I don't usually do a lot of politics on this blog, but Mitt Romney is so dismissive of clean energy initiatives, and Paul Ryan's record on environmental issues is so shockingly abysmal, I feel I must speak up in defense of the natural world. Because if the Romney-Ryan campaign has its way, there won't be very much nature left for our descendants to see or enjoy.
Ryan is as clueless about environmental science as he appears in this photo. In a December 2009 op-ed that he wrote during international climate talks (and still proudly displays on his official Washington website), Ryan made reference to the hacked University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit emails (so-called "Climategate") and accused climatologists of a “perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion,” in order to “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.” Because of spurious claims of conspiracy like these, several governmental and academic inquiries were launched, all of which found the accusations to be without any merit. (See Debunking Misinformation about Stolen Climate Emails in the Manufactured Climategate Controversy for further detailed information.)
Paul Ryan, Conspiracy Theorist
There was no "climate conspiracy" outside of Paul Ryan's head. Nobody was perverting the scientific method, they were using the scientific method to peer review and critique various articles that had already been published in respectable journals. Granted, some scientists were rude to each other in their emails (and who among us hasn't done that?) but Emily Post has nothing to do with the accuracy of the science.
Climate change denial and the Ryan "snow" argumentThe problem is, Ryan himself doesn't understand climate science. In the same op-ed, he stated, "Unilateral economic restraint in the name of fighting global warming has been a tough sell in our [Wisconsin] communities, where much of the state is buried under snow." He and other climate deniers who use snowstorms as proof that the planet is not getting warmer do not understand a basic fact of physics, namely, that warm air holds more moisture than cold air. This is why the worst storms usually come in March-April, when the northern hemisphere is warming up. Warm air from the south hits cold fronts from the north and bam! We get buried. When the Jet Stream abnormally dips all the way south to Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, it will pull lots of moist air northward, resulting in even more snow.
Yes, it is true that the winter of 2009-2010 had record snowfall in Wisconsin (and also here in Minnesota, Ryan's neighbor state) but it is ALSO true that the average temperatures have been getting steadily warmer for decades. When I first moved to Minnesota in 1973, I regularly saw temps of 40 below zero (F) on the winter weather map -- something I have NOT seen on any map around here for at least two decades. Instead, the winters have been so warm -- with or without snow -- that the lakes no longer freeze hard enough for safe ice fishing in many parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. This, in turn, is hurting tourist industries that rely on snow and ice for winter sports.
I am wondering if Ryan is still sticking by this snow argument now that climate patterns have shifted again. Wisconsin is in the midst of a severe drought that is devastating crops across the Midwest. Neither Minnesota nor Wisconsin had much snow at all this winter (2011-2012). Instead, it all went south and buried places like Tennessee that normally don't have much snow. And how does Ryan explain all the record 100-degree temperatures we had across the continent this summer, and the thousands of broken heat records every day?
Climate change is not the only area where Ryan fails on the environment. He has voted to eliminate the EPA regulations on greenhouse gases, to block the US Department of Agriculture from preparing for climate change, to eliminate light bulb efficiency standards and slash clean energy investment. On the other hand, he voted FOR keeping oil industry subsidies and is a big supporter of coal. (For refs in the congressional record on all these issues, click here.)
Mitt Romney, Energy LudditeMitt Romney isn't any better. He not only comes down 100% on the side of Big Oil and Big Coal, he ridicules developing new energy technologies. On the campaign trail last week, while speaking to coal miners in Ohio, he said that Obama "is only interested in energy above the ground," by which I assume he meant solar and wind energy -- something he has previously mocked by saying "you can't drive a car with a windmill on it." (Although you can drive a car with a dog kennel on it -- something he has personally demonstrated.)
On that same day, Obama was campaigning in Iowa, which gets 19% of its electricity from wind power, ranking second in the nation for that industry. Wind farms, Obama pointed out, have already generated 7000 new jobs in Iowa.
With all his focus on jobs, you would think that Romney would applaud that achievement. But no, he retorts that wind turbines -- he called them "whirlybirds" -- won't generate energy when the wind is not blowing. (Maybe not -- but when we run out of coal and oil, nothing will be generating energy if we do not plan ahead. And hasn't Romney ever heard of storage batteries?)
"We have 250 years of coal," Romney says, "Why in the world wouldn't we use it?" Even if better technologies are developed? After all, the Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of rocks. And there were probably flint-chippers who objected to using metal-tipped spears because it would put them out of work. "We have tons of rocks, why in the world wouldn't we use them?" But the smarter cavemen embraced the new technology and the rest is, well, history.
In that same speech, he apparently thought it more effective to use sensationalism rather than science, misquoting Vice President Biden as saying that "coal is more dangerous than terrorists." Biden never said that! What he did say, in a 2007 interview, was that "hundreds of thousands of people die, or their lives are shortened, by coal plants." Which, when you consider the pollution these plants produce (not to mention black lung disease among coal miners and other unsafe conditions), is perfectly true. Asthma and lung cancer may not be as dramatic as a terrorist attack, but they kill far more people in the long run. And guess what? When Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he said much the same thing, stating that a coal plant "kills people." (Yet another flip-flop.)
I could go on and on, but I'll end with this thought: Is Mitt Romney really a man you would want in the White House? And do you really want Paul Ryan to be one heartbeat away from the Presidency?
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(If you happen to be a Republican and still think climate change is a hoax, please read this excellent article by Republican meteorologist Paul Douglas (founder of the WeatherNation Channel) about how he came to believe it is true -- and it had nothing to do with Al Gore, just science: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-douglas/republican-climate-change_b_1374900.html? )