What is it with Republicans and Climate Change? According to every Republican talking head, global warming and its associated climate change are a huge hoax perpetrated by a conspiracy of Democratic Party talking heads and the worldwide community of climate scientists who are making false claims and alleging a false consensus because they are getting paid to do so. In support of these startling claims, they cherry pick data so as to create the appearance of doubt and confusion where none really exists. This tactic has been used successfully for years by the tobacco industry to undermine the credibility of the science relating addiction and cancer to cigarette smoking. For decades people died, confident that the link to cancer had not yet been “proven.” Finally, the evidence became so overwhelming that the deniers could no longer convince enough people that doubt was the wisest conclusion regarding whether smoking was safe or not.
The same strategy of spreading doubt and confusion where the science is clear is now currently being waged by the Republican party. The hope is that doubt will be maintained as the wisest conclusion regarding the burning of fossil fuels. Just as with cigarette smoking, confusion and doubt are the friends of the moneyed interests. Even among the Republican deniers there is confusion as to what to confuse.
Republican talking heads at all levels confuse two issues: 1. Is the average temperature of Earth rising? The evidence for this is overwhelming and not an item of belief but of fact. Some of the currently observable indicators of global warming, trends that take decades to establish, are
· disrupted weather patterns and severity of storms
· changed migratory patterns
· rising tree lines to higher elevations
· diminished glacial melt due to diminished glaciers
· rising sea level due to thermal expansion
· net loss of polar ice
· diminished thickness of arctic ocean ice
· accelerating melting of the Greenland ice pack
The consequences in coastal real estate lost and the increasing height of tidal surges during hurricanes as the ocean rises have been widely discussed. However, more serious than real estate investments is life itself.
About 30% of the world's population depends on glacial melt to supply its drinking water. With glaciers disappearing at an alarming rate, available drinking water is endangered as well. Think about where loyalties should lie: with the moneyed interests who own coalfields or with humanity. That's a pretty stark choice, but not a scientifically implausible one. And it is beginning to happen before our eyes in Asia. Global warming threatens drinking water security.
All these indicators are equivalent to looking out the window to see if it is raining. Republican talking heads will point to some measurement or other that by itself would seem to suggest no global warming. That’s like pointing to some model that says the chance of rain today is 60% while the head out the window sees the rain. That’s what is meant by cherry picking the data. The science is settled. The warming of Earth is readily visible by the effects of climate change and disrupted weather patterns as well as by independent measurements from monitoring stations worldwide as well as from satellite data.
The other issue for Republican attack by sewing doubt and confusion with confidence is whether human activity (burning fossil fuels) is driving global warming. Republicans conflate the certainty in the case of global warming and the high probability for the case that human activity is a major driver for global warming to diminish the credibility of the climate change argument. Their claim is that where doubt exists, the science is not settled. In other words, the case for human influence is not proven. This is a bogus argument because very rarely does empirical science deal with proving anything. Its business is to establish a high probability that its conclusions are correct. That is exactly the case with the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Experimental scientists leave “proofs” to the mathematicians.
However, let’s take a closer look at human influence on climate. It is well known that carbon dioxide, CO2, is a significant greenhouse gas. Indeed, so is water. The major products of combustion of fossil fuels, besides ash, are CO2 and water. Let’s look at the human contribution to putting theses gases into the atmosphere.
There are about 23,000 coal-fired power stations in the world. An average 500-megawatt station takes about 14,300 train cars a year just to supply just one of these power stations with coal. That's 329 million train cars of coal in one year worldwide. Just one power station produces on average 6 billion pounds of CO2 per year. For all the power stations worldwide, that's 138 trillion pounds of CO2 per year going into the atmosphere. Every year! Think about how much gas it takes to make one pound of gas. Take a container and keep pumping gas into it until its weight has increased by one point. Gases are almost weightless, right? So it takes a lot of gas to make a pound. We are talking about putting more than a hundred trillion of pounds of gas into the atmosphere every year. How can Republicans claim with such certainty that the influence of such massive human activity is negligible? Even if the science seems sketchy to them, how can they be so certain there is no human influence? Could it be all about money?
The numbers above regarding the burning of coal (just one of the fossil fuels) show there are very large dollar amounts at stake here. There are about 100 tons of coal in an average coal train car. At about $50 per ton of coal that’s about $5000 dollars per car load. At about 14,300 car loads per year at one station, that’s about $70,000,000 per year for the cost of coal for one station. There are about 600 coal fired power stations in the United Sates alone. That amounts to a minimum of about $40,000,000,000 per year just in the US, every year. People have been killed for a lot less than that, much less lied to. This amount of money can turn otherwise reasonably intelligent people into dangerous advocates of something really bad. And has.
What Killed the Dinosaurs?
by David H Spielberg
What killed the dinosaurs? Really?
Was it climate change?
Or was it simply
that they'd held the stage too long
had lost their edge
and that their time was up?