Climate change doubters: flat-earthers or thoughtful skeptics?


Alex Mills

During the evening hours of March 10, a few Democratic Senators pulled an “all-nighter” on climate change. No, it was not a slumber party over at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office. And, no, the words “global warming” are no longer used. The politically correct term now is “climate change.”

Senate Democrat leaders wanted to show that there is still interest in the issue of climate change. So, Senate Majority Leader Reid staged the all-night rally to bring attention to an issue that is declining in support. Only 28 of the 55 Democratic Senators went to the podium on the Senate floor to speak “on the most pressing issue of our time, which is climate change,” according to a statement read by Reid.

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Even though Reid calls it “the most pressing issue of our time,” global warming has lost its pizzazz among some Democrats. Reid couldn’t get a cap-and-trade bill passed several years ago when there were 59 Democrats in the Senate. Today, he has even fewer votes, with a half dozen or so of the Senate’s 53 Democrats facing re-election battles. Those senators would have a very difficult time voting for any legislation that reduced the use of fossil fuels or raised the price of energy.

For example, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana faces a tough opponent. She became chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee recently and could lose in November if she were to vote for legislation offered by the Democratic leadership.

Other Democrats who are finding the “heat in the kitchen” on this issue very, very hot indeed include Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Caroline, Mark Begich of Alaska, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Mark Udall of Colorado.

The Obama administration, however, continues to push. Secretary of State John Kerry raised the issue again when he assailed climate change skeptics as members of the “Flat Earth Society.”

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“We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists” and “extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts,” Kerry said.

Kerry’s comments caught the attention of Richard McNider and John Christy, who are professors of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and fellows of the American Meteorological Society. They wrote an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal that stated: “We should not have a climate-science research program that searches only for ways to confirm prevailing theories, and we should not honor government leaders, such as Secretary Kerry, who attack others for their inconvenient, fact-based views.”

McNider and Christy pointed out that in ancient times the notion of a flat earth was the scientific consensus, and it was only a minority who dared question this belief. “We are among today’s scientists who are skeptical about the so-called consensus on climate change. Does that make us modern-day flat earthers, as Mr. Kerry suggests, or are we among those who defy the prevailing wisdom to declare the world is round?”

One Senate Democrat who is apparently having a difficult time making sense of the weather is Al Franken of Minnesota, who you may remember as a comedian on television’s Saturday Night Live. He is up for re-election this year, and as chairman of the Energy Subcommittee of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he stood before the Senate microphone and proclaimed: “This isn’t complicated.”

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Discerning listeners might have taken exception because the science is very complicated and is difficult to understand.

“We have been using thermometers to make measurements around the globe for a long time,” Franken said. “And we know that the average temperatures have gone up significantly in recent years.”

Franken forgot to mention that since 1997 the temperature has increased only 0.7 degrees, according to United Nations figures. An increase of less than one degree is not “significant.”

Franken tried to explain the very cold winter in the Midwest, which meteorologists have blamed on something called the Polar Vortex. He said “there will be more extreme weather events as the Earth grows warmer.”

And he added: “According to White House science advisor Dr. John Holdren, we can expect to see more of this kind of extreme cold as global warming continues.”

It’s too early to tell if the good people of Minnesota are buying Franken’s view that the Polar Vortex was unleashed by the Earth growing warmer.

Alex Mills is president of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.