Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tobacco is Great for your Health!

Widespread record high temperatures and record storms suggest a question to ask Steve Pearce or his people:
Does Rep. Pearce recognize yet that our climate is changing in dangerous ways and that our activities at least contribute to this change?

The last time I looked, Pearce called climate change "something that can’t be validated." As support for that view, he offered a clown from Canada whom the Calgary Herald accurately described as "a paid promoter of the agenda of the oil and gas industry rather than a practicing scientist."

Since then, some interesting things have happened.

One was a conference in Santa Fe sponsored by "Global Warming skeptics." Global warming skeptic and prominent scientist Richard Muller reported on a two-year study he’d done that was partially funded by the Charles Koch Foundation, a major funder of global warming deniers and tea party groups. (The Koch brothers run a large company that produces sizeable greenhouse gas emissions, and they oppose governmental efforts to limit or regulate those emissions and dent their sizeable fortunes.)

Muller was troubled by "Climategate," the flap over hacked e-mails of British scientists that seemed to cast doubt on their objectivity. Using climate-change-skeptic theories, Muller retraced their measurements to disprove them – but found out their measurements were right. His numbers match those of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

The skeptics’ theories involved claims that weather stations’ unreliability and the "heat islands" created by cities were creating an inaccurate appearance of global warming that accurate measurements would disprove. Muller now says that while those were reasonable questions, his figures validate previous figures showing the earth has warmed significantly since the 1950's.

That is, a reputable scientist motivated by his skepticism about climate change, and funded by folks who hoped he’d poke serious holes in the general view, took a hard look and found that the scientific numbers were right.

The U.S. military has charged ahead with plans to deal with and/or mitigate climate change, including preparation for the impact of climate change – and reduction of its own greenhouse gas emissions. Plans include solar technology so that Navy SEALs can power equipment or purify water while on the move. Military leaders see climate change as a threat to national security and an "accelerant of instability and conflict." The Navy is particularly vulnerable, with coastal military bases vulnerable to rising sea-levels and more frequent and severe storms.

The Republic of Kiribati, a Pacific island nation, is working out plans to buy land on Fiji so as to escape its own low-lying islands, doomed by climate change.

On June 26, June the second highest court in the U.S. found that heat-trapping gases from industry and vehicles endanger public health. The U.S. Court of Appeal for the D.C. Circuit called the EPA "unambiguously correct" that the Clean Air Act requires the federal government to impose limits. It rejected industry arguments that the science of global warming wasn’t well-supported, calling one key industry rationalization "little more than a semantic trick." In 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had a duty under the Clean Air Act to determine whether Greenhouse Gasses endanger the environment – and, if they did, to regulate them. (The right-wing Court – on which five justice recently bought an argument against the Affordable Health Act that was almost universally laughed at before oral argument – might overrule this new decision, but it can’t overrule the climate.)

Even Exxon-Mobil, which spent millions trying to sweep climate change under the rug, has finally admitted that human-made emissions are contributing to change in the planet’s climate. Instead of denying climate change, Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson essentially says "Get used to it." Tillerson points out that humans have long adapted to change, and "we’ll adapt to that. It’s an engineering problem and it has engineering solutions." (The company at least now supports taxing carbon emissions. Does Mr. Pearce?)

One thing that has not happened is the publication of a peer-reviewed paper undermining the scientific consensus on the subject.

Of course, scientific consensus can be wrong. Most reputable scientists in 1902 doubted man would ever be able to fly, electric shock therapy is no longer the go-to treatment for emotional problems, and eggs are either terribly dangerous or wonderfully healthy depending on the decade.

Still, there’s no apparent reason to suspect the kind of scientific conspiracy some of Mr. Pearce’s allies allege. Unlike the days when science said the world was flat, the Catholic Church doesn’t have an Inquisition terrorizing scientists who might wish to dissent. Further, although Mr. Pearce’s allies like to claim scientists hew to the majority view to get grant money, the real money is on the other side. Pearce backers such as the Koch Brothers will fork over vast sums to anyone who can concoct a remotely viable objection to the scientific consensus that climate change is a serious and imminent problem.

With an impressive array of scientists on one side, along with the U.S. military, and few or no credentialed scientists on the other, one naturally wonders why Mr. Pearce still doubts global warming. Equally naturally, we notice that his position, while unsupported by the evidence to date, is a convenient one for his most powerful financial backers.

Fact is, Representative Pearce is beginning to look like some North Carolina Congressman still insisting that tobacco is harmless to smokers.

-30-[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, June 8th.  As always, it represents my views and not necessarily those of the newspaper.]

I hope I'll come to regret the adversarial tone of the column.  I hope that Mr. Pearce will exceed our low expectations of him and announce soon that he has changed his views (and at least some of his probable future votes) on climate change.  I hope he'll make a fool of me. 

Our representatives need to suck up their ideologies, stand up to their wealthy contributors, and look climate change in the eye.  

But then, I've long expected the Republican Party to replace the Elephant with the Ostrich.

Meanwhile, a couple of additional pieces of information / sources mentioned in the column or published since I wrote it nearly a week ago:

Here's a July 3rd piece from the Indianapolis Star on this summer as a suggestion of global warming to come:

Here's a recent NY Times piece on the subject, noting that "an increasing body of science points to rising dangers from the ongoing buildup of human-related greenhouse gases -- produced mainly by the burning of fossil fuels and forests."

one observer's take on climate change and fires:

The Court of Appeal decision was published after I'd already drafted the column, but I inserted a paragraph on it. 

In rejecting the industry argument that the EPA couldn’t rely on scientific assessments by the Intergovenmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Research Council, and others, the court wrote "This argument is little more than a semantic trick. EPA did not delegate . . . any decision-making to any of those entities. EPA simply did here what it and other decision makers often must do to make a science-based judgment."

The unanimous opinion continued, "This is how science works. EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question."

As mentioned in the column, there's no knowing what the present Supreme Court will do.  (If legal precedent were any guide, we wouldn't have seen, in the Affordable Health Care Act case, 98% of the serious legal experts saying there was no way the Court would accept such a nutty argument about the Commrce Clause, only to see the four dissenters and Chief Justice Roberts all buy the argument, despite a couple of centuries of precedent.)

However, the present appellate decision is based squarely on the Supreme Court's 2007 decision in AEP v. Connecticut.   In that case, utilities were being sued by Conn. and other states.  The Supreme Court held that the EPA occupies the field and that therefore states couldn't sue based on their own regulations.  The opinion stated  that the EPA had a duty under the Clean Air Act to determine whether greenhouse gasses endanger the environment – and, if they did, to regulate them.  The EPA appears to be doing just that. 


  1. AGW is real, but at the same time, unfortunately a hoax of exaggeration that you've fallen for.

    The global temperature trends are all below even the low end scenario.

    Yes, like many times in the past, there was a heat wave.
    But it was not a global heat wave, but as is typical,
    it was restricted to a relatively small area of the
    globe where weather conditions coincided to lead to
    an area of stagnation which during summer leads to a

    In our own Mesilla Valley, of course, temperatures
    were remarkably cool for early July.

    As far as tying the heat wave to AGW, only Colorado set a state record, which means in 49 out of 50 states there were worse heatwaves in the past.

    And he derecho which hit in the east is entirely normal:

    exaggerating about it is not science.

    You should acknowledge that Pearce is right in saying that
    climate predictions are not validatED because for the most
    part they pertained to 100 year predictions - which can not be
    validated for at least 100 years.

    In the more recent term, the IPCC predicted a 0.2C warming
    over the next decades. What happened? Cooling since 2001.

    You would do well to study orbital variation to understand
    that earth endured much hotter summers during the
    Holocene Climatic Optimum when Northern Hemisphere
    summers received much more solar radiation for a much
    longer summer for thousands of years. It was this
    period which ended the last ice age. This was not a
    calamity but rather coincided with the cradle of civilization.

    In the millenia since then, northern summers are
    now actually cooler. But not for long. Orbits will
    conspire to give the same warmer, longer northern summmers
    for most of the next 100,000 years. In this perspective,
    CO2 is utterly irrelevant to humans or earth as a whole.

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  3. Climate change data is as real as the sun coming up every morning and no amount of Koch propaganda or Pearce indifference is going to change it.
    The comments above are examples of the effectiveness of money being used to help distort peoples mind sets. Ignorance is cheap.
    Thank you for this blog site and the reporting you do on issues, must be lonely dealing at such a low level of information with people's opinions twisted as they are.
    I'm a farmer, grower and climate change is ending that for me. So for me the whole issue of climate change always has me reading, learning and simply living it. To hear the ignorance so pervasive concerning it, kind of goes along with the propaganda we all face now. This man above I'm sure is well intentioned but still ignorant and willfully so. So it goes. No offense intended.