Climate Science and Policy in the 21st Century: All Aboard the Ark

Does it matter if one “believes” in global warming?

An ongoing development in Kentucky will sell tickets to a  simulation of Noah’s Ark. The New York Times account contains the the quote: “I don’t believe in global warming…but I do believe we’ve got to be good stewards of everything God’s given us.” This was from the theme park’s Vice President  Mike Zovath.

So there it is. Matters supported and advanced by the overwhelming consensus of peer-reviewed science, independently reproduced by laboratories that could in many cases at best be called competitors with each other, can be disputed simply upon the basis of belief.

No serious observer of these matters that I know seeks to disprove that divine force created the wonder and beauty of evolution. And that is not the purpose of this note by any means. However saying that one does not believe in global warming is like saying one does not believe in evolution, which in turn is like saying one does not believe that the Earth orbits the Sun.

Recent polls show that less people think that global warming exists than a few years back. The implication:  voters, while not having been provided with any empirical evidence, have decided that global warming no longer is a problem .

Except it is, and in that time span, it has worsened. Now what does a Koch Brothers-funded, pollutocrat do in order to maintain and expand this perception? Continue to bang the pot via Fox News and astroturf non-profits to create the perception that Global Warming is a matter of belief.

At the UN’s Environmental summit this past fall in Cancun, The United States saw a drop in overall greenhouse gas emissions of 2.9 percent from 2007 to 2008, according to the 2010 U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report. Interestingly the downward trend is attributed to a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions associated with fuel and electricity consumption as a result of the Great Recession. The inventory also calculates carbon dioxide emissions removed from the atmosphere by carbon sinks, a process which occurs through the uptake of carbon by forests, vegetation and soils. Fossil fuel combustion is still the largest source of carbon dioxide in the U.S. and accounted for approximately 79 percent of global warming potential weighted emissions since 1990. Despite the 2008 decline, emissions were still 13.5 percent higher than they were in 1990.

Many have recently drawn parallels between the denial of evolution and manmade global warming. What is behind the continued war on science waged, mostly, by the right wing and “free” marketeers such as the Koch Brothers and the groups they fund? Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway argue that climate science is again highlighting a conflict between laissez-faire capitalism and survival in Merchants of Doubt.

A small number of fanatics and scientists can be found that dispute the central conclusions of 21st century climate science, the results and models of which laboratories and field work across the world have independently reproduced. Yet these dissenting voices often have considerable ties to the pollution complex and their lobbyists. Stephen Jay Gould famously stated that science advances by replacement not addition. And we are taught in science class that no climatologist, evolutionary biologist,  or computational model can have a perfect answer. That’s God stuff. But that’s how science works. It advances by refining and re-defining, constantly distilling the clear from the cloudy.

No doubt, some tenets around global warming will be proven false. Cynical and foolish policy makers and their backers will exploit this via their mainstream media enablers. None of this alas, will mean global warming is not happening. And God save us from those that want to make society think it’s a hoax.

And so back to Kentucky and its job creation solution: building an ark. Gov. Steven L. Beshear said that he was elected “to create jobs,” not “to debate religion.” The Lexington Herald-Leader criticized Mr. Beshear in an editorial for a plan that it said would result in low-wage jobs and a poor image for the state. “Anyone who wants to believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible has that right,” the editorial said. “However, the way the Beshear administration handled this makes it appear Kentucky either embraces such thinking or is desperate to take advantage of those who do.”

Mr. Zovath, a retired Army lieutenant colonel counters: “We want to show how Noah would have taken care of them, taken care of waste management, taken care of water needs and food needs.” Ark Encounter is designed to be a model of environmentally sensitive development….to minimize its carbon footprint. And its sister the Creation Museum has drawn 1.2 million visitors in its first three years — proving that there is a sizable paying audience for entertainment rooted in a literal interpretation of the Bible.  The developers of Ark Encounter, who have incorporated as a profit-making company, say they expect to spend $150 million and employ 900 people. And the ark is to be built with wooden pegs and timber framing by Amish builders, Mr. Zovath said.

Newt Gingrich and Darell Issa want to erase the EPA. Former Senator Fred Thompson pointed out that Mars appears to be warming, but there are no people and CO2 there. Seemingly rational and of course not scientific. We have no more than 30 years of records of temperatures there. The right and pollution salesman like science as long as it involves building weapons and machines, but when it points to planning for a future where survival may mean changing the design of their machines, or scrapping them altogether, well then science is not so useful anymore.  It’s God’s will I suppose.

Perhaps in the end, the Ark we need to build in order to protect God’s Creation from great storms, will not be made of wood, but will be made of new ways for living and valuing human output – ways that make resources as valuable as outputs, and allocate economic rewards accordingly.