Saturday, July 01, 2006

Earth To Three Scientists: The Climate Is Changing

The three Republican candidates for the United States Senate publicly embraced extremism over settled science at their debate in Knoxville this week, declaring that global climate change was not occurring and offering no solutions.

Demonstrating the extreme Washington partisanship that keeps the nation from moving forward and solving problems, the Republicans denounced the findings of the nation’s top scientists Thursday night at the Howard Baker Center on the University of Tennessee campus, a campus that designated the entire Spring 2005 semester as “the environmental semester.”

U.S. Senate Candidate Harold Ford, Jr., today released the following statement in response:

“We need a new generation of leadership that embraces the best ideas, not the most extreme. It does not matter that the ideas are Democratic or Republican, only that they are good ideas.

“Good ideas are based on facts, not narrow ideology. Pretending the world’s climate isn’t changing is like pretending the world is flat, or that men didn’t walk on the moon. You can pretend all you like, but it doesn’t make it so.

“My opponents should have spent some time in the UT labs before trying to pass themselves off as experts. They could have read the 2001 report from the National Academy of Sciences that begins, ‘Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities.’ Or they could have stopped off to see Senator Baker, who had the vision to write the Clean Air Act and base it on science.

“Given a choice between statesmen like Howard Baker and the National Academy of Sciences on one hand, and my opponents on the other, I think Tennesseans know who was working for positive change, and who is advancing a narrow ideology.

“I do agree with one thing Van Hilleary said last night. He said, ‘The only way you can really determine how we will be once we go to Washington is how we’ve always been.’ When it comes to electing partisanship over solving problems, my opponents are all the same. And you can’t have change with more of the same.”


The president of the Knoxville League of Women Voters asked all three Republican candidates the following question last night: “The overwhelming body of reputable scientists have found that the mean temp of earth in increasing, and we that we are approaching what is known as the so called tipping point, where irreversible damage will occur to our planet and way of life. Do you agree that the scientific debate on global warming is over? If so, what steps would you support to take us back from the tipping point?”

Highlights from the Republicans’ non-responsive responses follow:

Ex-Mayor Bob Corker: “You know, there are a body of scientists who think what the questioner said is true, there is a body of scientists who think that's not the case. It’s just part of the changes that are taking place.”

Ex-Congressman Van Hilleary: “Well, I heard Al Gore say the other night that the debate was over, but I'm not sure that he convinced me. He hadn't convinced me a whole lot over the years.”

Ex-Congressman Ed Bryant: “I'm not saying that we have to do away with gasoline powered cars, we're going to have to drill where we have to drill, we have to build more refineries out there.”

Van Hilleary says climate change “depends on what you believe.” “Hilleary, one of three major Republican candidates in the Aug. 3 primary, isn't convinced by current scientific research on global warming, saying, ‘I think it depends on what you believe. I don't think you should jump off a cliff on this based on the data we have now,’ he said. ‘I think you ought to continue to pursue the truth on this matter.’ Knoxville News-Sentinel (06/27/06).

Even President Bush acknowledges climate change is real. “There's a debate over whether (global warming) is manmade or naturally caused. We ought to get beyond that debate, and start implementing the technologies necessary to enable us to achieve a couple of big objectives—one, be good stewards of the environment; two, become less dependent on foreign sources of oil for economic reasons and for national security reasons. The truth of the matter is, if this country wants to get rid of its greenhouse gases we've got to have the nuclear power industry be vibrant and viable. And so I believe ... I’ve got a plan to be able to deal with greenhouse gases.”

Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged climate change threat in briefing with Amb. Howard Baker on July 2001 trip to Japan. “I told the Prime Minister that President Bush takes global climate change very, very seriously and President Bush, of course, made that same point to the Prime Minister when they were together in Genoa. We want to work with Japan and others toward a global framework that deals effectively with the problem of global warming.”

The National Academy of Sciences report from 2001 says global “temperatures are, in fact, rising.” “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability. Human-induced warming and associated sea level rises are expected to continue through the 21st century.” National Academy of Sciences, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions (2001).

The 2001 NAS report says 53% of the U.S. population is “vulnerable” to climate change, including increases in severe weather. “Fifty-three percent of the U.S. population lives within the coastal regions, along with billions of dollars in associated infrastructure. Because of this, coastal areas are more vulnerable to increases in severe weather and sea level rise.” National Academy of Sciences, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions (2001).

The president of the National Academy of Sciences and head of the 2001 NAS study says climate change “caused by human activities.” “We agreed with the previous findings that the weight of the evidence, the weight of the scientific opinion, is that most of that warming of the past twenty years is caused y human activities.”—Ralph J. Cicerone, former chancellor of the University of California-Irvine, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, 06/07/01.

Sen. Howard Baker, namesake of the Howard Baker Center at the University of Tennessee, placed statesmanship and science at the fore in drafting—and unanimously passing—the landmark Clean Air Act. “First and foremost, we declared a direct and overarching federal interest in protecting the health of all Americans from air pollution. Second, we incorporated in law the concept of technology forcing. Third, we established deadlines for government action. Fourth, we made many of those government actions mandatory rather than permissive. Fifth, we empowered the public, individual American citizens, with the authority to use the federal courts to achieve the objectives we set forth should the bureaucracy or the politicians fail to do so. To my knowledge, none of these concepts had ever been legislated before. And all were contained in a 38-page -- I want to underscore 38-page -- public law called the Clean Air Act of 1970.”—Sen. Howard Baker, Speech at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (04/09/05),