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The Daily Need

House Republicans now officially on record denying science behind climate change

This graphic from NASA explains how the greenhouse effect works. House Republicans voted to reject this and other scientific facts Tuesday.

House Republicans rejected several measures Tuesday that called on Congress to adopt the scientific consensus that climate change is real, that it is caused by human activity and that it is a threat to human health.

We’ve known since before the 2010 election that most of the new House Republicans openly deny the science behind climate change. But now it’s officially on the record.

So here, for that record, is a list of things Republicans now say they officially don’t believe:

  • that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has skyrocketed by about 100 parts per million since 1950.
  • that the warming of the Earth has also has caused glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets to melt.
  • that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are each losing mass at an accelerating rate. Together, they’ve lost a combined average of 475 gigatonnes a year. And that rate of loss is accelerating by about 36.3 gigatonnes every year. That water ends up in the Earth’s oceans.
  • that glaciers are also retreating across Asia, threatening the water supply there and resulting in massive water runoffs and extreme flooding. In Bhutan, 66 glaciers have decreased by 8.1 percent over the last 30 years. The Himalayan glacier Chhota Shigri Glacier, in India, has lost 12 percent of its mass in just the last 13 years.
  • that the addition of this water to the oceans has caused the rate of global sea rise to double in the last decade, to about 3.4 millimeters per year (as opposed to about 1.8 millimeters for the last century).
  • that the warming of the planet increases the likelihood and frequency of extreme weather events — including hurricanes and intense rainfall — by raising ocean temperatures and adding energy to the Earth’s atmosphere. Since 1975, the destructive power of tropical cyclones — their duration and maximum wind speed — has increased by 70 percent.
  • that the atmosphere is getting much, much warmer. 2010 is now tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record — ever. The 20 warmest years on record have occurred since 1981. The 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the past 12 years.

The denial of these and other facts supporting the scientific consensus that climate change is real is not merely ideological; it’s political. Republicans are trying to block new regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency that would limit greenhouse gas emissions, on the grounds that those rules would hurt the GOP’s corporate patrons.

The EPA can only regulate greenhouse gases under the federal Clean Air Act if it determines that climate change poses a threat to public health. Armed with the facts listed above, the EPA issued such a finding in December 2009, and then issued proposals for new greenhouse gas limits based on that finding.

Republicans, in an attempt to block those regulations, are trying to undermine the EPA’s December 2009 public health finding by questioning the science it is based on — the science behind man-made climate change. When Democrats offered the measures mentioned above, for example, it was because Republicans were marking up a bill that would block the EPA’s climate change rules.

Republican politicians are also suing the federal government to block the new emissions standards from taking effect, and trying to make it seem as though the science behind those standards is still in doubt. Ken Cuccinelli, the attorney general of Virginia, is leading the charge in that effort. He has subpoenaed the records of a leading climate scientist, Michael Mann, to prove — somehow — that Mann is a fraud.

It hasn’t worked so far. The facts above remain unchallenged among the vast majority of climate scientists. Cuccinelli, meanwhile, is taking his case to the Virginia Supreme Court, after being rebuffed by a lower court last year.

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