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Tilting at Windmills

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October 21, 2010

'HOAX'.... Literally every Republican running for the U.S. Senate this year has a problem with climate science, but some are clearly more outrageous than others. All of them reject the evidence, but some are at least willing to concede climbing global temperatures, while balking at the causes.

But even within a group of global warming deniers, this is some pretty extreme stuff.

Colorado Republican Senate nominee Ken Buck has made his first public comments since Sunday, when he drew headlines for comparing being gay to alcoholism on Meet The Press. In a meeting with supporters Wednesday, Buck tried to put that comment behind him, and urged his backers to stay focused on the economy. Then he said global warming is a big ol' hoax.

The Coloradoan reports that after the meeting with supporters in Fort Collins, CO, Buck was heading to a fundraiser featuring Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK).

"Sen. Inhofe was the first person to stand up and say this global warming is the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated," Buck told The Coloradoan. "The evidence just keeps supporting his view, and more and more people's view, of what's going on."

Now, it's unnerving enough for right-wing candidates to simply reject science and reason out of hand, but once we get to the territory of "the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated," we're into some truly mind-numbing nonsense.

That his remarks come the same week as data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showing 2010 to be tied for "the warmest combined land and ocean surface temperature on record," makes it all the more ridiculous.

I'm trying to imagine the scenario that exists in Buck's mind. If he merely said the evidence is "inconclusive" or that he believes there's competing data pointing in another direction, he'd merely be dangerously wrong. But Buck actually endorsed the idea of an elaborate "hoax" -- suggesting he thinks there's an international conspiracy involving countless governments, agencies, scientists, and universities, all of which have gotten together, in secret, to fool the entire planet about climate trends, for some unknown reason.

There's literally no evidence of such a convoluted conspiracy -- on the contrary, the evidence actually says global warming is real -- but for Buck and Inhofe, it seems plausible anyway.

I haven't been to Colorado in many years, but is this the sort of thing that plays well? A recent report from the National Conference of State Legislatures estimated that Colorado is likely to incur annually "more than $1 billion in losses due to impacts on tourism, forestry, water resources and human health from a predicted drier, warmer climate."

Are locals prepared to risk a cataclysm based on Buck's notion of a "hoax"?

Steve Benen 2:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (46)

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The Party of Stupid.

Posted by: steve on October 21, 2010 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "I'm trying to imagine the scenario that exists in Buck's mind."

It's not hard to imagine the scenario: huge campaign contributions (a.k.a. "independent expenditures") from Koch Industries' front groups, and lots of votes from Koch Industries' brainwashed Tea Party zombies.

In other words, Buck wants to get in on the lucrative game of being a bought-and-paid-for stooge for the most destructive, ruthless, relentless, rapacious, reactionary corporate oligarchs in the world.

Just like his hero Inhofe.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 21, 2010 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

All those greedy, lying scientists are in the pocket of Big Solar.

Posted by: Cooper on October 21, 2010 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

How much coal or other hydrocarbon energy sources are found in Colorado? I suspect the answer to that question will explain Buck's outrageous statements.

Posted by: danimal on October 21, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote, "Are locals prepared to risk a cataclysm based on Buck's notion of a "hoax"?"

ACK! Cataclysm = sudden violent event affecting earth.

This is the kind of horrible rhetoric that makes environmentalists sound like Chicken Little. Climate change won't be sudden and it won't be violent. It may eventually be extremely disruptive but let's be careful with the descriptors so as not to look like idiots.

Posted by: uber_snotling on October 21, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Climate models show a steady reduction in Colorado's snowpack over the next 30 years. Denver depends directly on this resource for its drinking water. If we lived in a rational world, people would be clamoring for solutions. But we don't. Ken Buck is evidence of a delusion that is unfortunate as it is widespread.

Posted by: walt on October 21, 2010 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Don't these people have children. Don't they care whether they live in misery or not. If the answers to those questions are that they don't care about anything but personal gain then they truly are evil.

Posted by: Gandalf on October 21, 2010 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

These people always assume that they and their families will come out on top no matter what happens to the rest of the world. And they may be right - at least for awhile. Eventually, though, the disruptions caused by mass migrations, food shortages, epidemics, etc might even find their way to white guys in Colorado.

Posted by: Virginia on October 21, 2010 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

The world has always been filled with a fair share of the delusional. What is far more disturbing is the number of climate change believers, including those in the White House, who feel the need to "debate" the crazies and treat their delusional views as worthy of respect.

Buck and Inhofe should be openly mocked and dismissed. Democrats should be ramming -- yes, ramming! -- a climate change bill thorough Congress. The media should be filled with Democratic quotes along the lines of "A precondition for contributing to the solution is an admission that there is a problem. We are not going to delay action in an effort to humor those who would prefer to believe in wild conspiracy theories."

Posted by: square1 on October 21, 2010 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

"the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated,"
And all these years I thought the greatest hoax was Christianity.

Posted by: ATXDem on October 21, 2010 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Don't live there but visit often (once lived there briefly). Half the Coloradans care and are disgusted, the other half a mix of Focus on the Family tools and oddball western Libertarians. I suspect Bennet will win as the tide has been turning toward the sane half for the last few years. Without snow, or dwindling snow, or shorter season of snow the tourism will dry up and a large part of the recreational beauty of living there will also decay. Some see it, some just deny it. Here the North East, the ski season seems to have shifted. Rarely is their Christmas snow in Vt., rarely is it cold enough to make decent Christmas snow. The resorts lose Christmas and then ML King day and they are screwed. The March snow has been very good but that doesn't matter, no money in it.

Posted by: KK on October 21, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

uber_snotling wrote: "Climate change won't be sudden and it won't be violent."

Extreme weather events caused by anthropogenic global warming and consequent climate change are indeed sudden and violent.

Just ask the folks who saw entire towns swept away by the floods in Pakistan. There will be more and more such "sudden and violent" events as time goes on.

Of course, the continent-wide megadroughts that will cause the collapse of agriculture and world-wide famine will not be "violent", but a complete crop failure across North America could happen any year now, and that might be regarded as "sudden".

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was probably considered a relatively "sudden" development at the time, and the effects of global warming will be far more widespread, far more prolonged, and far worse.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 21, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

walt wrote: "Ken Buck is evidence of a delusion that is unfortunate as it is widespread."

He isn't "deluded". He is a bought-and-paid-for corporate stooge, reading from the fossil fuel corporation-funded script that's been handed to him, saying whatever he's been paid to say. He neither knows nor cares whether any of it is true. It's not his job to know what is true. It's his job to regurgitate the Koch Brothers propaganda to weak-minded, ignorant, mean-spirited, gullible Tea Party dupes.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 21, 2010 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it easier to be a Republican? Just like it is easier to eat unhealthy and continue gaining weight than it is to maintain a healthy diet and exercise. It is easier to smoke cigarettes and affect your lungs than it is to quit smoking.

It is the same with being a Republican. It is easier to deny climate change than it would be to do something about it. It's easier to be a Republican because your base won't bother to fact-check anything you've said. All you have to do is blame the "lamestream media" and they will forgive you. I assume it is easier to just lie on behalf of big corporations and rake in the dough.

I was taught it is always more difficult to do the right thing. I haven't always, but as I've gotten older, it only makes sense to do the right thing. The irony here is, these are supposed to be adults we are talking about. People that are supposed to be able to think for themselves. People that love their independence, yet are too lazy to do research and formulate their own opinions.

It's easier to let someone else do the thinking for you when all you have to do is just repeat it. What a life!

BTW: I feel like sort of a hypocrite because I let my wife do all the banking. I just make the money.

Posted by: mmw on October 21, 2010 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose they figure because much of Colorado is high up, even if the ice caps DO melt, why then they'll all just be closer to the beach!!

another case of republican magical thinking

Posted by: fourlegsgood on October 21, 2010 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Remember back in the 80s when 'V' came out and the crypto-Nazi alien Visitors stirred up a pogrom against 'scientists' by claiming that they were all part of a global conspiracy that had concealed cures for diseases because they made money treating them?

At the time even a teenager like me thought "That's weak. There's no way people could be so stupid they'd fall for something as ridiculous as that."

I guess teenagers really aren't the best judge of what's possible and what's not.

Posted by: Tony J on October 21, 2010 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

It is worth noting that, if Obama really gave a shit, the smartest strategy would have been to have made an aggressive push for a robust international treaty at Copenhagen in 2009. Then, armed with a negotiated agreement, Obama could have given a "take-it-or-leave it" deal to ostensibly sane Republicans like Lindsey Graham. Instead, the U.S. actively impeded progress on a serious climate change agreement.

And Inhofe and Buck were not in Denmark at the time.

Posted by: square1 on October 21, 2010 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

A scientific prediction that started even before the seminal overview by Svante Arrhenius in *1896* is not a hoax ... That is so clear (regardless of whether the forcing factor is high enough to make things difficult, etc.) that only a fraud or moron would call it a hoax.

Posted by: Neil B on October 21, 2010 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Colorado is the state where some of the most influential scientists on global warming live and work. NOAA and NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) both have major laboratories in Boulder. It's also a big place for alternative energy development and environmental concern. But on the other hand it's also the home of Focus on the Family.

Posted by: ceilidth on October 21, 2010 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

The Party of Stupid.

Who better to govern Idiot America?


Posted by: Zorro on October 21, 2010 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist wrote, "Extreme weather events caused by anthropogenic global warming and consequent climate change are indeed sudden and violent."

Agreed. But you are conflating climate change and extreme weather events which are not the same thing. Extreme weather event frequency may increase, but it is not climate change.

My point is that climate change is SLOW, decades and centuries. It is not cataclysmic.

Posted by: uber_snotling on October 21, 2010 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

This reminds me of Galileo's struggle against an army of ignorant and corrupt dingbats.

I have read a little about the acceptance of the theory of relativity. Many astronomers and physicists privately or publicly rejected Einstein's conclusions as late as the 1930s, including both Michelson and Morley of the Michelson-Morley experiment. It didn't matter that most top physicists, as well as some sharp non-physicists, immediately understood the correctness of Einstein's conclusions and the weaknesses in the arguments against them: heated debates continued for decades, in which opponents consistently offered arguments with glaring or subtle flaws.

I think that our education tends to oversimplify the history of scientific thought, underemphasizing the point made by Planck:

"A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

Throw in massive monetary enticements to support the wrong side, and weak men, of a species naturally desiring to cling to the "truths" of their youth, cannot resist supporting the wrong side as long as they breathe.

I believe we're in for another 25 years of this, because the boomers, so large in number, contain a healthy percentage of deniers. Few people over age 45 today will ever be swayed: we will simply have to wait until they all die to be rid of them.

Posted by: HydroCabron on October 21, 2010 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

I'm beginning to feel deprived because the Republican Senate candidate in my state (Washington) is just your run-of-the-mill corporatist weenie scumbag and not one of these colorful raving absolute lunatics like they have in Colorado, Nevada, Kentucky, Delaware, etc. On the other hand, I don't have to worry about one of them actually being MY Senator.

Posted by: biggerbox on October 21, 2010 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

C'mon, everybody knows that global climate change isn't caused by particulate matter and gases emitted into the air by a whole variety of man-made industrial activities. Nope, it's the hot, immoral product of gay sex.

Posted by: bluestatedon on October 21, 2010 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

So what is George Will going to say now that his baseline year of 1998 has been tied by a year just as warm?

Posted by: wordtypist on October 21, 2010 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

"...it's the hot, immoral product of gay sex."

and I am proud to be contributing to the warming of the climate. Only when we have all our clothes off are we are truly all equal.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on October 21, 2010 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

uber_snotling wrote: "But you are conflating climate change and extreme weather events which are not the same thing. Extreme weather event frequency may increase, but it is not climate change."

With all due respect, that falls into the category of "not even wrong". It's completely incoherent.

Of course the frequency of extreme weather events "is" climate change. "Climate" is nothing but "weather" over an extended period of time.

And a drastic increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events resulting from anthropogenic global warming is not only one of the most robust predictions of climate science, it is already being observed all over the world.

From the World Meteorological Organization:

Since 1993, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), through the Commission for Climatology and in cooperation with its Members, has issued annual statements on the status of the global climate to provide credible scientific information on climate and its variability. The statement describes the climatic conditions, including extreme weather events and provides a historical perspective on the variability and trends that have occurred since the nineteenth century. The statements complement the periodic assessments of the WMO/United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The information contained in the statement enhances our scientific understanding of the climate variability and the associated impacts which affects the well being, properties and lives of people around the world.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 21, 2010 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

an international conspiracy involving countless governments, agencies, scientists, and universities... for some unknown reason.

And yet, for a certain kind of person that conspiracy is plausible, while a conspiracy of large corporations looking to make money as much money as they possibly can is utterly fantastic.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on October 21, 2010 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

While there is a climate change skeptic at Colorado State Univ., some of the key fundamental insights into past climates were made at UC Boulder, and NCAR at Boulder is one of the leading groups in the world on this. Of course, those are probably all gay scientists in Boulder who spend their time choosing to get the shit beat out of them in order to persuade kids to be gay ...

Hey. Here is an idea. Go ahead and elect this fucking moron, Colorado. Then, lets defund ALL climate science to ALL universities in CO, AND lets move NCAR to, I don't know, Massachusetts, or someplace where the state has a clue... Let's just cut all federal climate related work in CO; UT, ID, etc., and concentrate it where people have a clue.

Posted by: bigutah on October 21, 2010 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

@ Secular Brilliantly said - "It's not his job to know what is true. It's his job to regurgitate the Koch Brothers propaganda to weak-minded, ignorant, mean-spirited, gullible Tea Party dupes." Or, 'Hate sells. Tea Partiers buy.'

@ uber - I have been working on climate change issues for several years, and your definition of "climate change" does not fit with how most policy analysts approach the issue. Climate change, in my understanding, is not simply global changes in temperature but it is the changes in weather patterns and increases in severity of weather events that is a result of the chemical changes due to GHG emissions. Higher intensity tropical storms, drought and flooding due to sea level rise ARE climate change. People who live in Pakistan or an island in the South China Sea subject to typhoons and sea level rise might be more disposed to use the term cataclysm.

Posted by: Wally on October 21, 2010 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Very true -- I worked with a professor who remembered those heated debates about Relativity. What was ironic was that Einstein himself, for many years, refused to believe Quantum Mechanics.

Posted by: JWK on October 21, 2010 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

there's an international conspiracy involving countless governments, agencies, scientists, and universities, all of which have gotten together, in secret, to fool the entire planet about climate trends, for some unknown reason.

The reason that I most often see cited by the loonies who write in to the local paper is: those scientists are living high on the hog off all that grant money they get to study "climate change". They see it as more of a scam than a hoax, i.e., scientists claim that climate change is a serious threat to humanity and ask for funding to study this deadly problem.

Of course, none of these idiots ever provide any examples of any wealthy scientists who are raking in dollars right and left as part of this scam. In fact, all of the scientists that I know who are working in climate science-related fields tend to be underpaid. Go figure.

Posted by: josef on October 21, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

The greatest hoax is that the Republican Party is a party for the majority.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on October 21, 2010 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

My point is that climate change is SLOW, decades and centuries. It is not cataclysmic.

This isn't even true. The world's climate is composed of a myriad of subsystems, many of which are self-regulating and generally stable.

It is a fundamental error to thing of the Earth's climate like you think of the temperature in a living room. We cannot simply turn the heat down if it gets too hot or turn it up if it gets too cold.

Instead, what we have seen is that we have added more and more and more and more heat into the Earth's climate systems and, despite the changes that have already occurred, the changes have been relatively minor. However, at a certain point, likely in the near future, there will be sudden, and effectively irreversible "phase shifts" in many of the dynamic climatological systems: e.g., relatively sudden changes in large ocean currents, runaway releases of methane gas trapped in permafrost layers, rapid increases in ocean toxicity, declining plant (carbon sink) growth.

Many people, even those who believe in science and fear climate change, do not realize that, even if we were to stop all carbon emissions, it would take years for the carbon in the atmosphere to stop increasing and begin to decline.

What is almost a certainty is that if we wait until truly catastrophic climate change begins to occur, then it will be too late to prevent runaway feedback loops.

Posted by: square1 on October 21, 2010 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

square1 @ 4:18 - excellent summary, clear and precise. Thank you.

Posted by: Athena on October 21, 2010 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Mr. Buck, I believe that God is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated."

Posted by: chrenson on October 21, 2010 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Many very credible scientists are now thinking we have understated the rate of change that could occur. NO ONE can make a statement of "climate change is gradual", because our precision of evaluating past climate changes lacks precision of dating things. However, geologic records abound with very RAPID changes.

What we DO know is:

- Last ice age was 8° C colder than now [wooly mammoths, etc]
- Most climate modelers, ecologists, hydrologists, etc., figure that anything above 3 deg C from what we have now is totally uncharted waters.
- THus, we basically have 5-7 ° C range to have a climate like ours now.
- We have 1°C already coming - ie, if we stopped all activity today, the earth's average climate would warm 1°C. That will bring us to 2° C increase already
- The "best case" ie, likely emissions scenario is 550 ppm; we are at 390 now, increasing by 2-4 ppm / year. This rate is 7 to 8 times FASTER than the onset of the industrial revolution of 1700-1850
- MANY very credible climate types are truly wondering about moving the earth's climate to a new, very different state, by some actor - opening of the Arctic sea, for exa., that would be very different, very fast, and in ways that will affect humans, with warming > 3°C via a "tipping point"

So, no. Climates do not always take a long time to change.

Posted by: bigutah on October 21, 2010 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

"there's an international conspiracy involving countless governments, agencies, scientists, and universities, all of which have gotten together, in secret, to fool the entire planet about climate trends, for some unknown reason."

And why are they doing this? To bring about Socialism, that's why!

See? It all makes sense!

Posted by: Daniel Kim on October 21, 2010 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Add in the dislocating and poverty producing effects of Peak Oil and it seems evident that the human race is indeed headed for a cataclysm. Any delay in transitioning the world's economic system into renewable energy sources will only magnify the effects. Geologic energy sources are finite and are currently being depleted at staggering and unsustainable rates. There are more reasons than climate change to alter our thinking about energy use.

Posted by: REN on October 21, 2010 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

What REN said. Even if Global Climate Change wasn't happening, wouldn't it make sense that we should: a] wean ourselves off foreign oil for security reasons; b] work toward a cleaner environment for health reasons; and c] work to replace fossil fuels as the energy that drives the world so when we run out of oil, the whole planet doesn't go to shit?

There's only one excuse for denying Global Warming, whether you're a Senator or a truck driver — somewhere a gigantic and wildly profitable industry has bought your lazy, ignorant ass out.

Posted by: chrenson on October 21, 2010 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Peak oil could be easily manageable.

If we don't manage it well, then it could lead to economic and social upheaval and suffering on the scale of World War I, World War II, and the Great Depression combined.

Global warming will be far, far worse than that.

Peak oil won't cause the mass extinction of most life on Earth.

Global warming could easily do so.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 21, 2010 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Peak oil is upon us now. The disruptions are already beginning. The IEA { International Energy Agency} reports a 9% decline in oil production since 2008. This is not because of decreased demand due to the recession, as worldwide demand has increased in the same period. Ultimately recoverable reserves, the only real measure of how much oil is left to be produced, is a figure that both oil companies and governments do their best to suppress and obscure. Why? Ask yourself why Saudi Arabia , supposedly with 25% of the world's oil reserves, are now spending billions on very expensive offshore drill rigs.

Does it sound like the world's governments are managing the situation. or that they are remotely capable of doing so? And here in our own country we are on the brink of electing a YOYO government. You are on your own, believe me.

The worldwide reduction in population that will most likely result may settle climate change.

Posted by: REN on October 21, 2010 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

I appreciate all the insightful and interesting comments as well as Steve's typically intelligent post. But whenever I hear one of these morons talk about the global conspiracy of scientists, I just get stuck on the image of the mayor of Amity telling Matt Hooper

"Love to prove that, wouldn't ya? Get your name into the National Geographic."

Posted by: Another Steve on October 21, 2010 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

This is the state where the headquarters of the various flavors of religious whackjobbery are concentrated. It is also the location of the Air Force Academy, another concentration of religious whackjobs. These things don't develop in a vacuum, so it seems reasonable that there are numerous individual religious nut cases running loose in Colorado to support them.

By the way, an aunt of mine who used to live in Colorado and retired to Arizona falls into the category of complete religious whackjob. She wasn't quite that bad until she moved there so maybe it's the thin air that affects their brains or something in the water. Who knows?

Posted by: Texas Aggie on October 22, 2010 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK


Climate is the entire distribution of weather globally, whereas extreme weather events are a subset of regional deviations from typical regional patterns. The bulk of climate change is occurring at high latitudes and altitudes where the coldest places on earth are getting warmer. This isn't an extreme event, although the consequences of melting cryosphere and rising sea levels will cause eventual widespread problems. Meteorological outliers (extreme weather events) are not equivalent to climate change and you are conflating the two terms to make climate change sound more sudden.


Climate change is SLOW. Previous climate shifts took decades and centuries. Even if we are at a non-linear turning point in climate, we are very unlikely to see temperature changes on the order of a degree celsius in a decade.

Note, I am an atmospheric scientist, and I am firmly in the anthropogenic global warming camp, but no literature I have seen is predicting changes that I would consider cataclysmic as defined as "sudden and violent changes to the earth's surface" by the end of the century. Melting of the Antarctic or Greeland ice sheets would count, but most of the literature I have read is predicting this is hundreds of years out and Wiki agrees with me.

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