27 August 2016

What is it About Climate Physics That Makes Politicians Nuts

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Two politicians: one right-wing, and one left wing, made stunningly ignorant statements about climate change in the past two weeks.

A U.S. Senator from Wisconsin (Ron Johnson) claimed the globe is not warming and actually is cooling, while Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for President claimed we will see “yards of sea level rise” in 50 years.

First let’s talk about the sea level rise. This is a serious issue, and the last IPCC report indicated that we are likely to see somewhere around a 1 meter rise by 2100. Dr. Michael Mann at Penn. State Univ. tipped me to a Nature paper earlier this year that shows it might be as much as 2 meters, or around 2 yards by 2100. This will change the face of the world’s coastlines, and cause billions to mitigate. If you are going to run for President, you should be science literate, and Ms. Stein fails the test here.

Next, the myth that the planet has stopped warming. This claim has been shown (over and over) to be nothing but silly propaganda. I’ll let some graphics below show you why.



..by the way, 2016 now has a 99%+ chance of beating 2015 and becoming the hottest year on record globally. That pretty much puts an end to that piece of propaganda. Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy did a nice piece on how silly this is here.


John Cook at Skeptical Science put together a nice graphic that shows where these conspiracy theories come from, and it pretty much speaks for itself.


Facts matter, and these two candidates seem to be seriously short of them when it comes to science literacy. I had a chance to chat with Neil de Grasse Tyson a few years back, and I’m reminded of something he said that stuck with me. I paraphrase: “I like to vote for people who are smarter about the issues than I am.” Now, I doubt any candidate knows more about physics than he does, but I think a basic level of science literacy is not too much to expect of someone aiming for high office.