by Judith Curry
The emergence of candidates for U.S. President in the 2016 election is raising some interesting issues about climate change.
The title of this post comes from a statement by Bobby Jindal, Republican Governor of Louisiana (and possible candidate for President), reported in a 2013 article in The Hill:
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal warned fellow Republicans they “must stop being the stupid party”.
Jindal’s comments didn’t seem directly targeted at science, but the phrase stuck in my head. And it seems very apropos to the current political debates in the U.S. about climate change, particularly in context of the emerging candidates for U.S. President.
And before you get irritated with me, don’t assume that I am going to declare that Republicans are the ‘stupid party.’
The trigger for this post is a statement by Ted Cruz, who has just entered the race as the first declared candidate for President. Cruz’s bio can be found on the Wikipedia. Here is what I knew about Cruz until about a week ago: he aligns with the Tea Party wing of the Republicans, and has somewhat of a pit bull personality.
“I think debates on these issues should be driven by the science and the data and the evidence. Global warming alarmists don’t like to confront the actual evidence because it does not support their apocalyptic theories.
“Specifically, satellite data demonstrate there has been no warming over the past 17 years. That’s despite the fact that the computer models relied upon for this theory showed there would be significant warming, and yet the actual data don’t back up those flawed computer models. So what did the alarmists do? Rather than look to science to understand what’s happening, they simply modified the theory.
“Now you don’t hear them talking about global warming, you hear them talking merely about climate change. The reason for that alteration is because the data demonstrate the Earth is not warming. And I would note whenever anyone makes that point, you immediately get vilified as a quote-unquote ‘denier’ without anyone actually refuting the facts.
“And the language of denial is revealing because one usually hears of deniers in the religious context, dealing with heretics. And much of the global warming hysteria is pushed forth as a religious truth that no facts can dare contravene.
“It is altogether worrisome when you have scientists treating matters — denouncing those pointing to the actual facts and data as deniers. And indeed I would point out that was the exact same conduct the Flat Earth people demonstrated toward Galileo. And the global warming alarmists in their treatment of those looking to the facts and evidence often behave like modern day Flat Earth proponents.”
California Governor Jerry Brown (Democrat) responded to Cruz’s statement [link]:
“What he said is absolutely false,” Brown said — adding that the vast majority of climate scientists believe that climate change is man-made. He said that climate change had contributed to both California’s drought and record snowfalls in parts of the Northeast. “So, it’s climate disruption of many different kinds,” Brown added. “And that man betokens such a level of ignorance and a direct falsification of scientific data. It’s shocking and I think that man has rendered himself absolutely unfit to be running for office.”
Politifact chimes in with this evaluation of Cruz’s statements:
Cruz does have a point: There’s been little global temperature change since 1998, and the temperatures measured are lower than what many computer models had predicted.
However, focusing on that period essentially means cherry-picking a timeframe that starts at an extremely warm year and ignores that the first decade of the 21st century — even as it’s been stable — has been the warmest on record. While scientists don’t deny that there’s been a recent “pause” in warming, they expect it to be a temporary trend. Not only is one anomalous period not enough to undercut longer-term projections, but other types of measurements do show evidence of continued global warming over the past two decades, including rising ocean temperatures and shrinking sea ice.
Cruz’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, so we rate it Mostly False.
Twitchy is not impressed with PolitiFact’s evaluation:
How do you flat out admit something is true and then give someone a “Mostly False” on their statement? Agenda, much?
Cruz’s response is also noted in the PolitiFact article:
Cruz Spokesman Phil Novack said the senator was not intending to cast doubt on climate change science. He said Cruz recently voted to affirm that climate change is real (though the statement voted on did not attribute those changes to human activity, a key point for climate-change activists who say changes to human activity will be required to keep the environmental impact from worsening).
Rather, Novack said, Cruz was trying to emphasize the fact that “the computer models that climate scientists rely on predicted the Earth should be significantly warmer than it is now” based on satellite measurements. What Cruz is casting doubt on is the idea that we should make major policy decisions affecting the livelihoods of millions of people in the name of theoretical conclusions that in fact cannot currently be drawn from science or data,” he added.
While we’re on the subject of ‘stupid’, in case you missed this in the Week in Review.
On President Obama’s website, barackobama.com, there is a site Climate Change Fantasy Tournament:
Despite the overwhelming scientific agreement that climate change is real and man-made, these sixteen members of Congress prefer to live in a fantasy world, refusing to accept the basic facts. You can learn more about their denial here. Help us pick the worst of the worst. Vote now!
97% OF CLIMATE SCIENTISTS AGREE that climate change is real and man-made, and affecting communities in every part of the country. Yet too many of our elected officials deny the science of climate change. Along with their polluter allies, they are blocking progress in the fight against climate change. Find the deniers near you—and call them out today.
It turns out that Senator James Inhofe was the winner of this contest.
In my recent post Raw U.S. Politics of Climate Change, I posed the question: “Is climate change making us stupid?” It seems the answer is ‘yes’.
The differences between the U.S. Democrats and Republicans on this issue is rooted in their preferred policies, not so much the mainstream science.
On the Democratic side, we have the President’s Climate Action Plan.
On the Republican side, we have the Senate Minority Report: Critical Thinking on Climate Change.
While I can pick some nits of each of these in terms of the science, neither document is irrational. They reflect differences in interpretation of scientific evidence, differences in the weight they apply to past observations versus futures simulated by climate models, different assessments of risk, different policy preferences, different values, etc. In other words, these two documents reflect political differences among the two parties, although there is spectrum of perspectives within each party.
I find nothing at all wrong with Ted Cruz’s statements about climate change that I have cited above. In fact, I think they reflect some actual nuance of understanding of the climate change issue.
I REALLY object to President Obama’s ‘denier’ hunt, and insistence on the 97% scientific consensus in support of his policies. The extreme scientization of the political debate by President Obama is absolutely pernicious to academic freedom and and is hampering scientific progress in understanding this complex problem.
It remains to be seen how the Republican candidates will position themselves regarding the climate change debate. So far, the declared Republican candidates (Cruz) are NOT winning the ‘stupid party’ contest on the issue of climate science.
JC message to Presidential candidates: If you would like a primer on the complexity of the climate change issue, see my recent presentations:
- State of the Climate Debate – presentation at the National Press Club [link]
- State of the Climate Debate – presented at NARUC meeting [link]
And my recent Congressional testimony: