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Some sharp jabs are shifting the political campaign into high gear. The candidates are now fixating on climate science and their positions may be less about philosophy and more about where they get their money and what each needs to do to win their respective nominations.
Is it not curious that such an important scientific question as to whether humans are contributing to the earth’s warming has become a forerunner to being selected to represent one’s party? It’s tantamount to politicizing key findings of the medical community. But if one focuses on where each of the respective politicos are getting their funds, the motives become a lot clearer.
Simply put, the oil, gas and coal industries give the preponderance of their cash to the Republican party. Meanwhile, the clean technology sector tends to favor those who promote a New Economy and the building out of the green infrastructure. And those recipients tend to be the same officials who agree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s stance on tougher regulations.
The issue of whether global warming is a man-made phenomenon got fresh fuel last week. That’s when Republican presidential contender Jon Huntsman countered a statement by one of his rivals, Rick Perry of Texas. Perry, who is boasting that his state is still prospering from the growth of the oil and gas industries there, says that the science has been “manipulated” -- something that Huntsman pounced on:
“To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming,” Huntsman tweeted. “Call me crazy.” Quite the opposite, professional politicians claiming to have true insight into scientific matters is itself a sham.
Discovery should be left to the scientific community. But some are attacking the motives of certain scientists who they say knowingly presented faulty research. Their targets: The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well the Climatic Research Unit of University of East Anglia in Britain.
As fas as the U.N. goes, it referenced as fact that the Himalayan Glaciers’ snow caps would melt by 2035, an obvious error. The second one involved scientists who, through emails, had been less than candid. But other experts have double-checked their work and say those particular shortcomings do not obviate any of the results.
“In short, a very wide variety of scientific evidence independently confirms the warming, so nothing said in the emails can shake that conclusion,” says Spencer Weart, who is director emeritus of the American Institute for Physics.
People of goodwill do disagree over whether the warming trend is either urgent or man-made. This debate also comes down to whether citizens think it a wise use of public resources to promote the development of newer but less proven green technologies at the expense of minted but less environmentally-friendly ones.
Those who tend to advance the coming of the next-generation economy are in favor of this re-allocation of resources. Conversely, those who say that the earth’s warming is a natural occurrence are maintaining that this nation will waste a ton of money trying to fix something in which it has no control.
Some participants with vested interests, however, take positions because they are trying to curry political or financial favor with a certain constituency. Just as a good attorney will ask expert witnesses if they have been paid to testify on behalf of clients, a competent reporter must do the same. To that end, at least 90 percent of climate scientists -- not political consultants or talk show hosts -- say that the earth is warming in part because of human intervention.
A recent Washington Post story points to a 2010 study that appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers interviewed 1,372 climate scientists and concluded that 97 percent agreed that people contribute to the warming phenomenon. Are they all bought?
If so, they could get richer by joining the other 3 percent and switching sides. In 2008, the coal industry that releases a third of all heat-trapping emissions donated 73 percent of its kitty to Republicans while giving 27 percent to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The oil and gas sector has given $238.7 million to candidates and parties since the 1990 election cycle, 75 percent of which has gone to Republicans, the group adds.
The 200 registered lobbyists in the alternative energy field contributed $30 million to office-seekers. That is 12 times the amount they spent in 1998, the center says, although it is far short of what those who take opposing positions on greenhouse gas cuts have contributed.
Very few want to spend billions trying prevent a scenario that is highly unlikely. But would most people want to take smaller, practical steps to avert the possibility of environmental and economic hardship, especially if the vast majority of experts are making these cautionary statements? Probably so, but they must first get past the foggy landscape created by the benefactors of huge political donations.