Many Republicans do not accept the current understanding of climate science. Democrats, however, also have their “heads in the sand” with respect to the reality of the human role in the climate system. This polarization also illustrate how politicized climate science has become.
The three hypotheses of the human role in the climate system can be, with only a few exceptions, be summarized in terms of the political party.
1. the Republican Party view – Human influence on climate variability and change is of minimal importance, and natural causes dominate climate variations and changes on all time scales. In coming decades, the human influence will continue to be minimal
climate change >> human caused effects including emissions of CO2 and a few other greenhouse
2. the Democratic Party View – Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and are dominated by the emissions into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, the most important of which is CO2. The adverse impact of these gases on regional and global climate constitutes the primary climate issue for the coming decades
climate change = global warming = human emissions of CO2 and a few other greenhouse
3. the Real World View – Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and involve a diverse range of first-order climate forcings, including, but not limited to, the human input of carbon dioxide (CO2). Most, if not all, of these human influences on regional and global climate will continue to be of concern during the coming decades –
climate change >> global warming > human caused effects > emissions of CO2 and a few other greenhouse
In order to develop a more robust discussion of climate science, there are two science questions, as a start, that I recommend be asked of members of both political parties
1. Is global warming (and cooling) a subset of climate change or does it dominate climate change?
2. What evidence exists that the multi-decadal global climate models can skillfully predict i) the real-world observed behaviour of large-scale atmospheric-ocean circulation features such as ENSO, the NAO, the PDO, ect. and ii) CHANGES in the statistics (patterning and in time) of these circulation features?
The Basis For My Post Today
There is an article in the December 2 2011 issue of the National Journal by Coral Davenport titled
The headline for the article reads
As climate-change science moves in one direction, Republicans in Congress are moving in another. Why?
This article summarizes views of prominent Republicans who are not running for election who claim an anti-science perspective in their party; e.g.
On November 8, William Reilly, who ran the Environmental Protection Agency under President George H.W. Bush, blasted his party’s stance on science in a widely reported speech. “For some of the most prominent leaders of the Republican Party, science has left the building,” he said. “Science doesn’t feature prominently in these debates. Republicans once were the party of science where environmental policy was concerned,” Reilly contended. Of House Republicans’ recent unanimous vote to overturn EPA’s scientific finding that climate change poses a public health threat, he said, “There was no explanation justifying a position at odds with the findings of 11 National Academies of Science, including our own.”
From a political perspective, Coral Davenport writes
So, will climate-science skepticism help or hurt the Republican Party in the long run? It’s clear that GOP candidates who want to win the backing of the conservative base and the financial support of tea party PACs believe that denying climate science will help them win primary races—and polls show that they are probably correct.
I agree that there is room to be quite critical of the view of many Republicans as they are ignoring solid scientific evidence. From their statements, they seem to agree with Hypothesis #1 in our paper
Pielke Sr., R., K. Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D. Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E. Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell, W. Rossow, J. Schaake, J. Smith, S. Sorooshian, and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American Geophysical Union.
Human influence on climate variability and change is of minimal importance, and natural causes dominate climate variations and changes on all time scales. In coming decades, the human influence will continue to be minimal.
We (and others) have conclusively shown this hypothesis to be rejected. It is trivial to show that it fails. When you fly from Denver to Washington D.C., for example, the landscape of agriculture, urban areas, etc has been shown to affect weather. Observations of increases from CO2 at observatories such as Mauna Loa document a world-wide affect on the atmospheric concentration of this gas. There are many such examples of a human influence on the climate system. By arguing that the human influence is minimal, the Republicans do ignore the science.
Such a perspective, of course, is not uniform across the Republicans in Congress. As reported in the National Journal article
Here are the questions NJ asked the Republican members of Congress: Do you think climate change is causing the Earth to become warmer? How much, if any, of global climate change do you think is attributable to human activity? What is the government’s most appropriate response to the issue of climate change?
In the end, 65 GOP lawmakers—40 House members and 25 senators across the ideological spectrum agreed to respond.
Twenty of the 65 Republicans said they think climate change is causing the Earth to warm; 13 said that climate change isn’t causing the Earth to warm; and 21 said they didn’t know, the science isn’t conclusive, or they didn’t want to answer the question definitively. Nineteen said that human activities do contribute to climate change—but of those 19, only five said they believed a “significant amount” of climate change was due to human activity, while 14 said they believed human activity contributes “very little” to climate change. Five said they believed that climate change was not at all attributable to human activity.
Boehner already has taken a position on climate change. In a July 15, 2008, interview on CNN, he said, “I think that John McCain’s position is not really very different from most Republicans’. The fact is that we have had climate change. Clearly, humans have something to do with it.”
Boehner’s statement is quite reasonable and is supported by the science. Carol Davenport, in her article claims that Boehner and others have retreated from this view.
However, the most serious issue with Coral Davenport’s conclusion is that she ignores (or is unaware) that Democrats are just as guilty! They accept as valid the failed hypothesis from our EOS article that
Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and are dominated by the emissions into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, the most important of which is CO2. The adverse impact of these gases on regional and global climate constitutes the primary climate issue for the coming decades.
The National Journal article perpetuates this erroneously narrow view of climate science; e.g.
“……recent reports from the National Academy of Sciences show that the data and consensus on the principles of climate change are stronger than ever. The reports have concluded that increasing levels of carbon dioxide, produced primarily by burning coal and oil, are trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. A November scientific report by the Nobel Prize-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes those rising temperatures will, over the next century, bring an increase in the frequency and intensity of heat waves, heavy precipitation, hurricanes, droughts, floods, and rising sea levels.”
This hypothesis, which is perpetuated in the National Journal article, is also false! The claim the Democrats are making is that
climate change = global warming = human emissions of CO2 and a few other greenhouse.
This is grossly inaccurate.
The Democrats base their views on authority, but fail to recognize that these scientific assessments, are led by just a relatively limited number of climate scientists, who are prejudiced towards CO2 and a few greenhouse gases as the dominate issue. For example, in the National Journal article, Coral Davenport writes
Over the past 18 years, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences has produced more than 40 scientific reports and studies on climate change. The most recent, released in May, concludes, “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems. Each additional ton of greenhouse gases emitted commits us to further change and greater risks…. The environmental, economic, and humanitarian risks of climate change indicate a pressing need for substantial action to limit the magnitude of climate change and to prepare to adapt to its impacts.”
The world’s largest general-scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has published this official statement: “The scientific evidence is clear: Global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.… The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse-gas emissions is now.”
Statements such as
In June 2010, a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that 97 percent of climate scientists agree on the tenets of anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change, a level of consensus that the journal called “striking,” given the uncertainty often present in scientific research.
incorrectly equate climate change with global warming! I would agree that there is human-caused climate change, but the added CO2 is just one forcing among many.
Statements by Ralph Cicerone, as reported in the article
“It’s a very, very strong consensus,” says Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences and chair of the National Research Council. The level of certainty within the scientific community that burning fossil fuels warms the global atmosphere is comparable, he said, to the level of scientific certainty that vaccines prevent diseases such as measles and polio.
also tell us nothing controversial. All climate scientists agree that adding a greenhouse gas (i.e. added CO2) is a positive radiative forcing. However, the implication from Ralph’s statement that CO2 IS the dominant human climate forcing is false and it is disingenuous to present that it is.
The only hypothesis that is in agreement with the real world is
Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and involve a diverse range of first-order climate forcings, including, but not limited to, the human input of carbon dioxide (CO2). Most, if not all, of these human influences on regional and global climate will continue to be of concern during the coming decades.
In the real world: climate change >> global warming > human caused effects > emissions of CO2 and a few other greenhouse
The National Journal article by Coral Davenport perpetuates a inaccurately narrow view of climate change.
The Democrats should recognize that there is much more to the human role than CO2 and a few greenhouse gases, and that natural variations are also much more important than they are assuming. They also should stop focusing on the Muller [BEST] study as, unless Muller can show that he sampled a different geographic area than NCDC, GISS and CRU, the BEST study is not adding much to the analyses that already exist.
Thus, both the Republicans and the Democrats are ignoring the scientific evidence. Huge sums af money are being wasted to provide multi-decadal climate predictions so that the Democrats can claim more certainty about the effects of human climate forcings on the climate. Republicans are not challenging this huge waste of money.
We do not need this spending to know that a diverse range of the human climate forcings are important, nor that prudent policy would be to work to limit the CO2 input into the atmosphere in a politically and economically realistic manner, such as proposed by my son in his book The Climate Fix.
Democrats, EPA and others, however, are fooling themselves and others if they conclude limiting added CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases will reduce the risks we face in the future from climate and other associated environmental threats.
There is a way forward to build consensus between Republicans and Democrats.
The Way Forward
In our article
Pielke Sr., R., K. Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D. Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E. Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell, W. Rossow, J. Schaake, J. Smith, S. Sorooshian, and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American Geophysical Union. https://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/r-354.pdf
our abstract reads
“We discuss the adoption of a bottom-up, resource–based vulnerability approach in evaluating the effect of climate and other environmental and societal threats to societally critical resources. This vulnerability concept requires the determination of the major threats to local and regional water, food, energy, human health, and ecosystem function resources from extreme events including climate, but also from other social and environmental issues. After these threats are identified for each resource, then the relative risks can be compared with other risks in order to adopt optimal preferred mitigation/adaptation strategies.
This is a more inclusive way of assessing risks, including from climate variability and climate change than using the outcome vulnerability approach adopted by the IPCC. A contextual vulnerability assessment, using the bottom-up, resource-based framework is a more inclusive approach for policymakers to adopt effective mitigation and adaptation methodologies to deal with the complexity of the spectrum of social and environmental extreme events that will occur in the coming decades, as the range of threats are assessed, beyond just the focus on CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases as emphasized in the IPCC assessments.”
Among the questions policymakers should ask include:
- What is the sensitivity of this resource to changes in each of these key variables? (This may include but is not limited to, the sensitivity of the resource to climate variations and change on short (days); medium (seasons) and long (multi-decadal) time scales).
- What changes (thresholds) in these key variables would have to occur to result in a negative (or positive) outcome for this resource?
One inappropriate direction that should be changed is the spending of vast funds for multi-decadal global climate predictions of climate risks in the coming decades. As discussed in
this funding is a complete waste. 50-70% of the total manpower time and resources of modeling centers is being spent for these predictions and associated impacts studies! These forecasts have shown NO skill at predicting changes in climate statisitics over multi-decadal time scales.
We discuss this forecast inability as well as the bottom-up, resource-based vulnerabiltiy perspective in our paper
Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2011: Dealing with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability perspective. AGU Monograph on Complexity and Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press.
In summary, more accurately, Coral Davenport’s article should read
As climate-change science moves in one direction, Republicans AND DEMOCRATS in Congress are moving in another. Why?
Whichever political party works with the bottom-up vulnerability perspective will be able to provide more effective policy decisions. With the current Republican AND Democratic approaches, poor policy decisions are being made.