Yesterday, Mark Hertsgaard and friends went to confront cranky anti-science climate zombies on Capital Hill.
Perhaps my favorite line of all is when the young woman asks Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Exxon) a perplexing question:
I don’t understand why my generation has to suffer because you don’t like what you’re hearing.
There are several striking items here that merit highlighting, for example, the lobbyist who comments — almost certainly correctly — that “science doesn’t really matter in the policy debate,” but let us focus just on one: the value of taking Jim Inhofe at his word.
When questioned “what if you’re wrong?”, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Fossil Fools) responds with “you need to think about what if you’re wrong”.
I hope that Senator Boxer or Kerry or … listens to Senator Inhofe. This would make a magnificent set of scientific hearings entitled “What if you’re wrong about climate science and policy solutions?”
These hearings could easily follow the simple quadrant proposed in What’s the Worst That Can Happen?: along the left column “climate science right or wrong” and along the top “action / inaction”.
What happens in a realistic and honest evaluation of ‘the worst that can happen’ in the four quadronts?
- False/Action: We might slow economic growth enough to push back 2050’s achieved level of growth to June rather than January. We would, however, also reduce cancers due to burning fossil fuel, improve the balance of payment by reducing oil imports, and allow pregnant women to eat predator fish (such as tuna) because the mercury levels would fall as we reduce the burning of coal. If we listen (and accept at face value) the claims from fossil-foolish interests, this could create a recession or two in the decades to come. This might be like paying for health insurance (which provides some wellness programs as a side benefit) and not getting sick …
- False / No Action: Status quo, business as usual.
- True / Action: As per Greg Craven, we would have “saved our hides”.
- True / No Action: Climate Change continues unchecked — even accelerated — with catastrophic implications on environmental, social, political, public health, economic, national security, and other terms.
The Democratic Senate leadership should, in true bipartisan fashion, embrace Senator Inhofe and hold hearing and hearing focused on “What if you’re wrong”? Let Senator Inhofe bring in his witnesses (Monckton???) and let reality-based witnesses testify as well (the Presidents of the World’s Academy of Sciences, perhaps???). The ‘story’ line — and truth — would be clear to see for all with even the most slightly open of eyes.
And, perhaps we can turn from Inhofe to another Republican for a simple standard for judging whether risk requires action, then Vice-President Dick Cheney:
“If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping Al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.” Cheney contended that the U.S. had to confront a very new type of threat: a “low-probability, high-impact event.”
If there is 1 percent that the world’s leading scientists and scientific institutions are correct, that humanity is driving climate change and climate change presents grave risks for humanity …
Update: From some who were with Mark, see Caroline Selle speaking for Generation HOT to Sen. Inhofe: The Science Does Matter:
We face a climate catastrophe that will define our generation and the future of our county, and the solutions to this crisis will create jobs and improve public health. So why aren’t we acting? Unfortunately, the answer is simple: Capitol Hill is swarming with “Climate Cranks” — politicians willing to trade our future for their own political gain. The science does matter. Our future is at stake, and our position is non-negotiable. We need strong climate legislation based on the facts, not the politics, and we need it soon. And we are willing to stand together again and again until our message gets through.
Note: If you wish to engage, this is a coalition effort that includes the Sierra Club, 350.org, Kids vs. Global Warming, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Grist. If you want to engage directly in support of this action, here are some suggested routes:
- Visit the Facebook page for Generation Hot. Post your suggestions for which cranks to target, what questions to ask and how to use this action to transform the climate conversation in this country.