Posted by: ericgrimsrud | February 25, 2013

Politicians and their personal views on climate change

Should politicians be allowed to rely on their own personal opinions on the subject of climate change? While it is clear that ordinary individuals and even newspaper editors have no obligation to the public to go beyond their own personal views on this topic, do government officials have that obligation? I believe they do.

Government officials, unlike ordinary citizens, are invested with the power and responsibility to prevent or minimize harm to the people they serve. And just as that is a point of fact, another fact is that mainstream scientists of our country and all of our official scientific organizations have concluded that the constituents our politicians serve are causing or contributing to the global warming problem. Thus, government officials have much more responsibility than the average citizen to understand and represent the state of climate change science as explained to them by our country’s official scientific organizations. So when they are put on notice with respect to our country’s best scientific evidence, should they be allowed to use their own contrarian private opinions on climate science as a justification for not taking action?

I don’t think so. Unlike almost all other endeavors in life, there is only one correct opinion on any topic in all fields of science. That is because Mother Nature does things only one way – Her way. The fields of science exist in order to find out what Her way is. If we come up with differing opinions on any given scientific topic only one of them can be correct. Knowing this, President Lincoln created the National Academy of Sciences in 1863 in order to have our country’s top scientists evaluate all of the science available on any given topic of national importance and provide the government with their assessments of it.

Nevertheless and as we all know, many politicians still tend justify their actions on the subject of climate change based on their own uniquely personal views of the subject. Both local and national examples of this abound. Thus, whenever this occurs, is it not the responsibility of the citizens and media of our country, at the very least, to demand that these politicians explain their contrarian views and answer the following sort of questions.

1. What specific scientific references and sources do you rely upon to conclude there is still a serious scientific dispute going on about whether or not human actions are causing dangerous climate change?

2. For what reasons do you disregard the likelihood that humans are causing dangerous climate change as has been concluded by our National Academy of Sciences, all of our major scientific organizations, and about 97 percent of the individual scientists who do peer-reviewed research every day on the subject of climate change?

3. If you claim that the US should not adopt climate change policies because of the ever present uncertainties that accompany all physical systems of any complexity, are you arguing that no action on climate change should be taken until there are no longer any uncertainties?

4. Do you think it fair and appropriate to ask those who continue to emit greenhouse gases at levels that may be dangerous to assume the burden of proof that their actions are safe?

5. Do you encourage the same lack of respect for the professional scientific organizations of our country in our public schools that you have chosen to exhibit in your own service to the public?

Thus, I encourage the media throughout the USA and elsewhere to put questions such as these to politicians who do not accept the prevailing consensus scientific view of our country on climate change – and then publish those responses. Given the extreme importance of this issue, the public deserves to see both the wisdom and folly behind those views, do they not? Who knows, the exercise might even give those politicians something to think about.

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