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Some Sanity amid the Commonwealth’s Insanity

February 19th, 2010 · 1 Comment

At times, the expression ‘the inmates have taken over the asylum’ seems all too relevant to the governance process and is sadly too true when it comes to the Commonwealth of Virignia. Yesterday, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli declared that his “belief” system evidently trumps science as he committed the Commonwealth and its citizens’ taxes to a legal challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) finding that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions endanger the public.

Glen Besa, director of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, accused Cuccinelli of wasting taxpayer money on his own ideological crusade against global warming.

“This litigation is ideologically based at taxpayer expense and it’s not based on the science or the law,” he said. “The science is pretty settled with regard to the fact that climate change is occuring and humans have caused climate change…For us to take this to court is like retrying evolution.”

Sounding as if he were a spokesman for Faux News or any number of fossil-fuel funded astroturf organizations, Cuccinelli launched a broadside against science and against that nasty devil of “unelected bureaucrats”. Cuccinelli falsely asserted that regulated carbon emissions would hurt the Commonwealth’s citizens.

Some voices of sanity are struggling to be heard amid the din of Cuccinelli’s insanity.

The Hampton Roads paper, the Virginia-Pilot, editorial this morning was entitled States top lawman takes aim at science.

Virginians knew it wouldn’t take long for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to focus his attention and office on furthering his political agenda and ambitions. The surprise, perhaps, is that it took him a whole month to put Virginia embarrassingly ahead of Texas as an opponent of science and the source of states-rights nonsense.

This is, well, a quite damning statement, one that states bluntly that Cuccinelli puts his “political agenda and ambitions” well before the interests of his constituents and above any allegiance to knowledge.

You’d think the attorney general of a state with one of the places most vulnerable to rising sea levels – that would be Hampton Roads – would be sensitive to the concerns of constituents. Instead, he’s decided to pick an expensive losing fight with a federal agency that has science and the Constitution on its side.

It is unclear what impact additional flooding in Hampton Roads and rising seas might have on job creation and economic development. But it probably won’t be good.

Hmmm … Note that essentially every single “study” that purports to show (falsely) that action to mitigate climate change would cost jobs essentially makes the assumption that climate disruption comes at minimal to no cost. That is not just a dubiously ignorant assumption, but an arrogantly risky one to make by anyone in a policy-making position. Planning for the control of well-understood risk is a hallmark of good governance — in both the private and public sector. Determining to charge forward, wearing blinders to potential risk, is the hallmark of someone setting a path toward disaster.

Cuccinelli, a noted climatologist, also says his move is based on new information, specifically the minor tempests surrounding stolen e-mails from climate scientists in Great Britain and small problems with a massive report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Neither problem even begins to undermine the science that has concluded that the planet is warming and that man is probably causing it. But the global-warming denial industry – sponsored by energy companies and their political supporters – has succeeded in pretending that it has.

Sadly, this last is true. Too many people have no clue how that denial machine is so successfully spinning things, that, for example, the error re Himalayan glaciers was corrected with a two-sentence correction in Volume II of a several thousand page report and that Volume I of the 2007 IPCC report had a 45-page discussion of climate change and glaciers to which no correction was necessary. The basic point which essentially every media outlet, with the notable exception of the Virginia Pilot, has missed is that “Scientists correct themselves, contrarians don’t“.

Now, the Virginia-Pilot continues the damning commentary.

Here’s the interesting thing, though: Cuccinelli was convinced that global warming was bunk long before either the stolen e-mails were released or the minor problems were found in the IPCC report. The attorney general was convinced before any of the discovery of the evidence he cited at Wednesday’s press conference.

In his press conference, Cuccinelli provided a quite distorted (and simply untruthful) set of statements about recent developments in climate science, asserting that these create an imperative for the EPA to revisit the science based finding that Co2 emissions endanger the public. Part of his distortion, his untruthy truthiness, is attempting to twist this into some recent conclusion on his part when Cuccinelli has long proudly displayed his anti-science syndrome credentials.

That’s probably not how Virginians want the state’s top lawman to reason: Reach a verdict first, then consider only the evidence that supports it.

Yes, lawman Ken Cuccinelli: Shoot and ask questions later.

Some of Virginia’s top scientists have already started weighing in against the ignorance displayed in the Attorney General’s politicization of science.

Palaeoclimatologist William Ruddiman, professor emeritus, University of Virginia — and author of Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate and Earth’s Climate: Past and Future — is “confident” of the facts of manmade global warming, and that our emissions of greenhouse gases “carry great risk”:

As a mainstream climate scientist, I am confident about the following facts:

—Earth has warmed by 0.7-0.8C since the late 1800’s.
—Greenhouse gas concentrations began rising near 1850 and have been rising since then.
—Most of the warming since the middle/late 1800’s, and the vast majority of it since 1970, has been caused by greenhouse-gas increases.
—Given this history, and with the current rate of gas emissions, future climate will likely be warmer (probably much warmer than any climate of the last few tens of millions of years).

Actions that produce climates greatly different from today carry great risk. And at this point we are headed in that direction.

Atmospheric scientist Jennie Moody, research associate professor, University of Virginia, has concluded that “the public welfare is threatened by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions,” based on her own research and knowledge of the science:

There is nothing in my own research, or my understanding of the science of climate change that would give me reason to believe that EPA’s finding of endangerment is not based on sound science. To rephrase this, I would say that my knowledge gained through regular scholarship (reading of the literature in my field, I have a Ph.D. in atmospheric science (meteorology) and a minor in chemistry) and to a lesser extent from my own research in facts leads me to conclude that the public welfare is threatened by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Wildlife biologist Michael Erwin, research professor, University of Virginia, who feels “there is no question” about the link between greenhouse gases and sea level rise, warns of the consequences to the state of Virginia:

The issue of relative sea level rise is a real concern, especially in the mid Atlantic region (from New Jersey to North Carolina, and including Chesapeake Bay) and the Louisiana-Mississippi coast. The combination of eustatic sea level rise and subsidence in both areas is substantial, resulting in inundation of many wetlands, and erosion of many small marsh islands; it appears that most models predict an even more rapid rate of sea level rise in the next century. This has major implications to the wildlife species that depend on marshes, as well as human infrastructure in these densely populated areas.

With reputable, knowledge, world-class scientists like this, willing to speak publicly with facts that undermine “climatologist” Ken Cuccinelli, it doesn’t seem surprising that Governor Bob McDonnell, who has stated strong support for Cuccinelli’s effort, is so willing (if not eager) to cut resources for the Commonwealth’s (until now?) high-quality educational system. It seems that, at least for some Virginia politicians, ignorance truly is bliss.

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Tags: anti-science syndrome · climate change · climate delayers · Global Warming · global warming deniers · Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change · virginia

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Treehugger science // Feb 20, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    […] Just another group of ‘treehuggers’ talking about Global Warming when we should evidently be listening to noted climatologists like the anti-science syndrome promoting Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, wh…. […]