Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Solar Thing Makes Sense to Some Conservatives... Even In Mississippi


Blue America is doing its due diligence in the campaign to replace Montana's one congressman, Denny Rehberg, a corrupt multimillionaire who, laughably, joined the House Tea party Caucus headed by Michele Bachmann. He's leaving the House to run against for Jon Tester's Senate seat. The Republican Party is grappling with replacing him with either someone from the Hatred and Bigotry wing of the party (KKK & GOP organizer John Abarr) or someone from the Greed and Selfishness wing (Steve Daines, a millionaire job exporter). Any Democrat would be better than either of them. But the DCCC is, naturally enough, leaning towards a corporate Democrat from the Max Baucus wing, while two family-oriented populists, state Representative Franke Wilmer and Dave Strohmaier, are also running.

We've been very impressed with Franke and she penned a guest post for us last week. This week we wrote to every Blue America donor in the state asking for feedback on the race. Responses are still coming in but there is plenty of enthusiasm for Franke. One of her supporters in Billings sent me this OpEd she wrote last year, Scientific Illiteracy Clouds Climate-Change Politics along with his endorsement. Franke wrote it nearly two years ago but it sounds like it was written today. It's certainly worth reading today.
The most disappointing thing about the small number of political leaders denying the science of climate change is that it reveals the extent of scientific illiteracy in America. Today big businesses that profit from our failure to halt CO2 emissions deny the science of climate change the same way that big tobacco challenged science that linked smoking to lung cancer decades ago.

Everyone with a high school education should know that skepticism-- research aimed at disproving findings substantiated by rigorously researched hypotheses-- is built into the process of scientific inquiry. The best science aims to disprove or “falsify” a strong hypothesis-- almost none of our scientific knowledge has a 100 percent probability of being true. Statistically, findings with probabilities above 95 percent are treated as knowledge that should be acted on as true.

Scientific knowledge where probabilities affect human health and safety is routinely used in engineering and medicine. Building safe bridges means knowing the probability that based on engineering science, a structure will safely hold a certain amount of weight. Medical patients are told their chances of surviving cancer with different treatment alternatives, none with 100 percent certainty of success.
Statistical probability
The International Panel on Climate Change concluded, with a statistical probability of 99 percent, that most of the earth’s land base will continue experiencing more warmer and fewer colder days. With statistical confidence of 90 percent the IPCC predicted increasing frequency of heat waves and heavy precipitation. Bozeman temperatures now average 7 degrees higher than in 1950, 26 glaciers remain of 150 that were in Glacier National Park in 1850, and pine beetles killed 17 million more trees on 2 million to 3 million acres.

Over 90 percent of the world’s scientists agree that we are experiencing effects of human-induced climate change, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences, American Geophysical Union, World Meteorological Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, World Federation of Public Health Associations, American Institute of Physics, and 69 other national and international science organizations. Only six scientific organizations take a noncommittal position. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists, once the lone dissenting scientific organization, rescinded its dissent in 2007 to become the sixth organization adopting a noncommittal position.

Deniers claim a scientific conspiracy but fail to identify any motive for climate researchers to mislead the public. It’s easy, on the other hand, to see a motive for denial-- short-term profit from continuing to produce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Most Montanans wouldn’t mind a slightly warmer climate, but that’s not what the science is about. It’s about the extinction of species that, according to Nobel Laureate Dr. Eric Chivian of the Harvard Medical School, may provide medically valuable knowledge, like treatments for peptic ulcer disease affecting 25 million Americans, end stage renal disease that kills 80,000 Americans a year, osteoporosis that kills 70,000 Americans a year, Type 2 diabetes killing a quarter of a million people each year, and arrhythmias.
90% of scientists agree
It’s about the economic and geo-strategic impact of regional climate change on agriculture and energy. It’s about migrations of species like bark beetles and their impact on forestry and wildfires. In impoverished countries it’s about more death and suffering from increases in malaria and water and air-borne diseases. It’s about increased radiation and corresponding increases in skin cancer and melanoma, particularly in higher altitudes.

Knowing that 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in men and 80 percent in women are caused by smoking, most of us don’t smoke and encourage our loved ones to quit. When 90 percent of scientists agree that the effects of climate change put us all at risk, and that there is a high probability that failure to change our behavior by 2015 will make those effects difficult or impossible to reverse, we should take that just as seriously as other scientific facts regarding risks to our health and lives that we routinely accept and, accordingly, change our behavior.

You can contribute to Franke Wilmer's campaign for Congress here.

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