Year 3, Month 1, Day 23: Who’s Shrill?

The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson:

The attempt by Newt Gingrich to cover his tracks on climate change has been one of the shabbier little episodes of the 2012 presidential campaign. His forthcoming sequel to “A Contract with the Earth” was to feature a chapter by Katharine Hayhoe, a young professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas Tech University. Hayhoe is a scientist, an evangelical Christian and a moderate voice warning of climate disruption.

Then conservative media got wind. Rush Limbaugh dismissed Hayhoe as a “climate babe.” An Iowa voter pressed Gingrich on the topic. “That’s not going to be in the book,” he responded. “We told them to kill it.” Hayhoe learned this news just as she was passing under the bus.

A theory about the role of carbon dioxide in climate patterns has joined abortion and gay marriage as a culture war controversy. Climate scientists are attacked as greenshirts and watermelons (green on the outside, red on the inside). Skeptics are derided as flat-earthers. Reputations are assaulted and the e-mails of scientists hacked.

Heh. Indeed. Also. Sent January 18:

Conservative politicization of science has borne bitter fruit in the intensifying battle over climate change. It’s worth recognizing that the GOP has been at the center of countless attempts to marginalize expertise for more than fifty years, starting with the McCarthy-era purges of China specialists from the State Department — a electorally expedient move, but one which created a policy vacuum with disastrous repercussions for our later experience in Vietnam. The only experts Republican politicians appear to respect are their political strategists, whose advice on winning elections is often extremely sound.

The problem with climate change is that the laws of physics and chemistry have no ideology; mounting atmospheric CO2 levels and increasing worldwide temperatures won’t vanish when presidential aspirants deny their existence, or ascribe the troublesome measurements to political bias among scientists. A hint to Republicans: if you stop denying scientific reality, scientists may eventually take you seriously again.

Warren Senders

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