Monday, February 10, 2014

The Myths of the Myths of Climate Change

According to his biography, Thomas Donelson is chairman of "Americas PAC," a PAC that specializes in expanding the free market conservative coalition. He has been involved in conservative Republican politics for the last three decades. There's nothing in his bio that indicates any scientific background or expertise, or for that matter, any connection to Texas, but that doesn't stop something called "Texas GOP Vote" from publishing Donelson's article on climate change titled "The Mythology of Climate Change."

After the jump, an examination of the so-called "myths." No ridicule. No snark. Just straight talk.

"Myth one is that the science is settled on climate change."

Well, I guess that depends on what "settled" means. In one sense, science is never settled, as there's always something more to learn. But if having a consensus among the vast majority of individual climate scientists, national academies of science and institutions specializing in climate means the basic science is "settled," then it is. Global warming denial may be arguable, but denying that a consensus exists among climate scientists is simply delusional.

"Myth two is that much of the media simply doesn't explain the various sides."

I'm not sure what this means. I assume the wording is simply a typo and the "myth" is that the media *does* explain both sides, whereas Donelson believes it doesn't. He doesn't provide any data and I don't have any myself, so we're left with subjective impressions. Mine is that global warming denial gets more press coverage than it deserves based on the tiny number of scientific papers that are published that find no evidence of global warming.

"Myth three is that those who believe in man-made climate change have the superior argument."

Yes, the climate changes naturally. Factors like solar radiation and volcanic eruptions do affect climate change. So do greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It's not just one thing at work. Scientists have looked at these various contributions and cannot find enough increase in solar radiation or volcanic eruptions or any other natural factor to explain the majority of the last century's increase in global warming. By including greenhouse effects of human activity, they can explain it.

"Myth four is that energy companies are funding the skeptics."

Koch Industries, for one, has donated tens of millions of dollars to groups opposing the science of climate change. But so what? Such funding may influence public opinion, but it's not able to change the facts of the science.

"Myth five is that warmer climate is worse for humanity than colder climate."

"Worse" is a subjective term. If you are an oil company and want to drill for oil in the Arctic, then global warming of a degree or so is good for you. If you are a country whose coast is threatened by flooding, then not so much. And if the globe warms, on average, two or three degrees, the upheavals in livelihood for billions of people will be too obvious to continue arguing that global warming is good for us.

"Myth six is the relationship of carbon dioxide to global warming. There are numerous things we don't know, the first being figuring out what the proper level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is."

What we know is that increased carbon dioxide has a greenhouse effect. This can be demonstrated in a laboratory. One can argue what the "proper" level should be, but that's a subjective matter. The fact is that higher levels will lead to higher temperatures. That we know. That we're experiencing.

"The seventh myth is that we must have immediate action or else."

Or else what? With the amount of carbon dioxide we've already pumped into the atmosphere, the globe will continue to warm no matter what we do or don't do to stop carbon pollution today. We can make things even warmer than that by not taking action. Or, if we do take action (immediate or otherwise), we can make things not quite as warm as that. It's our choice.

Speaking of choice, we can either continue to elect Republicans who are anti-science like Tom Donelson and "Texas GOP Vote" want us to or we can vote for their opponents. It's our choice. Democrats, Libertarians, Green Party, it doesn't matter, they can't be any more wrong on basic science than the GOP is. And it's not just the tea party extremists in the GOP. Even supposedly sensible establishment Republicans are anti-science. Take this very recent tweet by Senator John Carona (TX Senate District 16): "Pop Quiz: When it comes to global warming, is Al Gore, misguided, wrong or completely wrong?" Is Carona just pandering to the tea party or is he really a global warming denier? Either way, he has no business setting public policy.

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