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Environment & Science

New state-sponsored website rebuts climate skeptics, denialist arguments

California's new website points out that fewer people think climate change is underway than in 2008, and more believe it never will.
California's new website points out that fewer people think climate change is underway than in 2008, and more believe it never will.

California Governor Jerry Brown is hanging out in Tahoe; today, his office announces a website devoted to “just the facts” about climate change

It’s less a website, really, than it is five pages. One simplifies the science underpinning global warming; a second page describes scientists’ “strong consensus that global temperatures are rising rapidly as a direct result of billions of tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from human-made sources.”

Brown’s site points out that, according to several studies, around 97% of scientists doing active research on the topic agree that a changing climate is warming the Earth. And somewhat hopefully, it tries to restore nuance to discussions about the issue:

Does this mean that no scientific questions remain about climate change? Of course not. Scientists continue their efforts to better understand the many complex issues associated with climate change, including the rate of warming in the future, the specific climate impacts local areas will face, and the future rate of ice melt and sea level rise.

Other pages are aggressive in criticizing “climate denialists” and 14 “denialist arguments.” 

The website presents responses to the 14 "denialist arguments." With regard to the last one, which raises concerns about the cost of action, Brown’s rebuttal cites a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and a paper produced for the British Government six years ago called the Stern Review on Climate Change. Both present arguments that early action to adapt to and combat climate change minimizes economic disruption. Both have their critics.

California’s releasing this today because Brown’s at the annual Tahoe Summit:

“Global warming’s impact on Lake Tahoe is well documented. It is just one example of how, after decades of pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, humanity is getting dangerously close to the point of no return,” said Governor Brown. “Those who still deny global warming’s existence should wake up and honestly face the facts.”

But the state’s new site also serves to underscore the difference between our politics and national ones on global warming.

After Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney named Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan to his VP slot, we all spent the weekend learning more about the bottom half of the ticket. Global warming’s not necessarily Ryan's passion, but a 2009 editorial of his starts out arguing that “unilateral economic restraint in the name of fighting global warming has been a tough sell in our communities, where much of the state is buried under snow and, more importantly, unemployment in the city of Racine remains over 14%.” He argued that "lawmakers must carefully weigh the costs and benefits of new environmental regulation," an apparent reference to the supposedly high cost of acting to curb climate change.  Ryan also wrote, "e-mails from leading climatologists make clear efforts to use statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change." Those are two of the arguments that California’s website takes on.