Still a Skeptic?

This post is for all the skeptics out there.

Here at the NRDC Action Fund, we long ago accepted the science that global warming is a real problem. But a systematic misinformation campaign by polluters has led many smart people – including Members of Congress and candidates for President – to doubt the data. While the polluter-funded, die-hard deniers will never be convinced, one wonders: can you, the sincerely skeptical, ever be won over?

Hopefully, one converted skeptic can spread the not-so-good news. Skeptical scientist Richard Muller independently analyzed climate data to determine whether or not the globe is warming. His preliminary results are in and he couldn’t be clearer about his conclusion: “Global warming is real.” His funders, including polluting kingpin Koch Brothers, can’t be pleased. These are the same people who are donating to political candidates who are denying global warming and promising not to take action. The paper still has to be peer-reviewed, but Muller has posted his findings online so you can see the data yourself.

So, sincere skeptics, are you convinced yet? Don’t take it from us. Take it from one of your own. The thermometers don’t lie. The planet is heating up. Look at the facts, think about it again, and admit that the doubts have been resolved and we’ve run out of time for excuses.

Should Candidates Who Don’t Believe in Science Be Disqualified from Serving as President?

As the GOP candidates jockey their way toward the presidential nomination, they continue to create new litmus tests for what makes a worthy pick. The top contenders have to loathe government. They have to hate health care reform. And most deny the reality of climate change.

Most of these benchmarks have their roots in ideological battles but that last one is different. It requires candidates to forgo reality as they disavow scientific evidence.

I wonder how they choose which science to accept and which to ignore. Is it alright to acknowledge that gravity exists and cigarettes cause cancer, but not okay to concede that man made climate change is making the Arctic is melt and extreme weather events are becoming the norm? When do you cross the line? When does the crazy start? Most importantly, should ignoring science disqualify you from being president?

Having a president who willfully disregards the scientific evidence of a looming threat is not in our national interest, to put it mildly. I don’t think President Reagan would have gotten elected if he’d said he didn’t trust the data showing the Soviet Union had an enormous stockpile of nuclear weapons. We don’t need leaders who close their eyes to the facts.

But in this race, it’s not about the facts; it’s about speaking to the Tea Party crowd. And denying climate change offers candidates an irresistible trifecta. It allows them to belittle the science geeks and eggheads who might think they are smarter than ordinary folks. It gives them a chance to talk about government regulations—in the form of limits on carbon emissions—which gets their base all riled up. And it helps them keep the campaign donations from oil and coal companies rolling in.

Siding with the 3 percent of scientists who question climate change may play well with a small minority of hard-right voters, but it doesn’t serve the rest of us. There has always been a place in American society for the fringe dwellers—the religious zealots and the conspiracy theorists and the committed Luddites. But that place is not in the White House. Living in denial in the face of evidence isn’t a sign of leadership – it is a sign of delusion and it should disqualify you for serving as President.

There is also a healthy tradition of skepticism in America, but skepticism is not an excuse for inaction. It should be the beginning of a quest to find answers. If Representative Michele Bachmann doubts the existence of climate change, she should travel to the Arctic in the company of researchers. If Governor Perry doubts that the globe is warming, he should walk the scarred plains of Texas with those who have studied the links between climate change, more frequent droughts, and intensified wildfires.

The fact that they don’t journey to find the answers tells me they aren’t skeptics at all: they are just closed-minded. They don’t want to pursue new information or collect the facts on the ground. They want to stay within the confines of Tea Party ideology.

Casting doubt in and of itself shouldn’t disqualify you from becoming the president of the United States. But willfully rejecting the facts, when the consequences of doing so will be devastating, should.

Texas is burning. Governor Perry’s Hair Should Be On Fire. (Instead, It’s His Pants.)

At the Republican presidential debate last night, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Social Security a Ponzi scheme and “a monstrous lie to our kids.” Perry went on to tell a monstrous lie about climate change:

“The science is – is not settled on this. … [J]ust because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell.”

Oh. Here’s what the National Academy of Sciences said, in a 2010 report requested by Congress, aptly called America’s Climate Choices:

“Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.”

Here are three of the Academy’s conclusions – about as definitive as science gets:

“Climate change is occurring is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for—and in many cases is already affecting—a broad range of human and natural systems.”

“Most of the warming over the last several decades can be attributed to human activities that release carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—for energy is the single largest human driver of climate change, but agriculture, forest clearing, and certain industrial activities also make significant contributions.”

“Individually and collectively, these changes pose risks for a wide range of human and environmental systems, including freshwater resources, the coastal environment, ecosystems, agriculture, fisheries, human health, and national security, among others.”

Former Gov. John Huntsman warned his party again about the danger of becoming anti-science:

“Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I’m saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can’t run from science. We can’t run from mainstream conservative philosophy. We’ve got to win voters.”

Galileo would not be proud.