The GOP’s War on Science Endangering America: Climate Change, Evolution, Regulation

The Republican Party is increasingly emerging as an anti-science party. Since American greatness was built on its science and technology (and not on the odd cult of biblical inerrancy), this development is a danger to the republic, and, indeed, to the world. The US used to be about solving problems, about a can-do spirit, not about denying concrete reality.

First, it was reported that the percentage of Americans who do not believe climate change is happening has risen by 7 points just since April. We are going backwards! Americans also believe that scientists are more divided on the issue than they actually are. In fact, almost all climatologists (99.9%), and indeed almost all scientists in the hard sciences agree that humans dumping 35 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually is causing global climate change. Most dissenters are engineers and the denialist engineers are a small number.

Media hype of the non-existent “pause” in warming may be in part to blame. Some of the supposed “pause” hyped by denialists came from gaps in the measurements in the arctic. Some came from the warming being displaced from land to the seas (hence Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines). Far too many journalists are scientifically insufficiently literate to treat such claims with the scepticism they deserve. And some journalists, as with many of those at Fox Cable News, are corrupt and willing to misreport for a paycheck if Roger Ailes orders them to.

There is no secret that oil, gas and coal billionaires are pooling millions of a dollars a year to do propaganda to the public to try to convince them that burning fossil fuels is quite all right. If they were proper human beings, they’d get out of that business and invest in wind, solar, wave, and geothermal. But they’re not. They’re greedy and want us to burn through their reserves of fossil fuels. If we do that we could well make the climate unstable for future generations and even threaten human life on earth. You have to be a monster to kill your great grandchildren.

But the American public can only be bamboozled this way because it isn’t very well educated, and certainly not in critical thinking. Critical thinking isn’t encouraged by our elites because their class interest lies in people being malleable sheep and accepting the status quo created by the billionaires. Thus, almost all states have deeply slashed their higher education budgets over the past 30 years, causing state universities to semi-privatize and to raise tuition. The people state universities were intended to serve often can no longer afford them or have to go deeply into debt for an education. It may also be that some populist anti-science feeling derives from the way economic elites have lied to people, making them suspicious of scientists, whom they perceive to be part of the elite. In fact, scientists are almost never allowed by television news to speak publicly on the issue; pundits like George Will are substituted for the climatologists like Michael Mann.

Then there is a finding the increased percentages of Republicans don’t believe in evolution .

And there is the House majority leader John Boehner’s response to the massive West Virginia chemical spill, which left 17% of the state without potable water and the long term impact of which is hard to foresee (did it get into soil so that it will keep seeping back into drinking water?) Boehner resisted any regulations or inspection regimes to deal with it. Since the chemical is used in purifying coal, and since coal is anyway evil and destroying the earth, coal ought to be banned over the next decade. Boehner and his party are dead set against this step.

It is now becoming clear that ancient civilizations regularly collapsed because of past climate change episodes. Though it should be noted that it is 800,000 years since there was as much CO2 in the atmosphere as there now is (humans started dumping it up there on a large scale in 1750 or so with the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, and never in the whole 4 billion history of the earth has so much been injected into the atmosphere so fast).

Thus, the ancient Egyptian civilization that built the pyramids, the Old Kingdom, likely fell prey to climate change. Likewise, the collapse of the Harappa civilization in what is now Pakistan had to do with climate change. It wasn’t just the heat. A changing climate altered the monsoon rain patterns and aided the spread of leprosy and other infectious diseases, as well as fungi.

Previous episodes of climate change in human history have been relatively minor. If we go on dumping CO2 at this rate, we will reproduce the really big climate change of the Eocene 55-33 million years ago, when there was a third less land mass above water and every place on earth was tropical including the poles and there were 12,000 year long storms. At that time, it was volcanoes that put the extra CO2 in the atmosphere. Now it is human beings burning stuff.

Like the Old Kingdom and Harappa, our civilization could face extreme stress from rapid warming, changed rainfall patterns, and fungi and infectious tropical diseases.

We only have to 2030 to stop the worst consequences of climate change. We have 15 years. We need a Manhattan project, not nickels and dimes. It is a great irony that after 120,000 years of existence, the fate of homo sapiens sapiens may depend on whether it is smart enough as a species to respond to a major climate crisis of its own making in only a decade and a half.

On present evidence, probably not. And if not, this Darwin Award goes to the Grand Old Party.

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Related video

Sen. Bernie Sanders on the need for Congressional action on climate change:

18 Responses

  1. The scientific analysis is absolutely pessimistic. People — at least the modern Americans I am most familiar with – really are too short-termly selfish to save themselves. You really have to be monster to kill your great grandchildren, but all of us who can’t easily get out of our cars are doing it, and I’m as bad as anyone.

    As I pointed out in my latest article, we can’t wait for a new Mandela, a new Martin Luther King, a new Mahatma Ghandi to save us. In all of their cases, they were supported by a population that was being deprived of rights by another identifiable, and identifiable as “other”, population. In our case, the population killing our great grandchildren is … ourselves.

    The scientific evidence is absolutely pessimistic, yet for the sake of our individual and collective spirits, and for the sake of our activism and the survival of our grandchildren, we must approach out tasks with as much optimism as we can muster. Just another one of those civilizational contradictions. Can intelligent Americans learn to organize and compromise with each other to work towards a goal, or will we continue our bad habits of individualism, unsustainable idealisms, and excuse-making?

  2. I believe it’s 35 billion metric tons a year, not 35 metric tons, which would be fairly insignificant,

  3. Juan, I think there is a typo in your first paragraph: where you say “35 metric tons” I think you miss out the word “billion”.

    Keep up the good blogging!

  4. All true, Juan. But our entire culture is physically sustained by oil and coal, and ideologically sustained by blind belief in growth and profit. Beliefs that are essentially sociopathic at a systemic level. NO solution that does not address the fundamental evil of our dominant belief system will succeed. I mean, in what ethical system (other than industrial capitalism) is greed considered a virtue? Even the Ten Commandments single it out: “Thou shalt not covet….”.

    IMHO it will take severe crisis to wake the gas-powered TeeVee News zombies up. And then it will be very late in the game. Chaos and mass death are inevitable, I’m sorry to say.

  5. “Then there is a finding the increased percentages of Republicans don’t believe in evolution .”

    No surprise there when we consider that most Americans really don’t believe in anything other than gratifying their short-term desires. The GOP are just taking advantage of their low IQs just as the Democratic Party does with other issues.

  6. I think it’s plausible to consider that the turmoil and destruction caused by climate change presents unprecedented opportunities for further concentration of wealth and power by the strong nations, as weak nations collapse due to their inability to cope with the affects of the warming.

    A wealthy country like ours has the means and resources to cope with climate change. I think the population can be motivated to support expensive coping programs if presented as a “we versus they” paradigm, they being any nation that is perceived to be a competitive threat to our survival. In other words “this is war”.

    I don’t think the American people would be motivated by a call to altruism, if altruistic deeds required the transfer or expenditure of wealth to help some external entity,

    We probably will not end up resembling our dreamy notions of rectitude and exceptionalism, but those dreaming of empire will be happy.

    And the MIC and the NSA will continue to bulk up to meet the challenges.

  7. “A wealthy country like ours has the means and resources to cope with climate change.”

    I wouldn’t bet on that. California is already in distress mode, and if (make that when) things get worse we will very likely get more evidence that many, if not most, of our fellow citizens will toss us out of the lifeboat if it means their own survival.

    • Bill,I do think that if our resources were properly mobilized and intelligently used , we could survive. However, your lifeboat scenario is probably more likely. Maybe the upcoming Keystone decision will give us a clue

      • “Bill,I do think that if our resources were properly mobilized and intelligently used , we could survive”

        IF!

        • Just who is the We that you are talkiing about? I can imagine 20 or 30 or 40 years from now some leader saying, if there is any chance that all that some humans can survive that catasrophe that is now upon us every effort and resource must be devoted to that goal. What I think that would mean in practical terms is that every effort will be made to ensure the survival of a few rich and or politically powerful families.
          But I will die knowing that the odds are heavily stacked against them. What force is there that will stop the release of methane from the northern trunda, a process that has apparently arleady begun, and then the methane locked in the seafloor in coastal areas of the world?
          Even if we in Germany and Russia and even the US were to only use renewable resources starting tommorrow. The worlds population is going to grow by another 2 or 3 billion people in the next several decades. Are the Saudis and the other gulf Arab states going to end their oil exports any time soon?
          How would the Arab world fare if it shut down its oil exports?
          Not only the Arabs but just think of all the foriegn workers who have flocked there from the third world for work, how will they survive?
          Even if the third world were to manage to switch to green energy tommorrow as well the extra carbon that is already in the atmosphere will continue to warm the world’s climate for quite a long time, if what I have read is correct.
          People in America are spending big bucks trying to increase their chances of survival in a crisis. Yet America is also supposed to be the land of Bible readers who believe in a final day of judgement. Do these people actually think that they are going to postpone their own day of judgement? And if they do live 7 years longer because they stocked up on a 7year supply of food and automatic weapons and a boatload of ammunition how do they think Jesus will recieve them at the pearly gates when they gunned down dozens of starving people who were trying to “STEAL” thier stockpiled food rather than having shared it with those starving people?

  8. It’s not just the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, but how fast it increases. The current rate is faster by orders of magnitude than earlier “mass extinction events” and we may well be looking at global temperatures that are 6 to 14°C warmer, sea levels rising over 300 meters, the oceans flooding 40% of the continents and mass extinctions of more than 50% of all the species on the planet.

    Saying it doesn’t seem to change opinion, believing it doesn’t seem to get us up and marching on Washington, but maybe reading about it (in another ten thousand years) may well cause people to scratch their heads in wonder (if there are still people around with heads to scratch).

  9. With an already weak educational system now focused on getting better scores on the Common Core tests, there is not the time, the educated personnel, or the motivation to teach American students about the world around them. The majority of Americans are not capable of enough critical thinking to understand important scientific concepts, and are conditioned to rely on ‘experts’, often meaning a religious person, TV host, or radio commentator, most of whom have a strong bias and little or no scientific knowledge. Consequently most Americans reject unpleasant news and fall back on the easy and familiar, as well as ‘faith-based’ answers, which, unfortunately, are usually wrong. As the situation gets worse, a larger fraction of the population reject any solution requiring sacrifice, and go back to their twitter accounts to make fun of the scientists bringing the unwelcome warnings. We are in a lot of trouble, and the outlook is quite bleak.

    • That’s the other part of the problem, and it is probably just as difficult to resolve as the climate itself. And observing how so many capitalists are in denial while they pursue more excessive wealth in ways that are destructive of the planet is like watching a Greek tragedy.

  10. Unfortunately we have a stone age honorary Republican prime minister here in Canada as he too has been systematically muzzling our scientific community. There is rumor afoot that he is also a charter member of the flat earth society and a creationist.

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