Republican politicians aren't climate scientists or responsible leaders

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is hoping to become the Senate Majority Leader after the forthcoming election on November 4th, although despite hailing from conservative Kentucky, McConnell is in a very tight race. The Cincinnati Enquirer editorial board recently had a long discussion with McConnell and tried to pin him down on the subject of global warming.

McConnell wouldn’t directly answer whether he believes in climate change.

Enquirer’s editorial board volleyed several questions about what it would take to convince him of climate change. He turned the subject every time to jobs. McConnell said he believes imposing regulations to reduce greenhouse gases blamed for climate change would only hurt America and not mitigate what other countries, such as China, are doing...

“We can debate this forever,” McConnell said. “George Will had a column in the last year or so pointing out that in the 70s, we were concerned the ice age was coming. I’m not a scientist. I’m interested in protecting Kentucky’s economy.”

Leaving aside McConnell’s reference to the 1970s ice age myth, the cop-out about not being a scientist is a strange and dangerous one. Most members of Congress aren’t scientists, or doctors, or military experts, or teachers, and yet they set our country’s science, health care, defense, and education policy. Usually they do this by listening to the experts in each subject, which is the smart approach.

For example, as Lee Papa has pointed out, McConnell had no hesitations in expressing his opinions about dealing with the threat of Ebola and deferring to the experts at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

I’m not an expert on this, but it strikes me that it would be a good idea to discontinue flights into the United States from that part of the world ... I think we ought to listen to what the CDC thinks they need either in terms of financing or certainly they’ll decide the procedures for travel and all the rest. I think we need to follow the advice of the experts who know how to fight scourges like this

These comments stand in stark contrast to McConnell’s unwillingness to take a position on human-caused global warming, or to listen to the climate scientist experts on the subject.

McConnell is far from alone – this refrain has become one of the most popular responses among Republican politicians when asked about the climate. “I’m not a scientist” is used to abdicate responsibility for mitigating the immense risks posed by climate change. This abdication would be considered unacceptable in the face of other threats like ISIS and Ebola, and the same should be true for global warming.

When it comes to climate change, the expert consensus is clear. Humans are causing global warming, and the resulting climate changes (more damaging extreme weather, for example) on the whole are harmful and dangerous. There are ways to reduce carbon pollution at a lower cost than paying for the immense damages caused by unabated climate change. In fact, there are small government, free market solutions that appeal to political conservatives and would reduce carbon pollution while growing the economy.

The good news is that the Democratic Party is taking climate change seriously. President Obama has shown strong leadership on the issue in his second term, Democratic Senators are drawing increasing attention to it, and many Democratic candidates running for office are speaking up about the need for climate action. Climate Hawks Vote has a good list of those candidates.

Unfortunately, many Republican politicians receive substantial campaign funding from fossil fuel companies. Many also rely on the most conservative Americans as their voting base, and those voters have been misinformed about climate change by the conservative media.

Because of that media bias, climate change is treated as a political, cultural, and ideological topic in the United States instead of a scientific and risk management issue. In the rare case where Republican politicians show responsible leadership in trying to tackle global warming, their jobs are threatened. Thus rather than showing leadership to address our greatest long-term threat, Republican politicians resort to abdicating responsibility.

Click here to read the rest

Posted by dana1981 on Tuesday, 28 October, 2014

Creative Commons License The Skeptical Science website by Skeptical Science is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.