On Friday, at my university, we were fortunate enough to have a very well know climate science researcher speak, Michael Mann. IF the name sounds familiar it’s because he was the one that produced the famous “Hockey Stick” graph that appeared in the peer-reviewed Geophysical Research Letters journal in 1999 (I wonder how many graphs have their own Wikipedia page!). The graph of course was much maligned by climate change deniers funded by various lobbying groups, but has since that time proven to be quite accurate and verified by other researchers. His was also among the e-mails leaked in the scandal called “climategate” which, despite the spin of deniers from out of context e-mail excerpts, has been debunked by the scientific community. It was a great opportunity to hear from someone who has been at the heart of promoting scientific research on climate change, while also dealing with a great deal of political controversy and pseudo-science promoters who try to claim human-induced climate change is a hoax. Like many climate scientists he has reached a point where he no longer finds it very useful to reach out to the public with facts and figures. Numerous research articles have concluded that now, views on climate change are governed by political ideology rather than directly arguing with the science behind human-induced climate change. I found the talk quite illuminating since I too have reached the same conclusion that scientific evidence seems to carry little weight when having discussions with people about the issue. I also found it illuminating to learn more about the political state of affairs in the U.S. right now, so I wanted to share some good news and bad news takeaways for those of you concerned about our Earth.
The Good News
One thing that I thought was a good take away is that if you are a person debating or discussing this topic with a friend, relative, stranger whatever, that talking about the scientific consensus is probably the most helpful thing you can do. Obviously there are always going to be contrary people, but for many there is still a misconception that this is a split issue, and research demonstrates that a lot of minds are changed by pointing out how much consensus there really is. For more conservatively minded people reminding them that there are more economic benefits to doing something to not doing something, and that climate change also represents a national security issue is also important. Fortunately there is already a faction of the military addressing climate change from this perspective.
The other bit of good news is that there is a great deal of plans in place by scientists and engineers to start dealing with climate change. Basically the scientific community is prepared, and are simply waiting for the political will to be able to spring into action.
Michael Mann also said there are a lot of Republican members of congress who are closeted climate change supporters. They accept the scientific evidence and feel that it is important to do something about it. Why are they in the closet, well they have learned the lesson of Bob Inglis. He was a SC congressman who served from 2005-2011 and came out for doing something about climate change from an evangelical Christian perspective. He said the scientists were right and as Christians we should be caring for God’s creation. If you are a Christian this is a valid position to take and is supported by scripture. Bob Inglis ended up losing by a landslide in the Republican primary as his opponent was support by the Koch brothers. Michael Mann and Bob Inglis are good friends and so I believe this political inside information to be plausible and valid. In some ways by releasing him like that, conservative America has opened up a can of worms and Mr. Inglis now promotes doing something about climate change from both a Republican and Christian viewpoint.
The Bad News
Well the bad news is also related to the good news. It makes me concerned, not only that the massive money of the Koch Brothers and energy companies lobbying against solid science is preventing us from taking action that will help this planet, but also that we have so many Republican people in congress without the political courage to stand up to the money. It seems if they all banded together I am not sure what the likes of the Koch Brothers could do, if all of a sudden all of those people in congress lost their next elections suddenly. It would sort of “show their hand”. I guess it upsets me that the people we elect can be so intellectually dishonest and live with themselves.
I asked Michael Mann what the political tipping point would be to make all these Republican congress people come out the proverbial closet. He said that it would take the Republican party to crash and burn in this next election. Only by losing the executive branch and the senate (and possibly the house) would make them turn around and start to support more environmental concerns. The problem is that this election is looking a lot closer than it should be. A small margin of victory by Clinton isn’t going to cut it.
What is clear is that whatever your political stance, climate change is in your best interest and it behooves you to vote for politicians who do have the courage to fight for this planet. Given Gary Johnson, and Trump’s stance on climate, these are really not viable options. And most importantly make sure you vote for people in the senate and the house who accept the scientific consensus on climate change as well.
Finally I also want to help promote Michael Mann’s new book. It gives a much more in depth discussion than my little summary here. He also teamed up with a satirical cartoonist from the Washington Post who provides some good humor throughout the book. The book address things like ethics, politics, the money and ideologies behind climate science deniers, logical fallacies, and of course some basics about the science. I highly recommend it.