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Jill Lawrence
Jill Lawrence
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Republican Science-Rejection Syndrome Is Hurting All of Us


The 2016 Republican presidential primaries are already showing signs of turning into a competition to win the title of "candidate most dismissive of science." As a political strategy, this is as depressing as it is understandable.

There's little to gain and much to lose for the GOP White House hopeful who goes mainstream on science. Take global warming. Only 13 percent of Republicans in an AP-GfK poll in March said they were extremely or very confident that "the average temperature of the world is rising, mostly because of man-made heat-trapping greenhouse gases." That compares with nearly 55 percent of Democrats and, according to an analysis last year of studies to date, 97 percent of climate scientists.

Not to make any assumptions about political expedience, but there is — perhaps coincidentally — an exceedingly short list of possible Republican contenders who accept the scientific consensus that global warming is real and driven largely by human activity. Based on statements from the last few years, the only names on it are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Another dozen or so run the gamut from serious skeptics to outright deniers.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's cavalier brushoff of climate change (and its associated droughts, floods, wildfires and rising seas) has drawn new attention to the anti-science GOP brand. "Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that's directly and almost solely attributable to man-made activity, I do not agree with that," he said last weekend on ABC's "This Week."

The assertion earned Rubio a "false" rating from Politifact. Still, he repeated it Tuesday at the National Press Club and added that there's nothing we could do about it anyway. Banning all coal and carbon emissions in the United States will not reduce "these dramatic weather impacts that we're reading about," he said, because "the United States is a country; it is not a planet." In other words, deny science, blame China and fight tooth and nail against upcoming Obama administration regulations to cut carbon emissions at existing U.S. coal plants.

Rubio has held these muddled views for a while, but they are especially troubling now, given his home state (this month's National Climate Assessment named Miami as gravely at risk) and White House ambitions.

His ideas on immigration, poverty and retirement issues show he can be thoughtful, and they bolster his statement on ABC that he is ready to be president. Yet a good president would not ignore scientific evidence or the potential for international diplomacy to reduce global warming.

The climate-change disconnect is just one aspect of a broad partisan science gap. The AP-GfK poll found Republicans are less confident than Democrats about several widely accepted scientific findings and theories, such as the age of the Earth (4.5 billion years) and the way it was formed (the Big Bang theory). Acceptance of evolution among Republicans, meanwhile, is in decline. While 54 percent in a 2009 Pew Research Center poll said they believed in evolution, only 43 percent said that last year. The AP-GfK poll similarly found 40.5 percent saying they were "not confident at all" that life on Earth "evolved" as a result of natural selection.

Republican presidential candidates have reflected many of these attitudes. At a 2007 debate, three of 10 aspirants for the nation's highest office raised their hands to signal that they did not believe in evolution. In 2011, moderate Jon Huntsman won some attention by tweeting: "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."

"If he's running for the Republican nomination, he IS crazy," commentator Patrick Buchanan responded on MSNBC.

The cycle of denial is once again in full bloom despite mounting piles of evidence, including new, separate studies from NASA and the University of Washington that conclude the massive West Antarctica ice sheet has started to melt. The sheet "holds enough water to raise global seas by several feet," the university said this week. Not to worry, the rising seas likely won't peak for another 200 to 500 years — but "more emissions would lead to more melting and faster collapse."

Sounds like a good reason to limit emissions or impose a carbon tax or negotiate an international agreement, but don't hold your breath waiting for proposals like that from the GOP presidential field. Republicans are obviously entitled to their opinions, as the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and others have said. It's unfortunate for the rest of us that some of those opinions are blocking evidence-based congressional action. Science should be the foundation of national policy, not a starting point for debate.

Follow Jill Lawrence on Twitter @JillDLawrence. To find out more about Jill Lawrence and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



6 Comments | Post Comment
The world is flat. The sun revolves around the Earth. Global Warming is not enhanced by man-made greenhouse gases.
Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Republican anti-science position.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Tom Swartz
Thu May 15, 2014 6:10 AM
"Science should be the foundation of national policy, not a starting point for debate." Jill Lawrence, McCarthyite

Googled the IPCC report. Found this, because you can find these things if you are not blinded by adolescent faith.
“Since the end of the 20th century, the warming of the Earth has been much weaker than what climate models show,” Lennart Bengtsson, IPCC

He questioned the science this way:

"...the scientific report does not bring up the large difference between observational results and model simulations. I have full respect for the scientific work behind the IPCC reports but I do not appreciate the need for consensus. It is important, and I will say essential, that society and the political community is also made aware of areas where consensus does not exist." Lennart Bengtsson, IPC

He means that, scientifically, consensus does not exist.

Then came the pressure, maybe some fellow scientist argued by bringing up Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. That's scientific debate enough for any lefty, see comment above. Lennart Bengtsson resigned in the face of this:
"I have been put under such an enormous group pressure in recent days from all over the world that has become virtually unbearable to me. If this is going to continue I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety. . . . Colleagues are withdrawing their support, other colleagues are withdrawing from joint authorship etc. I see no limit and end to what will happen. It is a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy." Lennart Behgtsson, formerly IPCC and old enough to know McCarthyism when he sees it.

So argue on sophomoric tripe like flat earth, heliocentric debates of the 12th century, or bring up Santa Claus because you can't admit that there is scientific basis for skepticism. Good science always faces up to skepticism, bad science always babies down to disrespect, mockery, and an attempt to silence critics.

To correct Lawrence's final statement; "Bad science should not be the foundation of national policy, and is not a starting point for debate." I remind you that the Plesssy v Ferguson ruling was based partially on the science of the day. Take a moment to google that fact, then come back and argue the merits of data v model projections, or Santa v Easter Bunny if there lies your comfort level.

Comment: #2
Posted by: Tom
Thu May 15, 2014 7:53 AM
In 2008 Al Gore predicted the North Pole's ice cap would become a fond memory by 2013, a casualty of global warming. The “entire North Polar ice cap will be gone in five years,” he said.

Mr. Gore's deadline has passed. There were 7.3 million square miles of Arctic ice on Dec. 7, 2008. There are 7.3 million square miles of Arctic ice today according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. This figure is within range of the thirty year average. That is DATA, not speculation.

What about The Hockey Stick?

The 2003 IPCC report highly criticized this chart because of the methodology employed by lead author Michael Mann. The methodology produced a hockey stick no matter what data were input. Even today Mann refuses to fully disclose the method he employed. Moreover, it was determined that the tree-ring data methodology suppressed the climate jumps of the past. Furthermore the reconstructed data was simply truncated at 1980 and replaced by the instrumental data. This was done because the data derived from the tree-rings did not deliver the desired temperature rise at the end of the data series. -No Trick Zone

So when the DATA (scientific fact) does not align with the prediction ( scientific hypothesis) and you are left holding a sign that says "PREPARE! THE END IS NEAR" do you reassess your faith, your God, your center of intellectual gravity? Do you follow the data and admit that the problem exists but is probably way way way overblown? Or do you put a black mark on critics by calling them science deniers and asking them childish questions about the Easter Bunny?

And Republicans are unscientific? Right.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Tom
Thu May 15, 2014 10:06 AM
The real problem in the world today is that lefties do not recognize arrogant and ugly behavior on their own side of any argument. The Easter Bunny argument was heard in a terrible interview given to a republican candidate by some hack paper in Oregon last week. The editorial staff was smug, arrogant, condescending, intellectually lazy, bellicose, childish, and preternaturally modern leftist. When it looks like the blanket may be pulled from your grasp and the thumb extricated from your mouth you cry and rage and call it "unfair". So you can scream "Give me back my shoes, they're my shoes!" as loud as you want, but you don't own the facts. The data does call for a debate, no matter what the bad seed may claim.

Comment: #4
Posted by: Tom
Thu May 15, 2014 10:37 AM
Excuse me, but there is no consensus, this is a lie from the environmental movement to silence opposition. CO 2 is a very weak greenhouse gas with a short residency time in the atmosphere. CO2 has been at much higher levels in the past than today, and usually coincides with cooling. But since it is the byproduct of burning fossil fuel, the real target, it has to be blamed. If Oxygen were the byproduct they would attack it saying fires would burn everything quickly. I would agree with them on this point, but then that is an alternate universe.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Bret Aldridge
Thu May 15, 2014 2:03 PM
Tom, I interested read you comments. I no have need to google this man. He story I read online newspapers was Thursday.
You know he belong to GWPF? Global warming policy organization. Sound important, scientific. But no not abouot science. About economics. Economists use beard scientist to strategize best way for business as usual.
He say:
Throughout my life, I have been fascinated by predictability and frustrated by our inability to predict. I don't believe it makes sense for our generation to believe or pretend that we can solve the problems of the future because we do not understand what these problems will be.

I read and say how can scientist look at world today and no understand what future problems will be?
I no trust any scientist say that. Is foolish thing to say.
Then I read he say GWPF economists and he looking at normalizing genetic food production and nuclear energy to take care of world".
Why they think they need to take care of world?
If climate change is no real and world ok and can no understand what future problems will be why we normalizing genetic food production?
Why we need nuclear energy to take care of world?

I no scientist, no economist. See change in balance of nature in seas and lands and air. See waters air and land polluted from giant industries including military. For me all seem manmade. Prepare us for their genetically modified food. Me wonder why need nuclear energy if everything aok? I read earth have natural cycle. Climate change natural for earth.I read about seven deserts that once fertile with fields and forests all desert now. I no worry about climate change. Worry about when stop polluting our land our water our air? Make fish and plant and animal life toxic change balance of nature. Air full of pollution, rain acidic and polluted from water sources.

You, me, scientist can deny or agree climate change but can no deny industrial pollution change and damage land, water, air. Can no deny it can no deny who doing it.
Industrial pollution do much damage now and already contaminates future but governments no seem to care and this scientist say he no able to understand future.
Politician all very bad owned by industrial polluters . Every country politician bought and paid for so polluters allow to keep polluting. Now people see result of they filthy pollutes tell politician clean our land, our waters, our air. But politician already make laws protect big industry. So can no punish in big way to make pay and make clean up.
Why polutician do nothing about industrial polluters and take money from them? For go after polluters is go after most wealthy and powerful in all the lands. Be in court ten lifetimes and still no change nothing. Politician now find way out of mess. Is ok to do something about climate change.
Scientists say natural climate change with unnatural pollution create dangerous weather patterns. Is true. People see weather patterns changing. Politican have first step for reign in polluters. Is only baby step for start cleanup but is ok for me if call it manmade climate change.
Comment: #6
Posted by: steveM
Sat May 17, 2014 10:11 AM
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