Thursday, July 31, 2014

This is What Scientists Can Do to Stop Climate Science Denial in Congress

As Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) noted in his on-the-floor rebuttal of the ubiquitous science denial of Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), "the only place where denial is 'credible' is here in Congress where money from fossil fuel interests" is prevalent. Whitehouse was responding to Inhofe's latest act of denial, the blocking of a simple non-controversial resolution introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) that acknowledged the National Climate Assessment conclusion that man-made climate change is happening.

In the Senate, any Senator can block resolutions even if the other 99 Senators want to vote for it. Inhofe is renowned for his "global warming is a hoax" talking point, which he repeats whenever he gets the chance. Not surprisingly for someone from the fossil fuel-dependent state of Oklahoma, Inhofe receives considerable campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.

This isn't the first time Whitehouse has stood up to climate deniers. But this particular event provides a useful exemplar for how scientists can stop climate change denial in Congress.

As the video above shows, Whitehouse is well-versed in both the science of climate change and the rebuttals to common talking points used by climate science deniers. Clearly he has been listening to scientists. I discussed the role of scientists in making policy in this earlier post, and this shows the value of scientist involvement.

Whitehouse points out some of the critical science that shows Inhofe's statements are misinformative. Whereas Inhofe repeats the talking point that "atmospheric temperatures haven't risen/have plateaued/are cooling/are whichever of the many versions he pantomimes (all false),"  Whitehouse correctly notes that the vast majority (97+%) of heat goes into the oceans initially and that atmospheric temperatures are more susceptible to short-term variations. Whitehouse got his information from scientists; Inhofe got his information from lobbyists.

Whitehouse also points out that virtually all climate scientists agree that the voluminous data unequivocally demonstrate that our actions are warming the planet. While Inhofe cites a ridiculous and fraudulent "petition," Whitehouse correctly notes that every scientific organization in the world confirms what NASA, NOAA, the US Navy, the Department of Defense all tell us. And if federal government scientific organizations aren't enough, Whitehouse tells us that the Property Casualty and Reinsurance Industry, the US Congress of Catholic Bishops, and major corporations like Coke, Pepsi, Walmart, Mars, Google, Apple, and Nike all are very concerned about climate change.

All of this has come from scientists. It is scientists that have provided their services to regulators and policy makers so that they can provide informed, scientifically-based, rebuttals to the political talking points of the climate science deniers in Congress. Even the younger Republicans decry the science denial among the Republican Party old guard/Tea Party wing. "People know better," Whitehouse says. And they do.

One of Whitehouse's most direct statements rebutting Inhofe is "To say that we have no warming is just not factual."

That's where we scientists need to step in. It is our role, and our obligation, to communicate the science accurately and repeatedly to those policy makers who take to heart their public responsibility to act on, rather than deny, reality.