Climate is not weather.
A November Pew Research Poll reported 84 percent of Democrats find the evidence supports global warming. That’s compared to 46 percent of Republicans, which includes 25 percent for the tea party.
It is mystifying that there is a political side to this scientific question, as if the effects of climate change could be filibustered or voted down. Is there a conservative position for other science questions, like the properties of Higgs bosons, the existence of water on Mars, or the location of the gene causing baldness?
Yet climate deniers proudly espouse their pet theory: You can’t be a Christian and believe in man-made global warming, according to Rush Limbaugh.
Our U.S. representative, Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, said: “Global warming is no longer based on science, but is being driven by irrational fanaticism.” Still others think it’s a big hoax to increase funding and keep researchers employed. Words unsupported by data, mind you, just baseless conjectures thrown up like barricades as a defense against a mob of facts.
How many local deniers have drawn ice cores from Greenland or Antarctica; measured the rising ocean levels and water temperatures; measured the increased carbon dioxide in the upper atmosphere; plotted the shrinking glaciers, ice sheets and Arctic Sea ice; counted extreme weather events; or sampled the increased ocean acidification? I'm going out on a limb here, but I'd guess zero.
So, if most of us (and this includes me) are unqualified to render a judgment on the data, we are left with secondary sources, opinions rendered by others, people we trust. We must decide who to believe: those who claim climate change is real or those who deny it. Fortunately, the decision is easy.
Those most qualified to have a scientific opinion on this topic agree that Earth is warming due to human influences, and their numbers are overwhelming and one-sided. An analysis of the 200 most-published climate scientists in the world found 97.5 percent supported global warming and humanities negative contribution.
Furthermore, there is a long list of scientific organizations — each with hundreds of members — that support climate change theory, organizations that are respected and have made significant contribution to science in the past. This includes the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, American Geological Institute, American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, Geological Society of America, American Chemical Society, National Academy of Sciences of 34 countries and the United Nations committee on climate change — and these are just a sample of a long list of organizations.
The deniers on the national stage are mostly individual scientists and carbon-based energy organizations. Furthermore, there is a passel of conservative personalities, commentators and politicians — all with strong, loud opinions, but who are scientifically incompetent.
Deniers are not skeptics, because skeptics rightly demand reasonable proof. Deniers are more akin to tobacco spokespeople who insisted there was never enough information to prove a link between tobacco and cancer, swearing denials before Congress; yet their own research, locked in the vault, said otherwise.
Deniers would lead you to believe that climate change is a hotly debated topic and the jury is still out; but for the scientific community, the debate has been over for some time.
The truly conservative position on climate change is to conserve our planet and our way of life. So why embrace 2.5 percent of the scientists who claim that everyone else is wrong?
I can see why petroleum companies would lobby against climate change: they’re preserving their profits whatever the cost to everyone else. But true conservatives should choose humankind over industry lobbyists, science over mythology, doing what’s right over what’s easy.
There are consequences for being wrong on this issue. If we work to counteract climate change, only to find it was a false alarm, what price do we pay? Well, we will have more rain forests, more solar and wind power, better energy efficiency, a cleaner environment, and technologies less dependent on foreign energy.
If the deniers are wrong and they convince us to do nothing, we lose the coastlines of our nation, weather will be more severe and damaging, large populations will need to move, migrating species will threaten delicate ecosystems, and whole island cultures will disappear.
Really, isn’t it time to stop what amounts to a political debate about a scientific matter, and get behind efforts to save no less than the world? Costly? Yes, but far less costly than doing nothing.
— By Richard Kamischke, Tribune community columnist