On Sunday’s edition of the CBS news program Face the Nation (transcript), Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) was asked about Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and the Speaker said, “I’ll refer you to my remark at a fund-raiser I made in August in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.” When moderator John Dickerson said, “I believe the word you used was jackass,” Boehner replied: “I’m referring to that same remark.”
Boehner isn’t the only member of Congress who feels that way. John McCain famously referred to Cruz as one of a number of “wacko birds” on the left and right who are far outside the mainstream, and even those who agree with him tend to find him offensive.
He also has a habit of saying things that he finds politically convenient but simply aren’t true. Take this example from an early August donors’ conference in Dana Park, California sponsored by the Koch Brothers: According to a report on the website of the conservative National Review, Cruz declared that Republicans will not pay a political price in 2016 for attacking the reality of global warming.
He went on to recall the 1970s panic over global cooling and a coming ice age. “The solution they proposed was massive government control of the economy, the energy sector, and our lives. Then the data disproved it,” he said. “Then it became global warming. Interestingly enough, the solution was identical: massive government control over the economy, the energy sector, and our lives. Then the data didn’t support it, so they entered theory number three, climate change. Now, to any power-greedy politician, this is the perfect theory, it can never, ever, ever, be disproven, if it gets hotter, if it gets colder, if it gets wetter, if it gets drier.”
At this point it’s depressing that anyone still believes this nonsense, but some do, and it’s worth spelling out why it’s wrong.
To take the last claim first, the terms “climate change” and “global warming” have both been used for over half a century or more in reference to the same general topic. For example, a scientific paper on global warming titled “The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climate Change” was published in 1956. The underlying problem is human-caused global warming, and the consequences extend beyond warmer temperatures to other climate changes as well. For more, see this short history of the terminology.
Second, no one is calling for a massive government takeover of the economy or our lives. We do need to stop subsidizing fossil fuels to the tune of nearly 60 billion dollars a year and spend some of that developing and promoting cleaner energy and greater efficiency, things we’d be better off doing anyway.
Third, the data certainly do support the reality of global warming (as even Ted Cruz ought to know despite his not having a background in science). I’ve already posted some things about the supporting evidence on this blog, but there’s much more from these credible sources:
- Scientific American
- The National Science Foundation
- The Royal Society
- The American Meteorological Society
- The American Association for the Advancement of Science
- The National Center for Science Education
Finally, there was no “1970s panic over global cooling and a coming ice age.” I first learned about global warming when I was an undergraduate in physics at the start of the 1970s, and it was by that time mainstream science. There were indeed some papers published in the 1970s on the cooling effects of particulate air pollution. As the results of large volcanic eruptions have shown, fine particles in the atmosphere can directly (and possibly indirectly, by nucleating cloud formation) increase the Earth’s albedo, i.e., the percentage of sunlight reflected back into space, with a resultant cooling effect. The question was whether this would be enough to offset increased greenhouse warming. A minority of climate scientists thought it might, but in the end it had only a mitigating effect for a few decades.
As a separate matter, there were earlier suggestions that we might be due to start a new glacial period (or “ice age” in the popular sense) as a result of natural climate cycles. Since then, however, we’ve gained additional knowledge suggesting that even without human-caused global warming, we probably wouldn’t start another glacial period for thousands of years.