News of a new study that shows atmospheric temperatures did not rise as much as expected over the last decade has the wingnuts crying “ZOMG, junk science! Climate hoax!” today. However, the study doesn’t say that the entire earth stopped cooling, it says the atmosphere likely didn’t heat up as much as expected because the oceans took in that heat. It doesn’t even say the atmosphere stopped getting hotter – it says it got hotter at a slower rate than previous models predicted. That’s entirely consistent with every other scientific study of reduced atmospheric warming over the last decade. What counts is the total heat content.
Now, the good news is that the atmosphere heating up more slowly than expected means we have a little bit of breathing space to curb carbon emissions and stave off the worst possible world of extreme climate warming. In the short term, say until 2050, this new study means we could be looking at only 1.3 °C of overall warming instead of 1.6 °C. The bad news is, if we do nothing then we still end up in that awful place – as the lead author of the study the wingnuts are crowing over admits.
So, the denialists are plain wrong that this study vindicates their cries of “hoax”. Unfortunately, that won’t stop the idea that it does attaining urban myth status among the half or conservatives who have invested a lot of time and effort into not understanding the science of climate change.
That’s going to continue to create oddities like a fellow at the Heritage Institute lambasting the Obama administration for having no strategy to cope with how geopolitics will cope with an ice-free Arctic even while the think-tank he works for continues to push “experts” (and useful Koch-suckers like Senator Inhofe) who say global warming is either not happening or is nothing to worry about.
A massive ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is happening, and even those Republicans who understand climate science support climate action. Eventually, a new article in the National Journal claims, the tension between science and denialist faith will cause a split in Republican ranks.
Already, deep fissures are emerging between, on one side, a base of ideological voters and lawmakers with strong ties to powerful tea-party groups and super PACs funded by the fossil-fuel industry who see climate change as a false threat concocted by liberals to justify greater government control; and on the other side, a quiet group of moderates, younger voters, and leading conservative intellectuals who fear that if Republicans continue to dismiss or deny climate change, the party will become irrelevant.
“There is a divide within the party,” says Samuel Thernstrom, who served on President George W. Bush’s Council on Environmental Quality and is now a scholar of environmental policy at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “The position that climate change is a hoax is untenable.”
A concerted push has begun within the party—in conservative think tanks and grassroots groups, and even in backroom, off-the-record conversations on Capitol Hill—to persuade Republicans to acknowledge and address climate change in their own terms. The effort will surely add heat to the deep internal conflict in the years ahead.
It’s one of many tensions between fact and wingnut fantasy, and one of the many reasons the GOP must change or die.