Climate debate over ‘and the winner is…’

The Deniers, of course.

A few days after the Republican sweep in the recent elections, popular meteorologist Joe Bastardi took a victory lap during a talk for “anti-the man-made-climate-change folks” at a meeting of the Susquehanna Valley Conservatives. Mr. Bastardi had plenty to celebrate after Republican deniers ended up in control of the House, the Senate and the White House on Nov. 8. Prospects are now good that the United States’ will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. President-elect Donald Trump has appointed man-made climate change denier Myron Ebell, whose Competitive Enterprise Institute is partially funded by the coal industry, to head up the transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency. Spokesman for “the biggest popular vote loser ever to win the Electoral College,” chief of staff Reince Prebus, cashed in on “Trump’s mandate” by upgrading “man-made-global-warming” from “a hoax” to “bunk.”

In one infrequently noted respect, the Republican victory in the 2016 elections was unique among conservative parties anywhere in the world. As Jonathan Chait has noted: ” Of all the major conservative parties in the democratic world, the Republican Party stands alone in its conviction that no national or international response to climate change is needed.” Like their predecessors who created doubt about the dangers of acid rain, smoking, and ozone depletion, man-made climate change-denying Republicans have successfully undermined public trust in expert scientific findings. But beyond that, they have served as collective examples of Profiles in Hubris among their own international ranks by rejecting the conviction of fellow conservatives worldwide that global warming is man-made, dangerous and already manifesting its destructive presence on planet earth.

Mr. Bastardi’s views on climate change are well known and have been refuted time and again by climatologists. As a meteorologist, critics think of him as the Michael Jordan of basketball. As a climatologist, these same critics think of him as the Michael Jordan of baseball. Today, even the 13,000-member American Meteorological Society (AMS) has an official position contrary to Mr. Bastardi’s views.

The AMS’s stance on the subject is clear and unequivocal: “The dominant cause of the warming since the 1950s is human activity.” This scientific finding is based on a large and persuasive body of research. The observed warming will be irreversible for many years into the future, and even larger temperature increases will occur as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere. While natural cycles of warming are to be expected, the evidence clearly points to human activity as the cause of the climate change the earth is currently experiencing.” Former Rush Limbaugh employee and Fox frequent “go-to man” on climate change, Mr. Bastardi rejects this AMS position.

Notwithstanding, the arguments of deniers like Bastardi have won the day in the United States with the only people who count, the decision-makers who will decide whether the United States government and governments worldwide will intervene in time to avoid the drastic effects the climatological community warns may soon become irreversible. The climate argument was really never about science. First, it had to do with the monetary self-interest of the fossil fuel industry and those who get subsidized by it. As Upton Sinclair put it, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding. “ In addition, it was about what one indefatigable denier, Senator Jim Inhofe, called, in Jacque Chirac’s words, “the first component in authentic global governance.” As Mr. Bastardi warned in his talk: “the bigger the government, the more government takes the place of God. Control the energy and the climate and you’ll control the people.”

In defense of its economic and ideological interests, the denial movement has been driven by “reasoned motivation” to its current “manufactured uncertainty” by 1) the strong commitment of small-government conservatives and libertarians to be free from government regulations. Their often unspoken reasoning is this: If the only way to deal with a problem is government intervention on a national and international level, there just cannot be a problem…or, international collaboration on such a scale is just impossible and 2) the belief that addressing climate change would force us to distinguish between needs and wants and change our unChristian, materialistic, consumer-obsessed culture whose goal is perpetual economic growth through ever increasing consumerism. “We need Black Fridays every day, not just on the day after Thanksgiving. In addition, don’t touch my touring vehicle of choice, a Silverado HD, either.”

According to a recent letter writer, “Joe Bastardi also suggested that ‘there is a lot of arrogance and ignorance’ on the part of scientists in the debate.” Usually in science, there is freedom to express divergent viewpoints, but not on this issue. Trump’s election means there are four more years of free speech on the issue.” I would be heartened by this new “openness” if Trump’s lead man on the NASA transition team, had not announced that the agency’s budget for earth science, which he dubbed as “politically correct environmental monitoring,” was to be “heavily defunded in favor of space exploration.”

During his talk to the Susquehanna Valley Conservatives, Mr. Bastardi repeated the story of his son who, when hearing on the radio that his father was on the list of the country’s top ten man-made climate change deniers, said to his father: “”Dad, I am so proud of you.” One can’t help but wonder if Mr. Bastardi’s great-grandchildren will be equally proud. Today’s deniers are indeed the victors, even if they are not willing to put their money where their mouth is. You will recall that Joe Bastardi blinked when he joined fellow denier and founder of the climate change denial, oil industry funded website, Marc Morano in refusing to take science populist Bill Nye’s $20,000 bet that “2016 will be in the top 10 of hottest years on record and that this current decade will be the warmest ever recorded.”

The man-made-climate debate is a blatant example of life’s unfairness. In this debate, it is not to the victor that go the “spoils,” it is to their progeny. Deniers are sowing the wind. Descendants will reap the whirlwind. As Joe Romm of Climate Progress has written: “On November 8, we elected a man who has vowed to kill the Paris climate deal, end all efforts to help other countries deal with climate change, stop domestic climate action, reinvigorate coal, and zero out all research into climate science and clean energy.” When the Trump organization wins the bid to build Donald J. Trump’s presidential library, they should set aside a large area for the “Donald Trump Deniers’ Hall of Fame.” He earned it.

Congratulations, Deniers. You won. I can understand your joy even though I can’t share in it. I see things quite differently from you. Over the short term, the elections of 2016 will have radically changed our country, and for the worse in my opinion. Over the longer term, the elections of 2016 will have inexorably altered our planet negatively according to decades of research by climatological experts worldwide. I always hated sore losers. But on this one, I must admit that I rank among the worst. I will never get over it. And it gives me no pleasure when I say; “Neither will you.”

Mannello is a retired healthcare executive and management consultant residing in Williamport.