Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 23, 2010

QUOTE OF THE DAY.... In March 2009, RNC Chairman Michael Steele guest-hosted Bill Bennett's nationally syndicated conservative radio show, and offered several insightful observations. Most notably, Steele insisted that evidence of global warming is "part of the cooling process." To help prove his point, the RNC chairman said, "Greenland, which is covered in ice, it was once called Greenland for a reason, right? Iceland, which is now green. Oh I love this."

Steele added, "Education is key."

We all had a good chuckle, but a year and a half later, Ron Johnson, the leading Republican Senate candidate in Wisconsin this year, is sharing a nearly identical thought.

[O]n the subject of climate change, Johnson reiterated his belief that the rise in Earth's temperature is caused by sunspots, not carbon dioxide emissions, and that it's all part of an ongoing natural cycle.

"There's a reason Greenland was called Greenland," he said. "It was actually green at one point in time. And it's been, since, it's a whole lot whiter now."

This was, by the way, in the same interview in which Johnson said all scientific evidence related to global warming is "lunacy," and its proponents are "crazy." Asked about his own perceptions, Johnson said global warming is likely the result of "sunspot activity," which doesn't make any sense.

As for the notion that there's "a reason Greenland was called Greenland," I'm not at all sure what, exactly, Ron Johnson is trying to say. This isn't my area of expertise -- the smart money says it's not Johnson's area of expertise, either -- but as I understand it, Greenland got its name as a matter of public relations. The goal was to make it more enticing to potential settlers concerned about its location. Its relation to the climate debate is dubious, at best.

I imagine that if the RNC hired a science advisor, she'd be the single most bored person in American politics.

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Bottom line, when someone is riffing off the etymology of a name, they really don't know the history and are just making shit up on the fly.

Posted by: Rathskeller on August 23, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

I imagine that if the RNC hired a science advisor, she'd be the single most bored person in American politics.

Or busiest, correcting and then re-correcting all the nonsense.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on August 23, 2010 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

I just spent 2 minutes on Wikipedia, and learned more about Greenland than that RNC clown will ever know... because Republicans don't look things up, they just declare BS and surround themselves with Yes Men.

Posted by: Rochester on August 23, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Yep, Erik the Red was a typical real estate promoter !

Posted by: H-Bob on August 23, 2010 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Greenland was PR from the Vikings. During the century around 1000AD, the Norse settled a few bits of coastline that were not covered by ice and started farming communities. They called it greenland to entice settlers. Early attempts to extend settlement southward foundered in NewFoundland due to extreme resistance from the Native American population. The Greenlander Norse probably still sailed over to Labrador to get wood, because it was easier than waiting for shipments from Europe.

The settlements grew to the point where Greenland actually was represented by a Roman Catholic bishop, but declined as climate deteriorated in the North Atlantic region from 1200AD onward. Read Jared Diamond's account in his book Collapse for the gruesome archeology of the settlers final years.

Posted by: troglodyte on August 23, 2010 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Well, no climate change policy is no climate change policy. I'll let historians (assuming they exist) debate what is the worst: to have no policy because one is a scientifically ignorant clown (i.e. the GOP), one is a coward (i.e. Democrats), or one is a corrupt whore for corporate interests (i.e. both major parties).

Posted by: square1 on August 23, 2010 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

This just another example of the Republican phobia of education.

-and rightly so; all teachers are not only far left operatives, polluting the minds of our youth, but are- wait for it- members of a dreaded cult called "The Union". . .

Posted by: DAY on August 23, 2010 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "I imagine that if the RNC hired a science advisor, she'd be the single most bored person in American politics."

The RNC doesn't need to hire a "science advisor" because Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel corporations already pay "conservative think tanks" to crank out all the phony-baloney pseudo-science and nonsensical drivel that GOP politicians need in order to lie to the public about global warming.

Ron Johnson didn't invent the "sunspots" BS by himself, you know. He was spoon-fed that line by the fossil fuel corporations' bought-and-paid-for liars, frauds and cranks who masquerade as "skeptics".

Posted by: SecularAnimist on August 23, 2010 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

but they have science advisors, those hapless folks just happen not to have any predilection for science or scientific background or use for science in general.

if I were science advisor the Repubs would burn me as a heretic.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on August 23, 2010 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

That mistake could have been avoided.

Posted by: Half Elf on August 23, 2010 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Johnson reiterated his belief that the rise in Earth's temperature is caused by sunspots, not carbon dioxide emissions, and that it's all part of an ongoing natural cycle.

So he "believes" the earth's temperature is indeed rising then? He must be a GOP science rhodes scholar, since most of them "believe" all the snow the U.S. received last winter was evidence of cooling.

Posted by: SWENXOF on August 23, 2010 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

What would you expect from an audio consultant? http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Ron%20Johnson%2C%20Audio%20Consultant

Posted by: akaBruno on August 23, 2010 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Polling tells us that Global Warming theory is now regarded skeptically by a majority of Americans. I know this first hand talking to some of my fellow liberals who unconsciously regurgitate right-wing talking points on science. When I suggest that science is probably a better guide to climate change than industry propagandists, they chuckle and change the subject to something we can agree on.

As authoritarian as right-wingers can be, it's remarkable how anti-authoritarian they are when it comes to actual experts. When lefties adopt anti-authoritarianism, I can almost understand it since that's our own form of victim-think. Something too difficult to understand? Then it must be a plot!

Posted by: walt on August 23, 2010 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Huh. No wonder the most naturally talented real estate agents are from Minnesota...

Posted by: Ohioan on August 23, 2010 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

walt wrote: "Polling tells us that Global Warming theory is now regarded skeptically by a majority of Americans."

That's not true:

... national surveys released during the last eight months have been interpreted as showing that fewer and fewer Americans believe that climate change is real, human-caused and threatening to people.

But a closer look at these polls and a new survey by my Political Psychology Research Group show just the opposite: huge majorities of Americans still believe the earth has been gradually warming as the result of human activity and want the government to institute regulations to stop it.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on August 23, 2010 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

The ice sheet on Greenland is about half a million years old, so I guess it was given its name by visiting aliens.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on August 23, 2010 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

"Yep, Erik the Red was a typical real estate promoter !"

No, Eric the Red was a commie subversive.

Posted by: Tom Dibble on August 23, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

"The ice sheet on Greenland is about half a million years old, so I guess it was given its name by visiting aliens."

Unfortunately, that's only "fact" to those who accept carbon dating and related science stuffs.

To the Ron Johnson fan club, the ice sheet on Greenland is only a few hundred years old, deposited that thickly by God to test our faith. Before the ice was laid down, it was a lush green paradise where man and dinosaurs played together peacefully. That's when Adam called it "Greenland". It's in the missing outtakes from Genesis.

Posted by: Tom Dibble on August 23, 2010 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Octavia's Blind Spots...

If it helps to understand these jackasses at all, I'm reading science fiction writer Octavia Butler's "Parable of the Sower" right now, in which she imagines a world gone to global warming hell...

Here's the "cool" part...
A dialogue between two of the young main characters:

Loren: "But things have changed a lot, and they'll change more. Things are always changing. This is just one of the big jumps instead of the little step-by-step changes that are easier to take. People have changed the climate of the world. Now they're waiting for the good old days to come back."
Joanne: "Your father says he doesn't believe people changed the climate in spite of what scientists say. He says only God could change the world in such an important way. Do you believe him?"
Loren: "My father has blind spots," I said. "He's the best person I know, but even he has blind spots."

Octavia got the vision right:

The world will go to hot hell, poverty and crime will increase multifold. And people will still be denying climate change with an evil chuckle or with genuine blind spots. You can count on that.

The real question here and now is: Will you allow Octavia's vision to occur? I suspect the answer is: Probably. Because stopping global warming is going to massive anger, more massive protests, and probably violence. And no one on the left wants to go there...


Posted by: koreyel on August 23, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Walt: As authoritarian as right-wingers can be, it's remarkable how anti-authoritarian they are when it comes to actual experts.

I've often wondered about this myself. But then I remember who authoritarians typically put in charge. God. Charismatic individuals who will say anything to persuade them. People who are anti-change. Rich people. Loud people. People who make them feel inferior. And people who make them feel like part of a superior group. Notice how scientist doesn't cut it. Scientists learn new things that bring about change. Therefore, they cannot lead.

Conservatives believe that god wants them to be wealthy. They believe that god wants whatever tribe they connect themselves with to be in charge. They believe that god has already told them everything they need to know about how the world works and what they will need to be able to rule it.

Notice none of this requires the consideration of any new evidence, unless that evidence comes from a source they've placed in authority already OR that evidence supports their worldview. The Bible doesn't mention Global Warming, so it can't possibly be true. God has allowed many men to get fabulously wealthy from finding and selling petroleum, so it can't possibly be bad. God allows believers to own nice cars, so pollution can't possibly be bad.

It's a pretty simple formula.

Posted by: chrenson on August 23, 2010 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

The Greenland naming story is correct.

And Iceland (the urban areas have a mean January temperature similar to NYC - about 32 degrees) is old Norse for island.

Posted by: hopeless pedant on August 23, 2010 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

IN related news, did you know they shot Wat Disney up into outer space? They call the planet Pluto for a reason, right? Stupid libs and your edumacation. Now shut up. Hannity's on.

aaaaaand scene!

Posted by: slappy magoo on August 23, 2010 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

No doubt the global warming deniers are crackpots however, there is no question there was a Viking farming community in Greenland about 1000 years ago when there was apparently a milder climate there than we see today.

Posted by: bfr on August 23, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

These guys should be required to read Jared Diamond's "Collapse" and take a written exam on the fate of the Viking colony in Greenland (which was entirely wiped out by starvation) before they shoot off their mouths on the subject again. Greenland may have enjoyed a brief period of milder climate in the middle ages, but it also serves as a perfect object lesson to people who assume that their environment is going to remain permanently the way it is despite any human activity.

Posted by: T-Rex on August 23, 2010 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

No doubt the global warming deniers are crackpots however, there is no question there was a Viking farming community in Greenland about 1000 years ago when there was apparently a milder climate there than we see today.

Greenland climate in the 21st century allows agriculture again. See
http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,434356,00.html

Quote:
For Greenland's fortunate new farmers, this means that they'll be able to repeat an important part of human history within a much shorter period of time. Their grandfathers were nomadic hunters in what was then a desolate, ice-covered wasteland, their fathers raised livestock and the current generation is plowing the fields. For farmer Egede, the only evidence of a bygone way of life can be found in the crocheted hunting scenes hanging on the wall next to a giant flat-screen TV in his living room. "Hunting is getting more and more difficult," he says. "The fjord hardly ever freezes over in the winter anymore; nowadays, snowmobiles would sink."

Posted by: troglodyte on August 23, 2010 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

The climatological spin story is partly true, but Greenland did undergo changes over recent millennia. See for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Greenland. There was also the Medieval Warm Period etc. In any case, various factors affect climate. One of them is the IR absorption by CO2. Increased CO2 has to make things warmer aside from other influences, it's just a question of "how much." Hence, anyone who calls the theory of AGW lunacy or a lie, is an idiot or dishonest.

Posted by: neil b on August 23, 2010 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

@neil b - yup.

As oppsed to the "post hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacy ("after this, therefore because of this"), the AGW deniers engage in a lot of "propter hoc et soils hoc" (because of this and only this"). Of course, reflexively ignoring any evidence that doesn't support your conclusion ("Fat horny Algore! Government grants! Hippie progressive scientists!") makes the second error ("All that's left are sunspots and the Milankovitch cycle, and we can't control those!") considerably more appealing when dealing with the undeniable fact that warming is happening.

Posted by: allium on August 23, 2010 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

What is Greenland today is part of Laurentia which in the Cambrian time was an independent continent on the equator. Might have actually been green back then.

Posted by: George on August 23, 2010 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans need to understand that Global Warming is just God's way of saying, "Fuck it! I'm outta here!"

Posted by: chrenson on August 23, 2010 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

The public relations thing is kind of right but Greenland really WAS Green when the Norse discovered it. It wasn't abandoned until about 1250s when the MWP in the area faded.

Oh and for the record, our average temperatures are frighteningly higher than the MWP's hot spots (because MWP did not cover the entire planet, just certain parts of certain places).

Posted by: MNPundit on August 23, 2010 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

Greenland was named Greenland as a PR stunt by Erik the Red (not to be confused with Erik E. of Redstate). Eric the Red was Leif Ericson's father. Leif Ericson (not to be confused with E Erikson of Redstate.org) called Newfoundland vineland to suggest that it was a great place to make wine.

That family shows the importance of audacity in politics.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on August 23, 2010 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

"There's a reason Greenland was called Greenland..."

And there's a reason why Republicans are called crazy.

Posted by: Bob M on August 23, 2010 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

And don't forget, all the global warming denialism is funded by the Koch brothers, two disgraceful human beings:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer

Posted by: Greg on August 23, 2010 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

Poor rich people shouldn't have taxes inhibiting their income, they're the engines of capitalism you know!

Posted by: Trollop on August 24, 2010 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Nigel, WTF!

Concetta

Posted by: gillion insurance on December 8, 2010 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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