Have we really reached a point where, in order to appeal to the hard core of the Republican Party, candidates have to ignore the fact that the earth is getting warmer, and that human activities are responsible?
Let’s hope not. Because if true, that’s sad and worrisome. Without Republican backing, no serious effort to regulate greenhouse gas emissions can be enacted by the U.S. Congress.
To be sure, Democrats aren’t much better when it comes to straight political talk. Just ask Barack Obama, Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi how they plan to close the federal deficit. But they are at least operating in a universe that resembles the one in which we live.
Not so Perry, who describes evolution as “a theory that is out there,” who rails against an “idiotic” federal regulation of tractors that does not exist, and who would have us believe that climate crisis is being drummed up by scientists who fudge their data to keep research grants rolling it.
Here’s how Perry put it last month:
I do believe that the issue of global warming has been politicized. I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. Yes, our climates change. They’ve been changing ever since the earth was formed. But I do not buy into, that a group of scientists, who in some cases were found to be manipulating this data.
This wasn’t a slipup. In his book Fed-Up: Our Fight To Save America From Washington, Perry says that the “so-called science (of global warming) may not stand the test of time” and calls Al Gore “the false prophet of a carbon cult.” While Perry’s attack on climate science generated a flurry of media attention, most of the reporting tiptoed around the fact that, well, he just doesn’t know what he is talking about.
An exception was Glenn Kessler, who in an excellent Fact Checker feature in The Washington Post, reports that Perry is simply wrong when he says skepticism about the man-made climate change is rising among scientists:
To the contrary, various surveys of climate researchers suggest growing acceptance, with as many as 98 percent believing in the concept of man-made climate change. A 2010 study by the National Academy of Sciences, which surveyed 1,372 climate researchers, is an example of this consensus. After all, it was first established in 1896 that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could help create a “greenhouse effect.”
On its website, the Union of Concerned Scientists has collected statements supporting the “growing scientific consensus on climate change” from such organizations as the American Meteorological Society, the American Physical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geological Society of America, the American Chemical Society, the U.S. National Academies of Science and the U.S. (government) Climate Change Research Program, which said, quite simply:
Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced. Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years. This observed increase is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.
Are all these groups on the take?
So what’s going on with Rick Perry? Three possibilities. First, he knows better and he is playing to the Republican base: A Pew Research Center poll last year found that only 38% of Republicans believe that there is “solid evidence” the earth is warming and only 16% believe that the warming is happening because of human activity. Second, he is simply ignorant and ill-informed. Third, he’s seen and considered the evidence and for whatever reason chooses not to believe it.
Reporters covering the campaign should be pressing Perry, hard, on these questions.
I say this not as a partisan. If anything, as regular readers of this blog know, I’m more than open to arguments that favor markets, limited government and decentralization of power, the kinds of arguments that you’d expect to hear more from Republican than Democrats.
But I take science seriously, and so I fear that we’re running out of time to deal with the climate crisis.
On the climate issue, Rick Perry is dangerous. I wish my colleagues in the mainstream press would do more to hold him accountable.