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.

Comments

  1. Bob Goldberg :

    “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 is falsifying data on inflation.

    These inane conspiracy theories are now unquestioningly adhered to by right wingers.

    • 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 ice caps while helping to redeem Vermont’s flagging reputation among the regional and national energy markets buying RECs.

      Or even better, based on his diplomatic experience, maybe Mr. Dunsmore could convince the Chinese and Indian governments to stop building new coal fired power plants, which are being put on line each and every week. Curtailing the construction of coal fired power plants in the most populous parts of the world would definitely help slow global warming plus probably earn a shout out from Al Gore.

      Meanwhile, Republican bashing does nothing constructive to fight global warming. It only exasperates the problem by widening the divide, something a former “diplomatic” reporter should presumably know.

      • Bob Goldberg :

        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 decide to take off the tin foil hats, drop the inane, ludicrous conspiracy theories and actually decide to both acknowledge the science and work with Democrats to deal with the problem, your complaints about “Republican bashing” might actually have some validity.

        • Glenn Thompson :

          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 :

            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 :

            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 start listing them, or could you take some initiative and research the subject?

          • Glenn Thompson :

            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 :

            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 day warming trends, no one has proved climate change wouldn’t have followed the same path without human activity? Just because someone makes the claim….doesn’t make it so! FYI, I don’t put much faith in future Climate Change models. They end up being about as accurate as the 7 day extended weather forecast.

            You are more than welcome to post any article you choose fit. The purpose of being here is to learn and express my own opinions on the issue. Most likely I’ve reading many of the articles you are thinking of. I do tend to read both sides of the issue, but my own research goes back far beyond that of the past couple of decades!

            I posted this link on another similar thread. You can choose to learn from it….or perhaps will give you some more *laughs*.

            http://www.co2science.org/about/position/globalwarming.php

          • Bob Goldberg :

            “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 does not make it any less valid.

          • Glenn Thompson :

            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 control over the climate nor weather patterns. Should man reduce the use of fossil fuels…of course they should, However, I’m vehemently opposed for example of filling the entire state with industrial wind and solar for the sole purpose of making people *feel good* and the false belief by doing so will indeed effect climate change and weather patterns. Again, that thought is pure lunacy! There are ways of dealing with CO2 emissions, but I doubt you will like my ideas!

          • Bob Goldberg :

            “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 peer reviewed publications, decades of research and the views of virtually every relevant researcher in the field because some fossil fuel funded blogger “disputes” all of it. How wonderfully illogical.

            “That being said, my opinion is….man has no control over the climate nor weather patterns.”

            Then your opinion is the exact opposite of virtually every researcher who actually studies weather and climate, does that make you feel good?

            If your ideas are based on logic, facts and evidence, I would at least hear them out.

            If they are based on your denialist ideology and the demented notions of anti-science bloggers whose ideas have been laughed out of every respectable publication, then I wouldn’t bother with them.

        • Glenn Thompson :

          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….so what is the point of having any additional discussions with you?

          • Bob Goldberg :

            “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?”

            That’s an answer you would have to provide for yourself.

            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.

          • Glenn Thompson :

            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 scientist that you agree with is classified as a scientist. Any article written by a scientist you don’t agree with is defined as a ‘blogger’! Thanks for clearing that up!

          • Bob Goldberg :

            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.

  2. Kathy Nelson :

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

  3. Lance Hagen :

    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 understanding why people aren’t ‘buying into’ all this ‘panic’ on climate change.

    • John Fairbanks :

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

      • Paul Lorenzini :

        YOUR map, or the TRUTH?

    • Bob Stannard :

      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.

  4. John Fairbanks :

    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.

  5. 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 :

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

      Or, you know, listen to actual scientists.

      • Kathy Nelson :

        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 :

          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.

  6. John Fairbanks :

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

  7. Matt Fisken :

    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 Mr. Dunsmore’s (and other’s) quandary has already been answered in research showing that Republican and Democrat brains are simply wired differently. Their cognitive predispositions appear to predict their political views and their political views in turn harden their neural pathways.

    I completely agree with the science, that the climate is changing and our exploding population, actions and emissions over the past couple centuries has changed the Earth’s environment to a novel state, although, 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.

    While I am not a Republican, this is where I can understand where some of them (and others) are coming from when they question the motivation of left-leaning white horse-riding knights who remind us that “97% of climate scientists” can’t be wrong and “we must act quickly.” It is, without a doubt, our unwaivering faith in scientific progress and our impulsive human nature which has gotten us in this mess to begin with. Suddenly, we are the solutions to issues inherently part of this planet’s existence predating our colonization of it?

    To be clear, I am all for reducing fossil fuel extraction and incineration. This seems to be a no brainer because, unlike trees, they don’t regenerate or make the air easier for us to breath. Just because I reject the industrial-scaled “solutions” to an industrial-caused problem does not mean I deny climate change is a serious problem.

    I hardly think we should take on a wait and see approach to ACC. I think the best approach is to expect and prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best. At the same time, I think we should all respect each other’s cognitive and emotional differences and realize that pointing fingers and political posturing is the opposite of resiliency in a climate of change.

    • Steve Comeau :

      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. Serious efforts to reduce energy use are not considered by either political party, even if there is support for relatively minor reductions such as improved energy efficiency.

      Therefore it looks like carbon emissions will drop slowly, if at all, in Vermont and other moderately proactive states. Either believing climate change is a human caused phenomenon or denying that it is, does not appear to result in much difference in overall energy consumption of a population.

      The level of change necessary to make an impact on climate change is well beyond what the vast majority of people want to do at this time.

  8. Paul Lorenzini :

    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.

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