General scientific knowledge is not the purview of Coyote Gulch. We try to confine ourselves to Colorado water issues, including the entire Colorado River Basin, with little opinion or editorializing. However, the presidential candidates’ answers to the questions posed by ScienceDebate.org are important. The collapse of whole ecosystems is imminent with climate change yet our political process disallows discussion of the science. Instead we have polarized factions arguing issues that have been largely settled in the science community. Shameful.
Here’s a breath of fresh air. Both candidates this year have answered the Top American Science questions for 2012. Click through and read them for yourself. Here’s an excerpt:
[ScienceDebate.org Question] 2. Climate Change. The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and other policies proposed to address global climate change—and what steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries?
We’ll let President Obama go first:
Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of this generation, and we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits. Since taking office I have established historic standards limiting greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history. My administration has made unprecedented investments in clean energy, proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants and reduced carbon emissions within the Federal Government. Since I took office, the U.S. is importing an average of 3 million fewer barrels of oil every day, and our dependence on foreign oil is at a 20-year low. We are also showing international leadership on climate change, reaching historic agreements to set emission limits in unison with all major developed and developing nations. There is still more to be done to address this global problem. I will continue efforts to reduce our dependence on oil and lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating an economy built to last.
And now, challenger Mitt Romney’s answer:
I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.
Ultimately, the science is an input to the public policy decision; it does not dictate a particular policy response. President Obama has taken the view that if global warming is occurring, the American response must be to slash carbon dioxide emissions by imposing enormous costs on the U.S. economy. First he tried a massive cap-and-trade bill that would have devastated U.S. industry. When that approach was rejected by Congress, he declared his intention to pursue the same course on his own and proceeded through his EPA to impose rules that will bankrupt the coal industry.
Nowhere along the way has the President indicated what actual results his approach would achieve — and with good reason. The reality is that the problem is called Global Warming, not America Warming. China long ago passed America as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases. Developed world emissions have leveled off while developing world emissions continue to grow rapidly, and developing nations have no interest in accepting economic constraints to change that dynamic. In this context, the primary effect of unilateral action by the U.S. to impose costs on its own emissions will be to shift industrial activity overseas to nations whose industrial processes are more emissions-intensive and less environmentally friendly. That result may make environmentalists feel better, but it will not better the environment.
So I oppose steps like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system that would handicap the American economy and drive manufacturing jobs away, all without actually addressing the underlying problem. Economic growth and technological innovation, not economy-suppressing regulation, is the key to environmental protection in the long run. So I believe we should pursue what I call a “No Regrets” policy — steps that will lead to lower emissions, but that will benefit America regardless of whether the risks of global warming materialize and regardless of whether other nations take effective action.
For instance, I support robust government funding for research on efficient, low-emissions technologies that will maintain American leadership in emerging industries. And I believe the federal government must significantly streamline the regulatory framework for the deployment of new energy technologies, including a new wave of investment in nuclear power. These steps will strengthen American industry, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and produce the economically-attractive technologies that developing nations must have access to if they are to achieve the reductions in their own emissions that will be necessary to address what is a global issue.
So there you have it. Click through and enjoy the rest of the answers. I also want to thank Mr. Romney for his answer, it will not sit well with his base.
Meanwhile, here’s an editorial from The Denver Post on the subject. Here’s and excerpt:
According to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, the ice cap has shrunk to a record extent and likely will continue to do so. An area of ice equivalent to the size of South Carolina is melting each day. That’s about twice the rate observed since 1979.
“As far as the larger scale, when you’re heating up a region of the world, compared to what it used to be, you’re changing the balance of the climate system,” NSIDC research scientist Walt Meier said during a conference call. “Now, your air conditioner is losing coolant, so to speak. It’s not as efficient as it used to be.”
It’s bad news, and it deserves more attention than it has gotten.
Earlier this month, a study co-authored by NASA climate scientist James Hansen concluded that a jump in the number of very hot summers can only be attributable to human-caused global warming.
Hansen linked several severe heat waves and droughts to global warming via statistical analysis.
In an op-ed piece that appeared in The Washington Post, Hansen wrote: “There is still time to act and avoid a worsening climate, but we are wasting precious time.”