“Now, I’m no scientist” and other red flags

When asked how he felt about climate change, House Speaker John Boehner said he was “not qualified to debate the science over climate change”. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “we can debate this forever…I’m not a scientist”. Gov. Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida (the US’s first casualty if sea levels rise) both eschew the role of scientist in their efforts to evade discussing it.

The irony is this: why are those so vehemently non-scientific politicians the most ardent skeptics or deniers about climate change?

The only appropriate followup to “I’m not a scientist” is “but here is what the scientists say on the matter”. However, it seems many politicians see the “I’m not a scientist” card as a free pass to say whatever nonsense they want about climate change.

Take Lousiana Governor and 2016 Republican hopeful Bobby Jindal. On the subject of climate change and our actions in response to it, he told ClimateProgress “I’d leave it to the scientists to decide how much, what it means, and what the consequences are.”

Fair enough. But when 97% of the scientists are telling you that climate change is human-caused, and that it poses a clear and present danger to Louisiana, the US, and the world, you can’t then turn around and tell the Heritage Foundation that climate change policy is just “a way for [liberals] to come in and make changes to our economy that they would otherwise want to make. It’s an excuse for the government to come in and try to tell us what kind of homes we live in, what kind of cars we drive, what kind of lifestyles we can enjoy. It’s an excuse for some who never liked free-market economies, who never liked rapid economic growth.”

Okay, Bobby Jindal is not a climate scientist. That much is clear. Not much of a political scientist, either.

Next up: Texas ex-Gov. Rick Perry, who made sure everyone at a Christian Science Monitor event knew that he was not a scientist before he said “I don’t believe that we have the settled science by any sense of the imagination to stop that kind of economic opportunity…Calling CO2 a pollutant is doing a disservice the country, and I believe a disservice to the world.”

Not enough? How about Senator Ted Cruz, who told Seth Myers of ‘Late Night’ that “Debates on [climate change] should follow science and should follow data.” Not two sentences later, he says that  “satellite data demonstrate for the last 17 years, there’s been zero warming. None whatsoever.”

Ted, Ted, Ted, Ted, Ted.

NASA, in conjunction with NOAA, reports that the 10 warmest years on record in modern history have been in the last 17 years, with 2014 being the top of the list as the hottest. If you’re going to pull figures out of the air, try to put some distance between that and your impassioned plea to bring facts back into the debate.

With the abundance of information available to college kids and congressmen alike through the internet, and the unequivocal call to action from very nearly every single reputable scientific organization in this country and across the globe, THERE IS NO EXCUSE to deny that climate change is happening. THERE IS NO EXCUSE to put millions of lives in jeopardy because you are afraid of “big brother” telling you that it’s a bad idea to pollute a river beyond recognition, or to release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere without any sort of filtration. If you had the common sense to figure that out for yourselves, “the man” wouldn’t need to get involved.

To these people asleep at the wheel of our country’s policy I say: you’re right; you are not scientists. You are also not public servants.

But the blame doesn’t rest solely with them. It rests, as much as I hate to say it, with us.

Until the average voter is engaged enough to call their politicians out on logical inconsistencies, this will keep happening. Until we are willing as voters to not accept the soundbytes of the pundits and politicians du jour, to look at the data (not spun on a blog of our choosing, the primary data conducted or assembled by the agencies who specialize in it), we will buy this deceit hook, line, and sinker. Don’t think that if you vote blue that you’re off the hook–it is still your civic duty to inform yourself.