Bipartisan Scientists: “We Cannot Afford to Have Those Leading Our Nation Misrepresent or Be Silent About the Reality and Risks of Climate Change”

When it comes to foreign policy, the saying goes that politics stops at the water’s edge.

When it comes to climate science, we say that politics should stop at the atmosphere’s edge.

One of us is a Republican, the other a Democrat. We hold different views on many issues. But as scientists, we share a deep conviction that leaders of both parties must speak to the reality and risks of human-caused climate change, and commit themselves to finding bipartisan solutions.

Kerry Emanuel, a climate and hurricane expert who happens to be a Republican, has co-authored a must-read op-ed with Peter C. Frumhoff, an ecologist. who happens to be a Democrat, “Candidates must deal with facts, not wishes.”

Here’s more:

Scientists have known for more than 100 years that carbon dioxide in our atmosphere traps heat. And today we know that the excess carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere from human activity – primarily, burning coal and oil and clearing forests – is altering our climate.

It’s a conclusion based on established physics and on evidence gathered from satellite data, ancient ice cores, temperature stations, fossilized trees and corals. And it’s a conclusion affirmed by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, established by President Lincoln to advise our nation’s leaders on matters of science.

Note:  The major 2011 climate report from the National Academy of Sciences called on nation to “substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions” starting ASAP.

But as scientific understanding of climate change has advanced, the public discourse has split along partisan lines.

Republicans who identify with the Tea Party are particularly likely to deny the reality of global warming. Several of this year’s aspiring presidential candidates are rejecting the findings of climate science – and feeling the political heat if they don’t.

After former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney reiterated his understanding that human activity is warming the planet, Rush Limbaugh denounced him for doing so, saying, “bye-bye nomination.” Romney now says that he doesn’t know what is causing climate change.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently accused climate scientists of “manipulating data.” In Wednesday’s Republican candidate debate, he made an argument like the one tobacco industry executives used to cast doubt on the scientific evidence of smoking’s health risks, saying, “The idea that we would put Americans’ economy in jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet to me is just nonsense.” Science is never truly settled and no responsible leader would wait for 100 percent certainty to respond to a serious threat.

The National Academy concluded its 2010 review of climate science saying these are “settled facts“: The “Earth system is warming” and “much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.”

Making misleading statements about science and picking on scientists is easy. Most would rather defend their findings in peer-reviewed journals than on cable TV. A lie can travel halfway around the world before we even get our lab coats on.

Some politicians, fortunately, are demonstrating a more responsible way to talk about climate change.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, for example, reaffirmed his acceptance of the science in Wednesday’s presidential debate. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has also been speaking up for climate science, even as he has backed away from taking action.

“When you have over 90 percent of the world’s scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and humans play a contributing role, it’s time to defer to the experts,” Christie said last month.

The right rebuked Christie for recognizing the reality of climate change. And the left lambasted him for using the same speech to pull out of a regional pact to curb emissions.

We question Christie’s policy decision. But we commend him for acknowledging the reality of climate change, and for providing New Jersey voters a chance to decide whether they agree with his policy choice. That’s how our democracy should work.

Republicans skeptical about climate policy should follow Christie’s and Huntsman’s lead and realize that they don’t need to misrepresent the science.

And Democrats must speak out as well.

Candidate Barack Obama spoke forcefully about global warming, but has been far too quiet as president. In a rare public statement on climate, he recently told two “kid reporters” with Scholastic News that climate change is one of the chief challenges their generation will face.

See “Obama to Kids: Carbon is Warming the Planet, Intensifying Hurricanes and Droughts. We Should Do Something About This.

That’s not enough. Science tells us that the extent and severity of climate change faced by our children’s generation will be determined by the hard choices we must make today. Political leadership is about ensuring that we adults face up to this task.

We cannot afford to have those leading our nation misrepresent, or be silent about, the reality and risks of climate change.

Whoever wins the next election will lead a nation increasingly affected by climate change, command a Pentagon that calls climate change a national security threat, and preside over federal scientists already working to help states and cities prepare for climate change impacts.

It is time for leaders of both parties to take seriously what science tells us we are doing to our common atmosphere, so we can take up the urgent task of finding solutions on common ground.

Hear!  Hear!


Democrat and ecologist  and  have a good op-ed out today,

23 Responses to Bipartisan Scientists: “We Cannot Afford to Have Those Leading Our Nation Misrepresent or Be Silent About the Reality and Risks of Climate Change”

  1. Paul magnus says:

    Climate Portals
    Eaarth stories…. Town abandoned in US…Sad times…

    Pennsylvania Cities in Ruins after Lee’s Flooding
    Some people have lost everything. For thousands of others, it will take months to recover.

  2. Michael Tucker says:

    “Republicans skeptical about climate policy should follow Christie’s and Huntsman’s lead and realize that they don’t need to misrepresent the science.”

    Absolutely correct! As a good Republican opposed to excessive Big Government regulation all you need to do is misrepresent the solution or simply explain that the solution is too costly in a time of global recession. Or be like Huntsman, offer no solution at all. Or like some other Republican journalists, admit the warming but deny that it has anything to do with human activity. Any Republican who wishes to avoid government involvement in solving the problem has many other options other than the stupidly insane comments of the vast majority of current Republican congressional leaders and candidates. Look Republicans it is obvious that all you need do, to avoid being called crazy, is take the Christie and Huntsman strategy then you will only be “questioned” about your policy but you will not be condemned for your ignorance.

  3. Dean says:

    In the end, those Republicans who don’t like this trend have to fight to take their party back. So far they are mostly silent.

    And if they lose, then the rest of us have to decide whether that party is successful. The problem right now is that these issues tend to get buried at election time with the overarching issue of the economy, allowing them to get away with almost anything on other issues.

    I have to believe that the dreadful economy is the only thing giving the Rs any chance.

  4. MapleLeaf says:

    SkepticalScience is not staying quiet. Here they call Pielke Senior out for remaining silent about the misinformation spread by Roy Spencer and John Christy.

  5. Peter Mizla says:

    The scientists can make every attempt possible to inform the public. But will the Media give them a voice to explain the horrific future we will face by not reporting the truth.

    The Media is most likely controlled by the same people who have mounted the campaign against the science of climate change.

    We are in for a very shaky and uncertain future as a society. The floods, droughts, melting of ice will go on and on.

    Perhaps someday, the truth will come out- its going to take a massive shift for us to change. A total collapse of the worldwide Ponzi economy, with climate events cascading out of control- This end the era we are in.

  6. The Democrats could easily lose the “climate issue” by failing to act when they have the chance.

    We now have a decade of Clinton/Gore and Obama speaking strongly about the need to do something about climate mitigation but failing to really work hard to push anything through. Even when they had control of both houses as well. At some point this becomes “all talk, no acton” and provides political and social licence for GOP to not act as well.

    Just look to the fate of the left in Canada to see how ownership of the “climate issue”, and the climate hawks votes that go with it, have evaporated. In tatters. They were branded hypocrites and do-nothings and they have never been able to regain traction or credibility with the public on the issue.

    Even worse for the Democrats, just imagine a President Romney pushing through a carbon tax to pay for big income tax cuts. Imagine him railing on liberals for their big bureaucracy, wall-street-hands-in-your-pockets cap & trade plan when conservatives were going to solve it with a simple, transparent, flat carbon tax shift. Far fetched? Hardly. That is just what conservative Gordon Campbell did in BC. It paid off handsomely in continued political dominance for his party while the political left’s base has split nastily over it. He wrote climate dividend checks to every on BC and slashed individual and small biz income taxes.

    Democrats have a lot to lose by failing to press forward publicly and seriously on a climate mitigation solution while they have so much power.

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It is a bit like a variant of the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, I would say. If Pielke major denounces the disinformers now, he will come under greater scrutiny for his earlier silences and complicities, and be called upon, and expected, to acknowledge them also. You see where it must end, in a humiliating, if liberating, mea maxima culpa, a confession of error (let’s be generous) in abetting the denialist industry all along. It’s a lot to expect of anyone, but it is necessary.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The MSM are definitely an integral part of the problem. The problem is market capitalism, which demands that the world’s life-sustaining biospheres be ruthlessly degraded to make money that is then misappropriated by a tiny and infinitely avaricious elite. When the 400 richest US families control as much wealth as the bottom 50% of the population (over 150 million), and still send their hired political lackeys out to demand MORE, then the situation is clearly unsustainable. Every ecological crisis, the economic crisis, the resource depletion crisis and the moral and spiritual crises afflicting humanity are all caused by market capitalism acting in the only way it knows how, and finally coming up against natural limits that cannot be bombed into submission, bribed or intimidated.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    There is no ‘Left’ in Canadian parliamentary politics, just the usual democratic capitalist spectrum from hard Right (Harper, who ‘triumphed’ on 24% of the votes of the eligible electorate) to the ‘social democratic’ dissemblers, who serve the money power while dudding the sane and morally decent fraction of the electorate. These tricksters, the likes of Blair, Rudd, Obama et al, serve the real rulers, the moneyed interests, by diverting the growing clamour for a decent society free of the dictatorship of Big Business up culs de sac of contrived futility. Their work done, they are richly rewarded for ‘services rendered’ and often move even further to the Right, to entertain their masters with all manner of new tricks on the ‘rubber chicken circuit’.

  10. Lew Johns says:

    So which “Republican” can a “Republican” [who actually lives in the Real World and understands the Science of Climate Change] support in 2012?




    the Fascist (Ron Paul)?


    Paul Ryan-the-Thug?

    Who is a “reasonable choice” for a “conservative”?

    Phooey. I was an Eisenhower Republican and there is NO ROOM FOR ME in the Pee Potty Party.

  11. Paul Magnus says:

    Sounds right on like the UK’s Blair!

  12. Paul Magnus says:

    I actually think it might’n matter in the end who is in.

    Things are happening so fast on the ground (in the air) that who ever is in in the next elections will be adapting in an all out battle against mother nature and people will be right behind whoever it is and the necessary decision taken.

  13. Russell says:

    To be fair, Perry’s team are still putting the finishing touches on his position:

  14. Peter Mizla says:


    I agree with you here. The real Paradox here is that Capitalism in its present form can no longer be sustained. A Culture of increasing consumption as we had the last 35 years needs increasing amounts of energy. And the cheapest most plentiful form of energy is fossil fuels.

    As JR has said here, her looks for the worldwide Ponzi scheme economy to collapse by 2030. Climate change will probably be a major factor in the fall of ‘Capitalism’ as we have ‘known it’.

    Obama has played it very safe- too safe, when something on the order of FDR was needed. Well Obama is no FDR- he is no Harry Truman, no Ike no JFK or LBJ- he really has turned out be an empty suit as ,any called him- an a weak one at that. He has faithfully tried to preserve a system that cannot be saved under its present form.

    What all the more intriguing, and open for discussion, is that FDR wanted even more reforms in the New Deal to deal with big business and the wealthy Plutocrats of that time. What he failed to do, along with the Progressives after him may be done by mother nature. Conservatives and wacko T Party troopers turn red, when they realize their greedy plutocracy started by Reagan over 30 years ago may fall from the planet reacting to the poison they are injecting into its atmosphere. How ironic.

  15. Gagar says:

    You just make the point that we are not leaving in a democracy anymore.

  16. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    From the interesting perspectives above three needs appear outstanding:

    a/. Given that Mitt Romney is plainly no Conservative by his betrayal of a fundamental common wealth – such as the climate –
    and that the Koch brothers are anything but Capitalists in their ‘mining out’ of fundamental capital resources – such as the forests, farm soils and oceans,

    there is a prime need for the proper description of the system that we oppose – as Neo-Feudalism – in which the corporate baronies hold territories not specifically in land but generally in resources, in the means of their extraction, conversion and supply, and in the means of propagandising the rabid desire for the products’ possession. Like their forebears, the current baronies thrive on competitive nationalism and make and break titular regimes as they see fit, using bribery and subversion when they can and war when they must. (The Viking Economics – that seminally perverted early US foreign policy – preceded that expediency: “Trade when you must; Pillage when you can; Rape when you get the chance”).

    Yet such are the baronies’ current scale and amorality that they now threaten not just another regional civilisation ending in dust and decay, but the ending of the very planet’s habitability.

    In this sense they are Neo-Feudalists, for amongst the Feudal barons of European history there was both an enduring (oft-ignored) ethic of ‘noblesse oblige,’
    (TWIMC: search Oxford English Dictionary, Not Websters travesty)
    and a religious recognition that the abuse of Creation was “a sin against the Holy Spirit.” (i.e.: v. grave).
    Neo-Feudalism knows no such ethics.

    b/. In dismantling the corporate baronies it looks increasingly clear that we’ll need a ‘Magna Carta for the Third Millenium’ to progressively curtail the current baronies power for the commons’ good. It is notable that the last ‘Carta’ was promoted by a cadre of ‘liberal’ barons seeking a code of justice – to outweigh the rule of mere force. What they achieved was but a dim shadow of the much earlier charter of law codified by the already ancient culture of the Cwmraig – (now termed ‘Welsh’). Rather than humbly waiting as subdued serfs for such a cadre to reappear, we need to prepare for its harnessing to principles of a deeper justice, and to encourage its recruitment ASAP.

    c/. The third clear need is a small but significant practical matter – namely an edit button. Please ?



  17. Carl S says:

    Prok- Thanks for the interesting article. From my unscientific survey, talking to everyday folks at the bank, gas station, etc. weird weather is the #1 educator on global warming. People who have no desire to read up on the latest science or manufactured controversies are very attuned to the weather. When it gets weird they believe.

  18. Eric Timar says:

    Even better than a Republican saying this, would be a retired military officer. Many people who won’t listen to Joe Romm would listen to retired military. The military probably even employs/commissions some meteorologists and other knowledgeable scientists.

  19. Merrelyn Emery says:

    It’s pretty good Lewis, even without an edit.

    Thank you for reminding us all that the ancient cultures respected the Earth and had appropriate laws which they enforced when necessary. I know from previous postings that a lot of people today find this hard to believe but these cultures existed all over the world and many still exist in remnant form.

    Is it possible that a coalition of the Indigenous peoples, the small, poor nations such as the Pacific Islands and those large nations that have seen the light, could engineer a take-over of the UN to force through an eco-Magna Carta? Given the rapidly accelerating rate of catastrophe, something is surely going to give and there is already a movement to remove the veto power of the big obstacles, ME

  20. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yes Carl, first hand experience is still the basis of belief and reinforcing the validity of these perceptions plus linking them to the science by pointing out that these extremes are exactly what the science has predicted, is more convincing and does more to restore sanity than attempting to pour abstract info into their heads. Reality is on our side, let’s use it, ME

  21. David Paris says:

    The Campaign slogan for 2012 should be:

    Remember The Climate Deniers.

  22. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Merrelyn – my thanks for your kind response.

    You’re right that such a charter should sensibly be acknowledged at the UN – for all it may take a little while it’s good to see where it needs to get to.

    The older cultures certainly still endure in many quiet havens around the planet. They plainly have a potentially critical role in contributing their inherited wisdom on the demands of integration within the ecology – based on aeons of their experience – as distinct from the several years of academic study that powers much of what passes for environmental protection, as in:
    “Sling a fence round it and call it saved”,
    with its unconsciously biblical presumption of the need to exclude humanity “from the garden” due to their inherent wickedness . . . The clueless slanderer Garret Hardin was perhaps the prime exponent of that creed, and of the widespread privatization of the commons it claimed to justify.

    Thus far I’ve heard of an annual circumpolar conference gathering some of the arctic peoples’ representatives, and I believe there’s a similar periodic gathering of some from throughout the Americas. I rather think that the UN itself already has some level of accreditation for native peoples’ representatives, but I know shamefully little about it. I shall make enquiries.

    Meanwhile, perhaps you might care to reflect on the merits of helping to initiate a global commoners’ alliance, to serve as a meeting place for people of cultures both ancient and modern ?



  23. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    That’s laughable – Perry has nothing to do with fairness.