Dunsmore: Climate change and the GOP

Editor’s note: This op-ed by retired ABC News diplomatic correspondent Barrie Dunsmore first aired on Vermont Public Radio.

As a consequence of Rick Santorum’s wins, he got much more air time on the cable news channels than he normally receives. So many viewers got a chance to hear what the former senator really feels about global warming. These are a few of his opinions, offered Monday to the Colorado Energy Summit.

Quote: “We were put on this earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the earth, to use it wisely but for our benefit, not the earth’s benefit. We are intelligent beings … we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped to create.”

Santorum said the claim that climate change is manmade is a “hoax … an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who saw this as an opportunity to create panic and a crisis — for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life.”

Santorum went on, “I for one understand from science that there are a hundred factors that influence the climate. To suggest that one minor factor — of which man’s contribution is a minor factor of a minor factor — is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects the entire global warming and cooling, is just absurd on its face.”

In the past, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich conceded climate change may be real. But in seeking the Republican presidential nomination this year, each has disavowed his previous positions. Gingrich went so far as to say his appearance in a TV ad with former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that addressed climate change, was “The dumbest single thing I’ve done in five or six years.”

President Barack Obama is not a climate change denier. His decision to delay approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas was an apparent concession to environmentalists. He has promoted clean energy alternatives and significantly increased mileage efficiency in cars and trucks of the future. But as nearly all Republicans and more than a few Democrats in Congress remain skeptical about global warming, Obama has clearly opted not to force the issue.

You may have missed this, because hearings of Vermont Statehouse committees don’t get much attention. But also last week a House panel heard from Bill McKibben, author of one of the first major books on climate change and a recognized world expert on global warming. With memories of Tropical Storm Irene’s torrential floods still fresh on our minds, McKibben said Irene was “precisely what climatologists have been telling us what to expect.” He explained that a basically normal storm moving up the East Coast encountered record sea surface temperatures, causing it to soak up enormous quantities of moisture, much of which it then dropped on Vermont with devastating consequences.

A final thought. McKibben indicated that these ever-more frequent catastrophic weather events now occurring throughout the globe far exceed the dire climate change predictions he and others made 20 years ago.

Comments

  1. Bill copeland :

    Because most americans are smart, Obama will win. But it will be close.

  2. Ken Forest :

    What Rick Santorum has not said that he believes, is the following: 98% of climate scientists are wrong on climate change; all of the leading world’s Academies of Science are wrong on climate change, fossil fuel corporations’ paramount aim is to ensure human well-being over and above their own well-being or profits; the earth is not warming; man has total influence over nature and can control all of it including climate; placing trillions of tons of carbon per year into our common atmosphere has no climactic effect; humans do not need to bother with science, God will take care of us, so we can continue with unfettered exploitation of our singular planet’s resources, forever. Rick has, what? for a science background? We should subscribe to his ideas, why? Rick needs to find and be restricted to an uninhabited island in the south pacific where he can place bulldozers, drilling rigs and cement factories, and see how far he gets through unfettered development with no regard to stewardship or sustainability. He would not last long.

  3. Doug Brockman :

    Hurrah for Santorum.

    It will be refreshing to live without a dictator breathing down our necks again.

    Meantime the climate hysterics can go back into overdrive trying to find out what happened to the nonexistent Himalayan glacial ice loss.

  4. rogelio Diaz :

    Not smart.. current temperatures are cooler than normal and have been flat/not changed significantly for the past 30 years.
    From NASA satellites
    http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_January_2012.png
    Please explain “global warming”

  5. Jack Poynter :

    Re: McKibben -

    I’m 66, with all the living through weather weirdities that implies. Mr. McKibben would do better to restrict his speeches to the young and gullible; those of us who are older know better.

    Obama is going to lose, not only because of his position on Anthropogenic Global Warming, but because he is out of step with the American Mainstream, as the fact that he didn’t foresee the recent firestorm on his contraception initiative in regard to the Catholic Church. No matter which side one is on in that debate, to not foresee what would happen with the pro-life folks is just dumb.

  6. Who needs science when we have today’s Republican Party?

  7. Paul Bilodeau :

    Of course we are to believe all the Leftist scientists who profit from the grants they know they will get from the Leftist government politicians and bureaucrats , are pure as the wind driven snow. They have no environmentalist agenda to advance and would never try to suppress opposing views or studies.

    When the actual outcomes don’t support their supposed science, they just change the crisis, which of course demands immediate attention: it’s Global Cooling, no, wait, it’s Global Warming, no, that’s not it either, it’s Climate Change! Yea, that’s it, Climate Change. That will cover anything we care to make it.

    So give up your money, your freedom (what’s left of it), and get your mind straight as we Liberals, who know all, tell you what to think, what to eat, what to drive, what to read, and on and on, because we’ll make you feel guilty about disobeying our Secular Fundamentalist Religious dogma, because right now that’s the only tool we have at hand, at least until we have the power to force you to bend to our will. And that’s coming, all we need is four more years of Obama and a manufactured crisis or two that we can exploit to our benefit.

  8. Alex Barnham :

    We’re so smart…that’s why we have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire earth. That’s why we believe our government agencies when they say we are safe.

  9. John Hartz :

    Certain bloggers on this comment thread would have us believe that the Earth’s climate is not changing and, even if it is, it’s all due to natural causes.

    The disappearing Arctic sea ice did not get the memo.

    The melting Greenland ice sheet did not get the memo.

    Melting alpine glaciers did not get the memo.

    The warming and expanding troposphere did not get the memo.

    The cooling and shrinking stratosphere did not get the memo.

    The melting permafrost in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia did not get the memo.

    The northward migrating pine bark beetles in North America did not get the memo.

    These are just a few of the numerous other lines of evidence corroborating the reality of manmade climate change that are being documented and experienced on a daily basis by scientists and ordinary people throughout the world.

    • Lance Hagen :

      John, your list may well be happening, but you fail to connect these event as being caused by man’s action versus nature

  10. Lance Hagen :

    It should be noted that there is no empirical data that shows any correlation between ‘extreme weather events’ and ‘climate change’. So claims that “these ever-more frequent catastrophic weather events now occurring throughout the globe far exceed the dire climate change predictions he and others made 20 years ago” are not supported by real data. Mr. McKibben’s dire predictions are based on climate model ‘output’. And such output is not real data.

    A model is only as good as its ability to predict ‘end results’ and ‘behavior’ and the existing climate model have been a dismal failure in both these areas. They have failed to predict temperature changes over the last 10 years and the ‘behavior’ predicted by the models, being the area where the rate of temperature change is the greatest, has not been verified with empirical data. To make matters worse, climate scientists have yet to explain why the models have failed.

    So, to trust these climate models is foolish. And to react to unverified model output is ludicrous.

  11. John Hartz :

    Last August, Hurricane Irene spun through the Caribbean and parts of the eastern United States, leaving widespread wreckage in its wake. The Category 3 storm whipped up water levels, generating storm surges that swept over seawalls and flooded seaside and inland communities. Many hurricane analysts suggested, based on the wide extent of flooding, that Irene was a “100-year event”: a storm that only comes around once in a century.

    However, researchers from MIT and Princeton University have found that with climate change, such storms could make landfall far more frequently, causing powerful, devastating storm surges every three to 20 years. The group simulated tens of thousands of storms under different climate conditions, finding that today’s “500-year floods” could, with climate change, occur once every 25 to 240 years. The researchers published their results in the current issue of Nature Climate Change.

    http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2012/storm-of-the-decade-0213.html

  12. Ken Forest :

    How about Rick Santorum for president. What a world it would be. Drill baby drill. Explode the population. Assume we can put trillions of tons of carbon into our common atmosphere with impunity. If we have a problem, we can always buy our way out. Money fixes everything. The good times will never end, no matter how much we exhaust our resources because they are God-given & limitless (healthy soil, potable water, clean air wildlife, species variety, ecosystems); wait, we don’t need wildlife or ecosystems for anything. If we are wrong and the planet cannot support more than a tenth of us, well God will take care of the (specia & entilteldl 1%) of us. Would Rick be on the inside or outside for letting it happen on his watch?

  13. Karl Riemer :

    We’re in big trouble.

    The strength of democracy lies in the collective wisdom of thoughtful citizens. Somehow, despite free universal public education and incredibly sophisticated access to vast amounts of information, we seem to be getting collectively daily stupider. Arguing with someone who refuses to face facts is hard enough; now we’re seeing a growing conviction that facts are subject to opinion, that strong conviction trumps fact.

    The evidence, quantifiable and consistent, of anthropogenic global climate variation is overwhelming. It isn’t subjective, it isn’t vague, it isn’t anecdotal. It’s data, measurements, records: a Niagra of indisputable facts. The details of ramification are subject to debate, but the facts are freely available and undeniable, unless, of course, you’re mentally adroit enough to look directly at something and convince yourself it isn’t there, or close your eyes because you’re so sure it isn’t there that you’d rather not see it. Anthropogenic climate change isn’t controversial, there’s no longer any argument about whether it exists or what it means, the only argument is about whether we believe that what we believe has the power, by itself, to alter external reality.

    “current temperatures are cooler than normal and have been flat/not changed significantly for the past 30 years.”
    This contention is supported by a graph which dramatically, convincingly illustrates the opposite. Any fifth grader can see the trend the poster claims isn’t there. It’s a classic example of magical thinking: conviction can turn black into white, lies into truth, down into up (or at least, in this case, no significant change). Democracy as an idea is in big trouble when citizens grant themselves permission to drive blind, to ignore evidence or misrepresent evidence in deference to their personal opinions, to act as agents of ignorance.

    Let’s not get exercised about Rick Santorum. He’s a professional actor playing the part of an imbecile, a purposeful simulation/personification of what he hopes (with some justification) will turn out to be the majority in this country. That’s his job. The people making a mockery of democracy aren’t the politicians pandering to foolishness and base human impulses, it’s the people who take that pandering as permission to indulge in those impulses, who abdicate their civic responsibility to use their brains.

    • Lance Hagen :

      Yes Karl, we are in trouble when we have people making the following statements; “The evidence, quantifiable and consistent, of anthropogenic global climate variation is overwhelming. It isn’t subjective, it isn’t vague, it isn’t anecdotal. It’s data, measurements, records: a Niagra of indisputable facts”

      It seems that you have a hard time distinguishing between global temperature rising and the primary cause for this rise. To you temperature changes and anthropogenic actions, being the cause, are one and the same; no differences. And though temperature data is ‘measured data’, the reality is, the source that anthropogenic activity is the prime cause for this change is pure ‘modeling input/output’. And that my friend is not measured data, indisputable facts or records.

      Since these models have failed at predicting temperature changes over the past 10 years and without any plausible explanation as to why they failed, any reasonable person would question the validity of these models and weight they attribute to anthropogenic activity and not, blindly, make a statement such as “you’re mentally adroit enough to look directly at something and convince yourself it isn’t there”. Your faith is astonishing.

      • So perhaps Lance will tell us where all this carbon is going to?

        We know carbon is a “greenhouse gas”. We know when we burn fossil fuels we release lots and lots of carbon.

        So what happens with all that carbon that, according to Lance, is not helping to “greenhouse” our planet?

      • Lance Hagen :

        Rama, the real question is not whether CO2 is ‘greenhousing’ our planet, because it does have an influence. The real question is the magnitude of this influence. Keep in mind, that doubling of CO2, by itself, will only raise the global temperature by ~1 degree C. The existing climate models are predicting a 4 to 5 degree C temperature rise. That is because the models assume some very strong positive feedback mechanism.

        It’s with these assumptions on feedback mechanisms that the science and corresponding climate models are extremely weak. So it may be very possible the influence anthropogenic activity is only a third or fourth order factor on the climate and not the primary or first order effect as assumed in the climate models. The fact that the climate models have not been accurate in temperature predictions and have failed to demonstrate the climate behavior they have also predicted, really raises the question as to the validity of these assumed mechanisms in the models.

        • Lance, it has a lot to do with what is happening with the CO2 you admit is a greenhouse gas because plain physics will tell you how much heat that gas will trap.

          As to the positive feedbacks: what do you think is happening to the methane (an even more potent greenhouse gas) that was frozen in the sub-arctic/artic tundra?

          There is nothing magical going on here – just plain old physics.

          • Lance Hagen :

            Rama, it is pointless to keep discussing this, since I realize to you this is a religion. You have this unquestionable devotion and any objective views, on the failure of the ‘climate models’, are not tolerated.

  14. Ken Forest :

    Karl: well said. But the Santorums, bonded to big oil money, are controlling the scientifically illiterate on a not so level playing field.

  15. Roger Hill :

    Honestly Folks —

    We need every one of you to help solve what is/never left the problem that will affect you, your children, your grand children and will be with you for your rest of your lives.

    It is massive input of Carbon Dioxide causing an accelerating warming trend. Natural variation on top of that is just minor noise. Nothing any politco can say do fart, will change it. Skeptics look extremely foolish to many now, but in the future you will just look “extreme” forget foolish.

    The science is as solid as gravity. Somehow ignoring it or wishing it away will NOT CHANGE anything.

    Here’s a list of scientific institutional bodies with official statements in support of affirming human caused global climate change:

    Academy of sciences of Malaysia, Academy of science South Africa, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Astronomical Society, American chemical society, American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, American Meteorology Society, American Physical Society, American Quaternary Association, Australian Academy of Science, Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, Brazilian Academy of Science, Canadian federation of Earth Sciences, Canadian Foundation for climate and Atmospheric Sciences, Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic society. The Caribbean Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Science, The European Academy of Sciences and Arts, European Geo sciences Union, European Science Foundation, French Academy of Science, German Academy of natural Science, Scientist leapoldina, Geological Society of America, Geological Society of London Stratigraphy commission, Indian National Science Academy. Indonesian Academy of Sciences, Inter-academy Council, International academies of engineering and technological Sciences, International Union of Geodesy and physics, International Union for Quaternary research, Mexican Academy of Sciences. Network of African Science Academies, Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts, Royal Irish Academy, Royal Society of Canada, Royal Society of New Zealand, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Russian Academy of Sciences, Science Council of Japan.

    Here is the list of international bodies that dispute global climate change. Are you Ready? Zero none nada zippo.

    The only debate about anthropogenic climate change is in “the media” period. Perspective it’s a wonderful thing.

    That said, on a policy note and what to do about it – we need “ALL HANDS ON DECK” – including conservative libertarian approaches as well as smart government policy.
    Denial is self inflicted mental problem, not a climate science one. Mixing these two will only serve name calling childish tiraids. Time to be Adult America and the time is now!

    Roger Hill Weather Heights Consulting

  16. Attention all arm chair climatologists – here’s what the real institutions worldwide say–

    Here’s a list of scientific institutional bodies with official statements in support of affirming human caused global climate change:

    Academy of sciences of Malaysia, Academy of science South Africa, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Astronomical Society, American chemical society, American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, American Meteorology Society, American Physical Society, American Quaternary Association, Australian Academy of Science, Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, Brazilian Academy of Science, Canadian federation of Earth Sciences, Canadian Foundation for climate and Atmospheric Sciences, Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic society. The Caribbean Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Science, The European Academy of Sciences and Arts, European Geo sciences Union, European Science Foundation, French Academy of Science, German Academy of natural Science, Scientist leapoldina, Geological Society of America, Geological Society of London stratigrophy commission, Indian National Science Academy. Indonesian Academy of Sciences, Inter-academy Council, International academies of engineering and technological Sciences, International Union of Geodesy and physics, International Union for Quaternary research, Mexican Academy of Sciences. Network of African Science Academies, Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts, Royale Irish Academy, Royal Society of Canada, Royal Society of New Zealand, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Russian Academy of Sciences, Science Council of Japan.

    Here is the list of international bodies that dispute global climate change. Are you Ready? Zero none nada zippo.

    The only debate about anthropogenic climate change is in “the media” period. Perspective it’s a wonderful thing.

    We need “all hands on deck” – including libertarian conservatives to help with other approaches. Denial is a “mental problem” and one only looks foolish when the science is as solid as gravity. Policy and what to do – that should be the arena. Otherwise it is the flat earth society, cigarettes don’t cause cancer, its tiring and really old.

    Roger R. Hill Weathering Heights

  17. Mike Kerin :

    It’s hard for me to believe there are so many deniers of science. Don’t you folks care about the type of environment you are leaving to you kids and grand kids? I do!
    That is why I put in my solar array and traded my F150 for a hybrid (42 MPG). Trying to do my part .

  18. Avram Patt :

    Thank you neighbor and weatherman Roger Hill for sparing me from the chore of again digging up and again listing all of the thoroughly vetted scientific bodies that have figured this out.

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