Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Better candidates, please.

Reading David Corn's blog the other day it came to my attention that presidential aspirant Fred Thompson believes (like Neal Boortz) that the science of anthropogenic global warming is bunk because there aren't any SUVs on Mars or Pluto.

Call me an idealist, but I'd like to live in an America in which uttering such a monumentally stupid statement in regards to an issue that has potential ramifications for the future of human civilization would automatically disqualify in the minds of the American people that person from consideration for the position of president.

Ok, let's say for the sake of argument that it is warming on Mars and Pluto. What does that say about the rise in temperature on planet Earth? Well ... nothing, and here's why:

First, it just so happens that the world's climate scientists happened to consider the possibility that climate change might be related to some kind of solar activity and they found that any such explanation could not account for the observed temperature change. It's somewhat incredible that it apparently did not enter Thompson's mind that the world's scientific community might be a step ahead of him on this front.

Secondly, Mars and Pluto happen to not have Earth's atmosphere and to occupy different location in the solar system than Earth. It just might be the case that temperature rises or decreases on those planets have totally different causes than temperature rises or decreases on this planet.

If you'd like to see this phrased another way, then see Gristmill's take:

Objection: Global warming is happening on Mars and Pluto as well. Since there are no SUVs on Mars, CO2 can't be causing global warming.

Answer: Warming on another planet would be an interesting coincidence, but it would not necessarily be driven by the same causes.

The only relevant factor the earth and Mars share is the sun, so if the warming were real and related, that would be the logical place to look. As it happens, the sun is being watched and measured carefully back here on earth, and it is not the primary cause of current climate change.
As Gristmill indicates, Thompson is wrong, regardless, given that Pluto and Mars are warming and this debunks global warming is one of the standard myths about climate change.

There have been claims that warming on Mars and Pluto are proof that the recent warming on Earth is caused by an increase in solar activity, and not by greenhouses gases. But we can say with certainty that, even if Mars, Pluto or any other planets have warmed in recent years, it is not due to changes in solar activity.

The Sun's energy output has not increased since direct measurements began in 1978 (see Climate myth special: Global warming is down to the Sun, not humans). If increased solar output really was responsible, we should be seeing warming on all the planets and their moons, not just Mars and Pluto.
Gristmill also has more information about how we know solar activity is not responsible for global warming, here, and there again rephrases for us how ridiculous it is for Thompson to assume that climate scientists did not factor the sun into their research.

What is saddest to me -- besides the possibility he might actually become president -- is the ease with which this otherwise intelligent man believes the entire scientific community somehow failed to examine the contribution of the sun to recent global warming.
I think what is saddest to me is that Thompson uses the example of Galileo - a scientist who advocated science that wasn't accepted by the forces of dogmatism - to defend his own dogmatic rejection of science advocated by scientists.

Really, it requires but rudimentary thinking skills to realize that the assertion that "its warming on Mars" is not a refutation of anthropogenic climate change. And I'm of the opinion that someone who lacks that rudimentary skill (or fails to employ it) isn't fit to be President of the United States of America. George W. Bush proves that.

In a sane world, wouldn't this be in all the newspapers and news programs as a huge gaffe from presidential candidate Thompson? In a sane world, perhaps. In America, not so much. After all, by this nation's press standards, making a blatantly dumb remark about a topic that may impact the future of humanity isn't nearly as bad as Gore fairly accurately describing his role in the development of a technology that revolutionalized human civilization.

Speaking of Gore, I think my favorite response that I've heard to global warming denialism like Thompson's is Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R - Maryland) saying in regard to some of his colleagues' questioning of Al Gore on this issue: "It's possible to be a conservative without appearing to be an idiot." (h/t Daily Howler)


Mike said...

I had a kitten die of a congenital heart defect. That must mean O.J. is innocent, because there wasn't a white Ford Bronco anywhere near my kitten.

No, wait - Ron Goldman is a lot more similar to a kitten than Earth is to Pluto...

Anonymous said...

Fact: It's the Sun.
Fiction: It's me.
No offense.
Have a good day.

Mike said...

Indeed, global warming is caused by the sun.

In the same sense, O.J. is again innocent, because it was the knife that killed those people.

Human activities that put more greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere result in the Sun's rather constant irradiation having more effect on plantary temperatures.