US elects barrage of climate change deniers, threatening support for green energy

Jeremy Hance
November 03, 2010

The US midterm election, which won Republicans the House but safeguarded the Senate for Democrats, has brought in a number of self-proclaimed climate change deniers, ending any likelihood that an energy bill will be passed over the next two years and essentially stumbling the White House's strategy on climate change.

Newly elected Republican Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marc Rubio of Florida, both members of the nascent Tea Party, have stated they do not believe in climate change despite that scientists overwhelming agree the Earth is warming due to human impacts.

The new speaker of the House, Republican John Boehner, has also stated that "the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical." However, scientists have never claimed carbon dioxide is carcinogenic, but that carbon—and other greenhouse gases—trap infrared energy in the atmosphere. The infrared energy heats up greenhouse gas molecules, and some of that heat is radiated back to the Earth where it causes temperatures to rise.

Except for a leveling off between the 1940s and 1970s, Earth's surface temperatures have increased since 1880. The last decade has brought the temperatures to the highest levels ever recorded. The graph shows global annual surface temperatures relative to 1951-1980 mean temperatures. As shown by the red line, long-term trends are more apparent when temperatures are averaged over a five year period. Image credit: NASA/GISS.
Some GOP leaders have stated they will put the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on trial over its ability to regulate greenhouse gases and drown the agency in hearings. Republicans are also expected to push for more off-shore drilling, even in the face of the Gulf oil spill, and nuclear power.

However, New York Times science reporter, Andrew Revkin, states that the larger concern for some is that the GOP will slash green energy programs.

"This election almost guarantees an end to the brief stimulus-driven period of increased investment in advancing energy technologies that could supplant finite fossil fuels," he writes in the blog DotEarth.

Joe Romm, writer of the blog Climate Progress, says that big wins for Republicans in 1996 meant a concentrated effort to end funding for clean energy research and development. Romm says that the new GOP majority in the House threatens the creation of green jobs nationwide. Currently, the US lags far behind Europe and China in clean energy.

At the same time, California voters rejected Proposition 23, which would have undercut the state's landmark climate change legislation. The proposition, which was largely funded by oil companies, was voted down by a considerable margin. California has the US's most ambitious legislation on climate change.

Decades of research by thousands of scientists has found that the Earth has been warming steadily over the past century. Scientists say that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, are behind the rising temperatures. Climate change is expected to lead to rising sea levels, widespread species extinction, worsening droughts in some areas and floods in others, increasing incidents of severe weather, and expanding desertification, among other impacts

While scientists have long been wary of pinning a particular weather-event on climate change, recent events such as devastating floods in Pakistan and the abnormal heat wave in Russia, have pushed some to stress that such events are consistent with climate change predictions of worsening and more frequent extreme weather.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (November 03, 2010).

US elects barrage of climate change deniers, threatening support for green energy.