I can believe the country is turning more conservative. Conservatives, with their maximize the GDP no matter what kind of philosophy, simply don't seem to care if one of their gurus has a scandal. George Bush runs the economy off a cliff, and Republicans blame Democrats. Rush Limbaugh becomes a drug addict, and after slamming drug addicts on his radio show, Limbaugh claimed the victim card for himself. The Bush administration invaded Iraq with multiple justifications, none of which (Iraq's role in 9/11, weapons of mass destruction, bringing democracy to the Middle East) turned out to be true. The Bush administration both tortured prisoners and initiated spying on US citizens. And yet Republicans are perfect content to blame Democrats for any negative press.
Liberals, on the other hand, often take their sides' scandals to heart. Glenn Greenwald has made a cottage industry of holding Obama to at least the same standard Bush had been held to, which is to say that Greenwald has repeatedly complained about Obama continuing Bush administration policies in domestic spying and holding detainees at Guantanamo, and increasing prosecutions of government whistle blowers. And of course the economy has not recovered under President Obama, and indeed Obama seems to have caved to the minority party repeatedly, often before the debate even brings. And many Democrats were bitterly disappointed when Bill Clinton lived up to his worse impulses during his administration. I think liberals take it to heart when their few national figures make mistakes and/or disappoint them. But more than that, liberals think that they want to help at least ease the pain of poverty, and do what they can to help persons of color to have a level playing field (apparently we can't talk about past racism, which could cover up to yesterday). Yet they are baffled and ultimately hurt that most of the people they are trying to help view them with such scorn (from Reagan Democrats to the that part of the Tea Party that is rural poor). Conservatives, on the other hand, are relentless in their exercise of cognitive dissonance. They are relentless in their alternative views of reality and history - that the only racism that still exists is discrimination against white males, that tax cuts and elimination of all regulations have in the past and will now fix the economy, and that climate change is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on Americans.
Which brings us Jack Kelly's column today. Let's be clear, Kelly is dropping to the level of Rick Perry, and saying essentially that NASA, NOAA, the (US) National Academy of Science and essentially the vast majority of the world's scientific community are perpetrating the "the most harmful hoax in history". Kelly is accusing science of lying to us, although Kelly gives us no motive for science to do this. But make no mistake, Kelly is telling us to trust Rick Perry over Phd's when it comes to climate issues.
And make no mistake, Kelly tells us this as he repeats lies (or at best half-truths). "Global temperatures peaked in 1998". There is a basis for this claim, but Kelly clearly did not give us anything close to the whole story and it's worth knowing scientists have a different view. "Polar ice caps are larger". Again, there is a fraction of truth in this, but that hardly tells anything close to the whole truth. The National Snow and Ice Data Center says that since 1979, the largest size of the Arctic sea ice pack has shrunk 10 percent each decade. So if it started at a level of (MADE UP NUMBER) 100, then three decades later (at 2007) it is now at 70. According to the NSIDC, it has recovered in 2008 to 77, and then increased some unstated amount in 2009. However, it is also thinner than ever before, a worrying development. "The rise in sea levels -- which has been going on since the end of the last ice age -- is slowing." I gather some people are saying something like this, but something different is being observed.
I won't try to track down too much of other Kelly statements, except to note that he doesn't explain why (or more importantly provide citations for his statement) "Industrial wind turbines -- a favorite of Mr. Obama's -- cause real environmental harm." and I might question how much oil company tax breaks and direct subsidies increase the costs to taxpayers of each oil industry jobs (versus his charge about European "green" jobs). But the most interesting or amusing thing Kelly does is to suggest that the science of Climate Change should be determined by opinion polls. I suspect cancer would not be positively viewed in an opinion poll, yet I don't think wishing it away would actually cause it to cease to exist.
Now, I think that while Jack Kelly is simply and without question lying to us, there is discussion that could take place about climate change. To start with, Kelly spends considerable effort to tell us that there have been other warm periods in history, as well as other periods where there was more CO2 in the air (apparently not necessarily the same periods). Now, as far as I know no climate scientists deny that those statements are true. I think the difference for current climate change is that it is occurring more rapidly than otherwise in history, sped up by our burning dinosaurs (or plankton) at an increasing rate (something that was not done in history).
Still, do we know what the severity of climate change will be? Will there be widespread drought, or if there is will there also be new regions of arable land that could compensate for the drought? What will the effect of rising seas be, perhaps on places like Venice, Italy? Are we looking at extinctions of large numbers of species (fauna, flora?). These are reasonable points of discussion, although in regard to fossil fuels I have to point out that a) they are not infinite and b) as they get more scarce, they will cost more. So the notion of carbon taxes to encourage less driving does not bother me in the least. The fact that encouraging a conversion from fossil fuels to more efficient consumption of solar, wind (solar-type) and tidal power electricity facilitates the possibility of a more or even an entirely sustainable world economy, well, it seems where we have to get to there anyway at some point. When would you suggest?