The New York Times has a great little feature today on the Presidential candidates and their attitudes to global warming. This is a critical debate for non-residents of the United States as well, because American Presidential opinion on this global issue will probably be more relevant to how the problem is tackled than almost any other individual’s opinion in the world. Shutting off light-bulbs and using your car less often won’t make much difference – but official policies from the World’s Biggest Polluter-in-chief will.
Which is why it is particularly scary to compare the Democrat’s opinions to the Republican’s opinions. Almost without fail, all the Democratic candidates accept that global warming is real and that it is man-made. They make a variety of different suggestions about what can be done, but none deny the basic facts.
Among Republican’s, only John McCain seems to accept the full reality, without equivocation. “I believe climate change is real. I think it’s devastating. I think we have to act and I agree with most experts that we may at some point reach a tipping point where we cannot save our climate. I don’t think we’re there yet, but the overwhelming evidence is that greenhouse gases are contributing to warming of our earth and we have an obligation to take action to fix it.” John McCain.
What is scary and disappointing to me, is the official reaction of most of the other Republican candidates. Of course, we know why. Republicans are the party of the beer-swilling, beef-eating, gun-toting, hunting, oil-drilling, SUV-driving, macho Americans. More or less. And they hate being told by some namby-pamby, pinko, effete, tree-hugging, cheese-eating, environ-mentalist that they should change their behaviour.
Here’s wacky, China-bashing rhetoric at its worst: “Whatever your scientific conclusion about global warming, whether it’s manmade or it isn’t or whatever, the reality is … if you don’t have restrictions on China, if you don’t have restrictions on India, our contribution, ultimately, is going to be minor. “ Rudy Giuliani. This strikes me as about as intelligent as a child being caught stealing sweets from a sweet-shop and turning around to say, “But, he stole more!”. Frankly Rudy, if the world’s biggest user of CO2 cannot change, then you can hardly expect India or China to change.
But I leave my quota of dumb-founded amazement and jaw-dropping shock to Ron Paul and Fred Thompson. These guys sound like Neanderthals. Here’s Ron’s succinct argument: “I don’t think everybody knows everything about global warming, because you have reputable scientists on both sides of that argument. … [If the government were to play a role] then you have to deal with the volcanoes and you have to deal with the pollution of China. So, do you want to invade China to make sure they don’t pollute? And what are you going to do about the volcanoes? They are all contributing factors to global warming. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do what we can to slow up the emissions and stop subsidizing big oil companies.” Ron Paul
Wow, hold on their Ron! What’s this about invading China? And those damn volcanoes, now what can be done about them! Seriously, I wouldn’t let this man run for leader of the boy scouts, never mind leader of a large country.
But the single greatest and most hilarious argument comes from Fred Thompson, actor (where have we heard that before…). Ah, Fred. Where to start? I won’t bother trying to disentangle the twisted logic, the false premises, the wacky science fiction, or the inept humour. I will simply give you his quote, in full:
“Some people think that our planet is suffering from a fever. Now scientists are telling us that Mars is experiencing its own planetary warming: Martian warming. It seems scientists have noticed recently that quite a few planets in our solar system seem to be heating up a bit, including Pluto. NASA says that the Martian South Pole’s ice cap has been shrinking for three summers in a row. Maybe Mars got its fever from earth. If so, I guess Jupiter’s caught the same cold, because it’s warming up too, like Pluto. This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non signatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air-conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle. Silly, I know, but I wonder what all those planets, dwarf planets and moons in our solar system have in common. Hmmmm. Solar system. Hmmmm. Solar? I wonder. Nah, I guess we shouldn’t even be talking about this. The science is absolutely decided. There’s a consensus. Ask Galileo.” Fred Thompson