in the current crop of GOP lawmakers. "It might take another 10
years for a new generation of Republicans to take a new approach to this," he
says. Inglis, for his part, is somewhat more optimistic. He says he believes
it's only a matter of time before the ravages of climate change – flooded
cities, resource conflicts, extreme heat in the summers and unbearable cold
in the winters – persuade his fellow Republicans to emerge from hiding. "It's
an unsustainable position," he says. "We're gonna change. The question is
whether we change fast enough."
Polar Vortex
2018-01-11 17:29:45 UTC
Post by Hank Readon
Why Republicans Still Reject the Science of Global Warming

A new batch of 5,000 emails among scientists central to the assertion
that humans are causing a global warming crisis were anonymously
released to the public yesterday, igniting a new firestorm of
controversy nearly two years to the day after similar emails ignited the
Climategate scandal.

Three themes are emerging from the newly released emails: (1) prominent
scientists central to the global warming debate are taking measures to
conceal rather than disseminate underlying data and discussions; (2)
these scientists view global warming as a political “cause” rather than
a balanced scientific inquiry and (3) many of these scientists frankly
admit to each other that much of the science is weak and dependent on
deliberate manipulation of facts and data.

Regarding scientific transparency, a defining characteristic of science
is the open sharing of scientific data, theories and procedures so that
independent parties, and especially skeptics of a particular theory or
hypothesis, can replicate and validate asserted experiments or
observations. Emails between Climategate scientists, however, show a
concerted effort to hide rather than disseminate underlying evidence and

“I’ve been told that IPCC is above national FOI [Freedom of Information]
Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to
delete all emails at the end of the process,”writes Phil Jones, a
scientist working with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC), in a newly released email.

“Any work we have done in the past is done on the back of the research
grants we get – and has to be well hidden,” Jones writes in another
newly released email. “I’ve discussed this with the main funder (U.S.
Dept of Energy) in the past and they are happy about not releasing the
original station data.”

The original Climategate emails contained similar evidence of destroying
information and data that the public would naturally assume would be
available according to freedom of information principles. “Mike, can you
delete any emails you may have had with Keith [Briffa] re AR4 [UN
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 4th Assessment]?” Jones wrote
to Penn State University scientist Michael Mann in an email released in
Climategate 1.0. “Keith will do likewise. ... We will be getting Caspar
[Ammann] to do likewise. I see that CA [the Climate Audit Web site]
claim they discovered the 1945 problem in the Nature paper!!”

The new emails also reveal the scientists’ attempts to politicize the
debate and advance predetermined outcomes.

“The trick may be to decide on the main message and use that to guid[e]
what’s included and what is left out” of IPCC reports, writes Jonathan
Overpeck, coordinating lead author for the IPCC’s most recent climate

“I gave up on [Georgia Institute of Technology climate professor] Judith
Curry a while ago. I don’t know what she thinks she’s doing, but its not
helping the cause,” wrote Mann in another newly released email.

“I have been talking w/ folks in the states about finding an
investigative journalist to investigate and expose” skeptical scientist
Steve McIntyre, Mann writes in another newly released email.

These new emails add weight to Climategate 1.0 emails revealing efforts
to politicize the scientific debate. For example, Tom Wigley, a
scientist at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research,
authored a Climategate 1.0 email asserting that his fellow Climategate
scientists “must get rid of” the editor for a peer-reviewed science
journal because he published some papers contradicting assertions of a
global warming crisis.

More than revealing misconduct and improper motives, the newly released
emails additionally reveal frank admissions of the scientific
shortcomings of global warming assertions.

“Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical
troposphere unless you accept one single study and approach and discount
a wealth of others. This is just downright dangerous. We need to
communicate the uncertainty and be honest. Phil, hopefully we can find
time to discuss these further if necessary,” writes Peter Thorne of the
UK Met Office.

“I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin
on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run,”
Thorne adds.

“Mike, The Figure you sent is very deceptive ... there have been a
number of dishonest presentations of model results by individual authors
and by IPCC,” Wigley acknowledges.

More damaging emails will likely be uncovered during the next few days
as observers pour through the 5,000 emails. What is already clear,
however, is the need for more objective research and ethical conduct by
the scientists at the heart of the IPCC and the global warming discussion.

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland
Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.