Global warming is real and humans are causing it. That greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to climate change is as accepted among mainstream scientists as the earth revolving around the sun. A recently published story on climate change denial in Australian current affairs magazine The Monthly cites a survey that found 97.4 percent of climate scientists agree that “human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.”
But what about the few scientists still skeptical of climate change? They are starting to come around as evidenced by the highly publicized conversion of UC Berkeley physics professor and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory faculty senior scientist Richard A. Muller. On the well-read pages of The New York Times, Muller explained his conversion was a result of research done on the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project, which concluded that global land temperatures have increased by 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) over the past 250 years, including an increase of 1.5 degrees F (0.9 degrees C) over the past 50 years. And that “it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.”
This conversion is all the more astonishing considering that Muller’s research has been funded by the notorious climate change-denying billionaire Koch brothers. Could the Koch brothers put the planet above their precious petro dollars? Unlikely considering how deeply invested they are in the fossil fuel industry.
But if the science won’t convince skeptics, perhaps stepping outside their front door and feeling the stifling heat will. July 2012 was the hottest month in 118 years of U.S. records, according to a State of the Climate report put out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The 77.6 degrees F (25.3 degrees C) average was 3.3 degrees above the 20th century average. The first seven months of this calendar year and the past twelve months are the hottest period in the U.S. since recordkeeping began in 1895.
The public must catch up fast to the 97 percent figure in the scientific community. As recently as May of last year, ajoint poll by Yale University and George Mason University found that only 47 percent of Americans attribute global warming to human activities. This of course makes it harder to convince people to change their carbon-based lifestyles and elect political leaders who will take urgent climate action.
Which brings us to the sorry state of America’s political leadership on climate change. President Obama has disappointed many by not speaking up about climate change and advocating an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that puts clean energy and fossil fuels on equal footing. The problem with this strategy is that if all that carbon under the ground is extracted through oil drilling and fracking for natural gas, it will be the end game for global warming as all that carbon in the atmosphere will take us past the tipping point. On the other hand, promoting wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels, hydroelectricity, tidal power and other forms of renewable energy has the potential to reverse climate change, reduce pollution, create millions of jobs, and get the economy moving again.
But at least the Obama administration believes in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which means that if the overwhelming scientific consensus says human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are the number one cause of climate change, then the Obama administration will turn science into policy. We’ve already seen some of this with the fuel efficiency standards and outlawing new coal-fired power plants.
And compared to Romney and the Republicans, Obama looks a lot better when it comes to climate change. Just the other day it was revealed that Romney press secretary Andrea Saul promoted climate change denial on behalf of Exxon-Mobil while she worked at D.C.-based lobbying firm DCI Group. Saul created a website that featured columns from right-wing climate deniers.
And the rest of the Republicans are off their rockers when it comes to climate change. The Senate GOP recently unveiled a similar dirty energy bill that the House GOP passed in June. Highlights of the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act(which no doubt a President Romney would rubber stamp as one of his first acts in office) include suspending U.S. EPA rules on refineries, opening the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and the Virginia coastline to offshore oil drilling, allowing the northern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline to be built and more dirty energy measures.
It is clear that Romney and congressional Republicans just don’t get it when it comes to climate change and clean energy solutions. Given a choice between science and fossil fuel industry denial, they have chosen denial. Between clean energy jobs and dirty energy they have chosen dirty energy. Between public health and polluters they have chosen polluters.
At least President Obama can be convinced to act on climate change. On the other hand, if Romney and the Republicans win this November it is certain the United States will do nothing to stop climate change and actually speed up global warming with their “drill, baby, drill” dirty energy agenda.
* Photo credit: AP. Photo is of climate change convert Richard Muller with his daughter Elizabeth at home in Berkeley, California.