Barrie Dunsmore: The GOP and climate change

Editor’s note: This commentary by retired ABC News diplomatic correspondent Barrie Dunsmore first appeared in the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus and Rutland Herald Sunday edition. All his columns can be found on his website, www.barriedunsmore.com.

I had the occasion to sit beside a well-educated, professionally successful person at a dinner recently. Everything was fine, until I happened to raise the issue of climate change — and then it was as though I had turned on Fox News. Scientists disagree! Climate change is a normal/natural phenomenon! Humans are not responsible! (And this was a new one on me – all this talk of climate change is simply a fad started by Al Gore to make himself rich!) I have to admit I did not just graciously change the subject. But I did hold back some of the choice, unprintable phrases I normally use in response to such oil industry brainwashing.

But that conversation demonstrated once again, what an uphill battle it is to get Americans to take climate change seriously. It may seem strange, that even as we witness historic patterns of extreme weather, in this country and around the world, the number of Americans dismissing climate change as a man-made phenomenon is actually rising — now to about 30 percent.

One of the reasons for the skepticism is the fact that the rise of surface temperatures around the globe has indeed slowed down since 1998. But that has to be seen in context. Current atmospheric temperatures are higher than any time in the past 4,000 years, and the planet itself has gotten warmer in the past decade. Yet climate change deniers have used this pause in surface temperature increases as evidence that climate scientists’ dire predictions are wrong.

They aren’t. And there is important bad news/ good news on this front. Both were included in a report this past week in the New York Times. It begins:

“El Nino is coming. Above average sea surface temperatures have developed off the west coast of South America and seem poised to grow into a full-fledged El Nino event in which usually warm water temperatures spread across the equatorial East Pacific. Models indicate a 75% chance of El Nino this fall, which could bring devastating droughts to Australia or heavy rains to the southern United States.”

Obviously that’s part of the bad news, as is the calculation, according to the Times report, that this round of El Nino, “will probably increase global temperatures, perhaps to the highest levels ever. It could even inaugurate a new era of more rapid warming.”

So what’s the good news? In the Times’ words, “A sustained period of faster warming won’t convert skeptics into climate change activists. But the accompanying wave of headlines might energize activists and refocus attention on climate change going into the 2016 presidential election. Those headlines could include landslides in Southern California and widespread floods across the South.” In other words, El Nino may prevent climate change deniers from continuing to use the pause in the rise of surface temperatures, to discredit climate scientists’ virtually unanimous conclusion that the real consequences of global warming are already upon us.

But I am totally confident that being a climate change denier will not be mandatory to win the Democratic presidential nomination for 2016. That cannot be said with conviction about the Republicans.

 

I know there are Democrats who are not yet convinced of global warming. But I am totally confident that being a climate change denier will not be mandatory to win the Democratic presidential nomination for 2016. That cannot be said with conviction about the Republicans. As evidence I submit the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman’s update of his “Where the GOP contenders stand on climate change.” (05/12/14)

Some highlights:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has lately offered vigorous climate denialism.“Our climate is always changing,” he said, noting that human activity has nothing to do with it and that efforts to do something about it, “will destroy our economy.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is emphatically convinced the whole thing is a hoax. He told CNN this year, “Contrary to all the theories they are expounding, there should have been warming over the past 15 years. It hasn’t happened.” (Actually it has, as explained above.)

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said in a recent interview that the earth goes through periods of time when the climate changes but he’s “not sure anybody knows exactly why.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed, advocating more production of fossil fuels, saying that President Obama “must put energy prices and energy independence ahead of zealous left-wing environmental theory.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a “no climate tax” pledge, promising not to support any legislation that would raise taxes to combat climate change.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has in the past, cast himself as a skeptic if not outright denier. “I think global warming may be real,” he said in 2011, but added, “It is not unanimous among scientists that it is disproportionately man-made.”

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rich Santorum says global warming is “a beautifully concocted scheme” by liberals.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee once supported the Republican-created market-based cap and trade system, which successfully reduced acid rain. He now strongly denies ever having done so.

Of all the potential presidential nominees, only New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has not disavowed his earlier unequivocal position. He said in 2011, “When you have over 90 percent of the world’s scientists who have studied this, stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role, it’s time to defer to the experts.”

Now just why is it, that nearly every Republican presidential wannabe has decided that climate change is not real? It is very hard not to conclude — it’s all about the money. Since the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to virtually unlimited campaign contributions often secretly donated, significantly more than a billion dollars will be needed to get elected president in 2016. And Republican candidates expect to receive much of their money from the oil, gas and coal industries – who by curious coincidence, just don’t happen to recognize climate change either.

Yet it seems to me, that given the scientific evidence, and with the future of the planet at stake, anyone denying the existence of man-made climate change, is demonstrably not fit to be president.

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Bob Goldberg
2 years 1 month ago
“And this was a new one on me – all this talk of climate change is simply a fad started by Al Gore to make himself rich!” Barrie, if that is a new one for you, then you have not been listening to the inane fossil fuel funded propaganda that passes for news among Republicans. The idea that Al Gore somehow controls every credible scientific institution on the planet, and uses this power to falsify virtually every peer reviewed paper on the subject of climate change is as accepted among right wingers these days as the idea that the government… Read more »
2 years 1 month ago
Instead of offering up real solutions (or even one single idea) to alleviate climate warming, Mr. Dunsmore resorts to the old, tired and failed left wing strategy of name calling and Republican bashing. Something we see all to frequently when things on the left are going poorly and its deemed to be time to attempt to change the subject. Maybe if Mr. Dunsmore were truly interested in fighting climate warming, he would direct his thinking and writing skills toward correcting Vermont’s fraudulent and embarrassing REC program. Unlike Republican bashing, this would result in tangible good in the battle against melting… Read more »
Bob Goldberg
2 years 1 month ago
This article is about the absolute unwillingness of the GOP to even acknowledge the reality of AGW; while I agree we need more articles “offering up real solutions (or even one single idea) to alleviate climate warming”, it is difficult to have that discussion when one party refuses to even acknowledge the reality of the situation. “Something we see all to frequently when things on the left are going poorly and its deemed to be time to attempt to change the subject. ” Yes, the right would never, ever resort to tactics like lies and name calling. HA! When Republicans… Read more »
Glenn Thompson
2 years 1 month ago

Bob Goldberg, work with the Democrats to do what?????? What *exactly* is the solution to control the climate and ever changing weather patterns?

FYI, I believe in Climate Change…it has been occurring since the beginning of time! I refer to Climate Change as the Natural evolution of the planet! The question becomes…..how can man change it…and would you rather have Global Cooling instead of Global warming?

John Greenberg
2 years 1 month ago

Glenn,

“What *exactly* is the solution to control the climate and ever changing weather patterns? ”

The solution is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases spewed into the atmosphere. Easy to state; hard to do.

Bob Goldberg
2 years 1 month ago
Glenn, Your attempts to re-phrase the argument are so transparent as to be laughable. We are discussing the activities of human beings and their contribution to changing weather patterns. This is the difference between naturally changing patterns and Anthropogenic Global Warming. Your attempts to suggest humans are not playing a role in this flies in the face of the findings of virtually the entire field of climatology. As for potential ways humans can mitigate our behavior to avoid many of the problems this will create, their are literally thousands of articles discussing this issue, do you actually want me to… Read more »
Glenn Thompson
2 years 1 month ago

John Greenberg,

“The solution is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases spewed into the atmosphere. Easy to state; hard to do.”

Can’t disagree John.

1. Unless we start to control the rapid increase of human population.
2. Countries like India and China slow down on economic development.
3. By some miracle we discover that energy source that can replace fossil fuels.

Unless all 3 of those points I listed happens, I’m thinking reducing the amount of CO2 would not only be hard to do….but impossible to do.

Glenn Thompson
2 years 1 month ago
Bob Goldberg, “Your attempts to re-phrase the argument are so transparent as to be laughable.” Nice to know I can come on here and give someone a couple of *laughs*. Of course you easily trumped my laughs with a gem of your own when you said this! “We are discussing the activities of human beings and their contribution to changing weather patterns.” Maybe they’ll figure out how strategically place CO2 in the atmosphere so everyone will have a White Xmas and long holiday weekends without rain? The thought that man can control the weather is beyond ridiculous! As for modern… Read more »
Bob Goldberg
2 years 1 month ago
“The thought that man can control the weather is beyond ridiculous! ” Control, perhaps not, effect absolutely. That is the type of re-phrasing I was referring to. “As for modern day warming trends, no one has proved climate change wouldn’t have followed the same path without human activity?” Numerous peer reviewed papers have evaluated the evidence and arrived at that conclusion. Do you actually want me to start listing them? I would think someone who claims to have studied this topic extensively would be aware of this. Just because you choose to ignore research that fails to confirm your beliefs… Read more »
Glenn Thompson
2 years 1 month ago
Bob Greenberg, “Numerous peer reviewed papers have evaluated the evidence and arrived at that conclusion. Do you actually want me to start listing them?” Go ahead! I’ve already invited you to post all the articles you want! However, for every article you post, I will find an article to dispute those findings and conclusions. Who’s opinion and conclusions are correct? Most likely no one knows and no way to prove either way! That being said, anyone who bases a conclusion on evidence that can be disputed is not actual proof of anything! That being said, my opinion is….man has no… Read more »
Bob Goldberg
2 years 1 month ago
“However, for every article you post, I will find an article to dispute those findings and conclusions. ” Yes, when you cease to be bothered by the reputability of the source, it is very easy to jump on the anti-science band wagon and pretend denialist bloggers are the equivalent of peer reviewed papers from reputable researchers. It works wonders for the anti-science movement, anti-vaccine zealots have been doing this for quite some time. “That being said, anyone who bases a conclusion on evidence that can be disputed is not actual proof of anything! ” Yes, let’s ignore the volumes of… Read more »
Glenn Thompson
2 years 1 month ago
Bob Goldberg, “Yes, when you cease to be bothered by the reputability of the source, it is very easy to jump on the anti-science band wagon and pretend denialist bloggers are the equivalent of peer reviewed papers from reputable researchers.” “It works wonders for the anti-science movement, anti-vaccine zealots have been doing this for quite some time.” OH BOY! Where do you think I get my information from???? They are scientific sources. Just because they happen to disagree with your scientific sources doesn’t make them any less scientific! I posted a link (that is scientific) you obviously didn’t bother to… Read more »
Bob Goldberg
2 years 1 month ago
“OH BOY! Where do you think I get my information from???? They are scientific sources. Just because they happen to disagree with your scientific sources doesn’t make them any less scientific! ” This is the problem Glenn, your claim that a source which reaffirms your beliefs is “scientific” does not make it so. Right wing bloggers whose views have been laughed out of the field of climatology are not remotely credible, no matter how “scientific” the blogger claims to be. I read the link, I was not impressed. “so what is the point of having any additional discussions with you?”… Read more »
Glenn Thompson
2 years 30 days ago
Bob Goldberg, “This is the problem Glenn, your claim that a source which reaffirms your beliefs is “scientific” does not make it so.” “What I have found from discussing this issue with you is that you have a great many personal beliefs regarding AGW which have little, if anything to do with accepted research in the field of climatology. Your problem is you believe because you can find some blogger who agrees with you (and claims to be a scientific source), that your beliefs have actual validity.” Now I understand where you are coming from! Any article written by a… Read more »
Bob Goldberg
2 years 30 days ago

No, once again, you are deliberately misstating my comments in an attempt to obfuscate.

Thanks for making it clear that is the type of behavior you insist on engaging in.

Kathy Nelson
2 years 1 month ago

First Stannard then Dunsmore. SOS. Both have proven themselves to be demonstrably unfit to write commentaries.

John Greenberg
2 years 1 month ago

How’s that? By disagreeing with you??

Richard Ratico
2 years 1 month ago
Kathy and her climate change denying NIMBYS should consider vacationing in Russia where they’ll no doubt be welcomed by Mr. Putin. He shares their views. “One world capital that will not be paying much attention is Moscow. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is an open skeptic of climate science, and Russia, as one of the world’s largest producers of oil and gas, has generally been dismissive of efforts to forge a climate change treaty. “Climate change is snubbed in Russia,” said Vladimir Milov, a former Russian deputy minister of energy and president of the Institute of Energy Policy, a… Read more »
Bob Stannard
2 years 1 month ago

I’m flattered and honored to stand with Barrie Dunsmore. Thank you for including me with your caustic comments towards Mr. Dunsmore.

Lance Hagen
2 years 1 month ago
The problem with global warming, climate change or climate disruption (or whatever name they are calling it these days), is that it has entered into the political arena. ‘Spin doctors’, like Stannard and Dunsmore, jump in to invoke the ‘boogie man’ or engage in the ‘blame game’. They continue to claim science supports this as a ‘crisis’, yet science only supports warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities. The addition of a ‘crisis’ was added by politicians and their ‘spin doctors’. Maybe people like Stannard and Dunsmore should watch this video and gain an… Read more »
John Fairbanks
2 years 1 month ago

Perhaps, instead of that video, look at a map of the Antarctic.

Paul Lorenzini
2 years 1 month ago

YOUR map, or the TRUTH?

Bob Stannard
2 years 1 month ago

Lance, you might (or might not) wish to look into Freedomainradio a little more.

http://www.fdrliberated.com/freedomain-radio-destructive-cult/

I guess I would say that quoting this guy does make sense here in the denial club.

John Fairbanks
2 years 1 month ago

Mr. Dunsmore – Save your breath w/the deniers. It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing: wastes you time and annoys the pig.

2 years 1 month ago

The problem with Climate Change believers is, they are part of a collective, believe anything the Government tells you, it’s all true right?

Peter Liston
2 years 1 month ago

“anything the Government tells you, it’s all true right?”

Or, you know, listen to actual scientists.

Kathy Nelson
2 years 1 month ago

You, of course, mean scientists that work for the government. Scientists whose paychecks are based on “scientific” papers that support the current political/corporate agenda. Funny how those papers seem to crumble when non-government scientists, who are out in the field, come back with some real numbers.

Bob Stannard
2 years 30 days ago

When you say “non-government scientist” can we assume you are including those scientists sponsored by stakeholders, such as the oil & coal folks?

I have my concerns about government; especially when it’s controlled by mad men like Dick Cheney, but I do believe that many, if not most, of those who work in government agencies are good, dedicated people trying to do the right thing.

You don’t. We disagree.

John Fairbanks
2 years 1 month ago

Seems to the conservative response to potential crisis is to say, “You know, just to be on the safe side . . .”

Matt Fisken
2 years 1 month ago
It seems my previous comment was lost in the ether. In a sense, I agree with John Fairbanks. Time spent lambasting the so-called deniers is not time well spent. The political feeding frenzy over ACC is little more than a distraction from the fact that we have polluted this planet with far worse things than plant food (CO2). It’s no surprise that the bleeding hearts are seizing this opportunity to claim moral authority and intellectual high ground by criticizing everyone who hasn’t yet bought a prius and tacked some solar panels on to the fossil-fuel-based electric grid. The answer to… Read more »
Steve Comeau
2 years 1 month ago
Matt, You state that “I find myself unconvinced that if every human being agreed tomorrow that “we should take climate change seriously” that we can do much to stop it.” I agree with you on that point. Consider Vermont, where its seems many, if not most, people believe we should take climate change seriously: 1. Big solutions like nuclear power have been rejected. 2. Renewables are promoted well by energy policy, but face fairly strong local opposition. Even without the opposition, the technical challenges limit expansion, which remains at about 16% of total energy use, most which is hydro. 3.… Read more »
Paul Lorenzini
2 years 1 month ago

Well put Matt, and with articulation I am incapable of. You are the dreaded, intellectual, common sense moderate that both parties fear. Please keep it up.

Peter Everett
3 months 21 days ago
Read the book “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming, The NIPCC Report on Scientific Consensus” (Published 2015). This book presents many studies and facts (that can be backed up) by respected scientists, in the appropriate field. This, rather than ill informed politicians who try to get backing of the people, by consistently lying to voters be with undocumented, false information. As Joseph Goebbells, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda stated: “Lie often enough, soon the people will believe you”. This, I’m afraid, is what has happened. The lies are leading to hysteria among the uneducated voters about something that may be nothing… Read more »
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