Aug 9th 2013

We All Burn Because the GOP Wasted 30 Years

by Jeff Schweitzer

Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in marine biology/neurophysiology

If you voted for Reagan, Bush senior, or George Bush Jr. or any senator or congressman who denies the reality of climate change, you must take responsibility for all of its terrible consequences. You voted for candidates who openly dismissed environmental concern as a liberal plot. Ronald Regan thought trees caused air pollution. Reagan actually said in a 1979 radio address and then in 1981, "Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do." Or more elaborately, "Eighty percent of air pollution comes not from chimneys and auto exhaust pipes, but from plants and trees." To this day, conservatives defend this absurd claim as valid, perpetuating the confusion between carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide and the role of volatile organic compounds in creating smog. Under George Bush Jr., the White House buried the "National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change," which was produced by U.S. scientists not as a liberal plot but in accordance with the law using the best data and analytical techniques available. Some U.S. scientists resigned their jobs rather than give in to White House pressure to underreport global warming. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) claims climate change is a hoax. Rick Santorum (R-PA) says the concept of man-made climate change is both "patently absurd" and "part of a 'scheme' by the left to get more government regulation." Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) cites the bible's great flood to prove climate change, if real, is not man-made. The Utah House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning climate alarmists and disputing any scientific basis for global warming. The list goes on and on; anti-science has been a foundation of Republican platforms for decades now. Such willful and joyful embrace of ignorance has long been a hallmark of GOP politics, and has led us to the changing climate we see today.

In a democracy, voters must own the decisions of their representatives if voting to reelect politicians espousing toxic views. Republicans are now the proud owners of climate change. Their grandchildren will be delighted.

We Knew Then and We Know Now

The biggest heartbreak of a changing climate is that it did not need to happen. Twenty two years ago I was part of the United States delegation to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) when I was the Assistant Director for International Science and Technology in the White House. We know now, more than two decades later, that the predictions scientists made in the final report have proven extraordinarily accurate, and much on the conservative side. What strikes me all this time later is the tragedy of lost opportunity. Due to intense conservative opposition to science on the basis of nothing but faith, we have now passed the time in which we can stop the world from warming catastrophically even if we take drastic action. The costs of responding now will be exponentially greater than what they would have been if we acted in 1990. But we won't act even today because the House Science Committee is filled with members who believe climate change is a liberal hoax, along with the idea that the world is 4,000 years old and evolution is a conspiracy to denigrate religion. We are fighting battles that were decided hundreds of years ago. And we knew 20 years ago that climate change was real and caused by human activity; we knew that. But so-called skeptics refused to accept the conclusions of thousands of scientists from 166 countries -- because they suddenly became professional climatologists who knew more than all the global experts. Climate deniers are now no different from flat-earthers clinging to a belief at odds with reality, indifferent to overwhelming data and undeniable evidence contrary to that belief.

The world's conservatives are like a surgeon who is presented with a patient with all the classic symptoms of a heart attack. The evidence of a heart attack is overwhelming, but the doctor decides not to help the patient because it is possible the guy has gas. The patient could have been saved with a simple and inexpensive intervention; but due to the doctor's inaction the patient now incurs the costs of a long stay in intensive care, follow up physical therapy and a life-time of expensive drugs. All preventable if the doctor had just looked at the data in front of him. But the doctor heard the voice of god telling him to go play golf.

The Day Has Arrived

Climate change is here, and here to stay. A new report from the American Meteorological Society (a nasty den of liberal conspirators deviously disguised as neutral scientists) demonstrates the point in its summary of 2012: Arctic sea ice reached record lows; sea level hit an all-time high; and greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels (rather than from trees) broke all records. Last year was one of the top ten warmest years ever recorded; and the United States experienced its hottest year ever. These are not isolated statistics taken out of context; these are data points along a robust trend driving toward an ever-more rapidly changing climate. The science is clear, the conclusions robust: the earth is warming much faster than natural background rates, and that warming is caused by human activity. To deny that reality is no different than dismissing atoms as nature's building blocks, refuting that DNA contains genetic code, or claiming that energy does not equal mass times the square of the speed of light.

Faith is no substitute for objective reality when making public policy. A preacher might believe his skin is immune from the effects of heat; but put his hand over a hot flame and his flesh will burn, indifferent to his contrary belief. Climate change is as real as that flame; denying its existence will not diminish the very real impact.

Big Consequences

Due to conservative intransigence we will be witness to an extraordinary transformation. The threat of massive migrations unprecedented in human history, wars over dwindling or shifting resources, catastrophic storms and flooding and dramatic changes in agricultural production are not sufficient to concern climate deniers. So let's look at something closer to home and more immediate: the health effects of a changing climate.

• We will see (are seeing) an expanding range of tropical diseases and new strains of old diseases as they move north, more and more severe allergies as ragweed season grows longer, more mold and fungus in hotter more humid weather, change in rainfall patterns affecting food production, more extreme heat waves, and more frequent and severe droughts and longer and more intense fire season.

• As warmer weather moves north, disease vectors go along for the ride. Many of those vectors are insects, like mosquitoes, which are expanding their range to a backyard near you.

• Water-borne diseases will increase in frequency because warmer water expands the season and range of diseases-causing organisms.

• Rodents also proliferate in the growing temperate regions with milder wet winters; they themselves are disease carriers, and also are reservoirs for disease-carrying ticks.

• We can look forward to a host of ugly diseases, including: dengue fever, malaria, yellow fever, Hantavirus, leptospirosis, Japanese B Encephalitis, Elephantiasis, Lyme's disease, West Nile, Leishmaniasis, Chagas disease and Typhus.

• A long drought in the southwest has reduced predator populations, leading to an explosion of white-footed mice, which carry Hantavirus.

• New Yorkers first suffered an outbreak of West Nile virus in 1999, a new scourge for the city, which is now an annual threat.

• We will also get new strains of old diseases. A new strain of West Nile first detected in 2002, is moving quickly. The virus infected about 175,000 people in 2007, killing 117.

• An increase in carbon dioxide supercharges the growth of the most aggressive pollen producers, including hay-fever causing ragweed and the trees that give us the worst springtime allergies.

• With a warmer climate we will see an increase in the proliferation of mold and fungus, the spores of which love warmer temperatures and higher levels of carbon dioxide.

• Severe droughts in Africa lead to massive dust storms from that continent's expanding deserts. Those clouds travel across the Atlantic and into the lungs of unsuspecting citizens in Florida, who have seen a 20-fold rise in asthma in the past several decades.

• Changing weather patterns will bring floods to some areas and more severe droughts to others, a longer and more extreme fire season, and changes to agricultural production, all of which are direct threats to human health.

So when grandma gets malaria, or comes down with a bad case of West Nile, write a letter of thanks to your local Republican representative.

Conservatives have on their shoulders a world that will change dramatically because they prevented us from acting when we had the chance. We knew. We knew 20 years ago and had a good idea even 30 years past; you can imagine the frustration in watching this unfold knowing that opposition to the scientific conclusion was not due to questions about the data but due to ideology, religious fanaticism and right wing lunacy. Irrationality, disdain for the truth, contempt for science, and the warm embrace of willful ignorance are symptoms of the same malady, a conservative movement sick with extremism borne from faith-based reasoning. And the world burns as a result.

Published first in the Huffington Post.

Facts & Arts is a platform for owners of high quality content to distribute their content to a worldwide audience.

Facts & Arts' objective is to enhance the distribution of individual owners' content by combining various types of high quality content that can be assumed to interest the same audience. The thinking is that in this manner the individual pieces of content on Facts & Arts support the distribution of one another.

If you have fitting written material, classical music or videos; or if you would like to become one of our regular columnists, a book reviewer or music reviewer; or if you wish to market or broadcast a live event through Facts & Arts, please contact us at


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.



Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Nov 30th 2021
EXTRACT: "So it could well be that, despite the faster spread of the infection, its ultimate health, social and economic impact proves negligible. We simply do not know at this point. But detecting more uncertainty than before, financial markets have reacted with panic. For example, the S&P500 tumbled 2.3% on Friday November 26 only to rise 1.1% on Monday November 29. Most markets gave up between 2% and 4%, which is a pretty substantial one-day fall."
Nov 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "Momentous changes are casting a long shadow on China. The country’s political system will soon undergo a profound reform, pending final approval (a quasi-formality) at next year’s congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). President Xi Jinping, the Party chairman and the “navigator” of the country, has decided on a new course, abandoning the principle of collective leadership. Xi is leading China away from the path taken by Deng Xiaoping after the terror of the Cultural Revolution, and back toward a system of absolute rule by one person without term limits, as under Mao Zedong."
Nov 25th 2021
EXTRACTS: "”The biggest disappointment in Glasgow was the last-minute watering down of the proposed (and widely supported) agreement to “phase out” the use of coal in energy production. With India providing political cover for China in vetoing this language, the final conference proposal was to “phase down” coal”. ---- “China accounts for more than half of the world’s coal consumption, and has the largest amount of coal-fired generating capacity under construction. Pressed about why his country would not do more in Glasgow to help save the planet, China’s chief negotiator pointed to the commitments in the Communist Party of China’s current Five-Year Plan. So, our future now depends on the CPC’s program. The tragedy for the world is that the Party cannot be phased down, much less phased out, despite the fact that it is a huge threat to the future of all of us.” ------ “To save the planet, robust democratic leadership must be phased up – not phased down, let alone phased out. Rather than merely keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best, we should start by calling out the appalling behavior of dictatorships such as China and Russia.”
Nov 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The transitory inflation debate in the United States is over. The upsurge in US inflation has turned into something far worse than the Federal Reserve expected. Perpetually optimistic financial markets are taking this largely in stride. The Fed is widely presumed to have both the wisdom and the firepower to keep underlying inflation in check. That remains to be seen."
Nov 14th 2021
EXTRACT: "S&P projects that companies are planning to install 44 gigawatts of new solar in 2022. The year 2020, despite the onset of the pandemic, saw a record-breaking 19 gigawatts of new solar capacity installed in the U.S. So given the bids out there already, it appears that in 2022 solar installers will more than double their best year ever so far. The U.S. currently has 100 gigawatts of solar electricity-generating capacity, so in just one year we are poised to add nearly 50% of our current total. A gigawatt of power can provide electricity to about 750,000 homes. So the 44 new gigawatts we’ll put in next year have a nameplate capacity that would under ideal conditions allow them to power 33 million homes." ----- "Not only is there a lot of good news on the green energy front but there is good news in the bad news for fossil fuels. S&P finds that coal plants are being retired way before the utilities had expected. Some 29 gigawatts of coal retirements are expected from 2020 through 2025. "
Nov 3rd 2021
EXTRACT: "Zemmour’s way of thinking stems from a tradition going back to the French Revolution of 1789. Catholic conservatives and right-wing intellectuals, who hated the secular republic that emerged from the revolution, have long fulminated against liberals, cosmopolitans, immigrants, and other enemies of their idea of a society based on ethnic purity, obedience to the church, and family values. They were almost invariably anti-Semitic. When Jewish army Captain Alfred Dreyfus was falsely accused of betraying his country in the notorious scandal of the 1890s, they were on the side of Dreyfus’s accusers. ---- Germany’s invasion of France in 1940 gave reactionaries of this kind the chance to form a French puppet-government in Vichy. Zemmour has had kind things to say about the Vichy regime. He also has expressed some doubt about the innocence of Dreyfus. ---- None of these views would be surprising if they came from a far-right agitator like Jean-Marie Le Pen. But Zemmour is the son of Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Algeria who lived among the Muslim Berbers."
Oct 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "performed strongly in last month’s parliamentary and regional elections. Officially, Communist Party candidates took 18.9% of the popular vote for the State Duma (parliament), compared to nearly 49.8% for the Kremlin’s United Russia party. But the Communists refused to recognize the results, insisting that the vote was rigged. And, indeed, some experts estimate that they should have gotten around 30% of the vote, with United Russia taking about 35%."
Oct 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Powell was charismatic in the true sense of the term. Nowadays, this description is too often used to indicate an ability to attract supporters or generate celebrity interest. Internet lists of those who are regarded as charismatic include characters as varied as Adolf Hitler, Bono, Donald Trump, George Clooney, and Rihanna. But the ancient Greeks and Saint Paul used “charisma” to describe values-based leadership infused with a charm capable of inspiring devotion. The Greeks believed that this quality was a gift of grace, while Christian theology regarded it as a power given by the Holy Spirit."
Oct 17th 2021
EXTRACTS: "But property-sector woes are not the only economic danger China faces in 2021-22. The Chinese government’s mounting crackdown on the country’s burgeoning tech sector may pose an even greater threat." ---- "According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, the share of Chinese urban employment supported by private enterprises more than quadrupled between 1995 and 2018, from just 18% to 87%. The share of exports generated by the private sector more than doubled over the same period, from 34% to 88%. And private-sector fixed-asset investment jumped from 42% to 65% of the total. The message in the data is clear: clamping down on the private sector and threatening innovators is not the way to ensure sustained rapid growth. Chinese entrepreneurs can read the writing on the wall. They understand that their political and regulatory room to maneuver is shrinking, and that the balance has shifted in favor of state-owned firms and public officials. And they understand that this uneasy atmosphere is likely to persist."
Oct 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "We designed a programme that incorporated data from over 300 million buildings and analysed 130 million km² of land – almost the entire land surface area of the planet. This estimated how much energy could be produced from the 0.2 million km² of rooftops present on that land, an area roughly the same size as the UK."
Oct 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "Britain in the 1950s was wedded to the US, acting as a partner rather than leading the charge. Now, while the UK continues to support the US, the influence it has seems negligible. While it may bring comfort to the UK to feel it is a partner to a superpower, being its stooge or subordinate is an unpleasant place to be, no matter how much you tell yourself it values your opinion."
Oct 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "That was then. Now, the Chinese government has doubled down, with President Xi Jinping throwing the full force of his power into a “common prosperity” campaign aimed at addressing inequalities of income and wealth. Moreover, the regulatory net has been broadened, not just to ban cryptocurrencies, but also to become an instrument of social engineering, with the government adding e-cigarettes, business drinking, and celebrity fan culture to its ever-lengthening list of bad social habits. All this only compounds the concerns I raised two months ago. The new dual thrust of Chinese policy – redistribution plus re-regulation – strikes at the heart of the market-based “reform and opening up” that have underpinned China’s growth miracle since the days of Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s. It will subdue the entrepreneurial activity that has been so important in powering China’s dynamic private sector, with lasting consequences for the next, innovations-driven, phase of Chinese economic development. Without animal spirits, the case for indigenous innovation is in tatters."
Oct 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Wartime nostalgia plays an important part in Britain’s instinctive fondness for the special relationship. Like former Prime Minister Tony Blair in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, some British politicians might believe that the United Kingdom is the only European country with serious armed forces and the political will to use them. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, like Blair before him, seems to fancy himself a modern-day Churchill. Unfortunately (or not), Britain’s military power is insignificant compared to what Churchill could command in 1944. Wartime nostalgia has drawn Britain into several foolish American wars, which other European countries were wise to avoid."
Sep 24th 2021
EXTRACTS: "We have found that 47 million American adults – nearly 1 in 5 – agree with the statement that “the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” Of those, 21 million also agree that “use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency.” Our survey found that many of these 21 million people with insurrectionist sentiments have the capacity for violent mobilization. At least 7 million of them already own a gun, and at least 3 million have served in the U.S. military and so have lethal skills. Of those 21 million, 6 million said they supported right-wing militias and extremist groups, and 1 million said they are themselves or personally know a member of such a group, including the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys." ----- "..... the Jan. 6 insurrection represents a far more mainstream movement than earlier instances of right-wing extremism across the country. Those events, mostly limited to white supremacist and militia groups, saw more than 100 individuals arrested from 2015 to 2020. But just 14% of those arrested for their actions on Jan. 6 are members of those groups. More than half are business owners or middle-aged white-collar professionals, and only 7% are unemployed."
Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "That long path, though, has from the start had within it one fundamental flaw. If we are to make sense of wider global trends in insecurity, we have to recognise that in all the analysis around the 9/11 anniversary there lies the belief that the main security concern must be with an extreme version of Islam. It may seem a reasonable mistake, given the impact of the wars, but it still misses the point. The war on terror is better seen as one part of a global trend which goes well beyond a single religious tradition – a slow but steady move towards revolts from the margins."
Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACTS: "Is it not extraordinary that in a country that claims to be as enlightened and advanced as ours, the combined wealth of three individuals – Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and investor Warren Buffett – exceeds the total wealth of the bottom half of Americans? One has to return to the days of the pharaohs of Egypt to find a parallel to the extreme wealth inequality that we see in in America today." ...... "The top tax rate remained above 90 percent through the 1950s and did not dip below 70 percent until 1981. At no point during the decades that saw America’s greatest economic growth did the tax on the wealthy drop below 70 percent. Today it is somewhere around 37 percent. President Biden’s American Families Plan would increase the top tax rate to 39.6 percent – a fairly modest alteration, albeit in the right direction. It is true that there was a time when the top marginal tax was even lower than it is today: in the years leading up to the Great Depression it hovered around 25 percent."
Sep 7th 2021
EXTRACT: "But Biden can’t be blamed for the rise of the Taliban, or the fragile state of a country that has seen far too many wars and invasions. The US should not have been there in the first place, but that is a lesson that great powers never seem to learn."
Sep 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "The world is only starting to grapple with how profound the artificial-intelligence revolution will be. AI technologies will create waves of progress in critical infrastructure, commerce, transportation, health, education, financial markets, food production, and environmental sustainability. Successful adoption of AI will drive economies, reshape societies, and determine which countries set the rules for the coming century." ----- "AI will reorganize the world and change the course of human history. The democratic world must lead that process."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Although the Fed is considering tapering its quantitative easing (QE), it will likely remain dovish and behind the curve overall. Like most central banks, it has been lured into a “debt trap” by the surge in private and public liabilities (as a share of GDP) in recent years. Even if inflation stays higher than targeted, exiting QE too soon could cause bond, credit, and stock markets to crash. That would subject the economy to a hard landing, potentially forcing the Fed to reverse itself and resume QE." ---- "After all, that is what happened between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, following the Fed’s previous attempt to raise rates and roll back QE."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Today’s economic challenges are certainly solvable, and there is no reason why inflation should have to spike."