Sunday, January 24, 2016

Trump, Cruz and Rubio deny climate science, facts show 2015 is hottest year ever. Whom to believe?

Setting new records can be—to use a word that has dominated the GOP presidential race—great. This one? Not so much. The year 2014 had set a new record for the highest average temperatures ever recorded here on planet Earth. Then along came 2015.

But it’s not just that we’ve set a new record two years in a row. Normally, the difference between the average temperature from one year to the next is measured by a couple of hundredths of degrees. Two-hundredths of a degree looks like this:


The average temperature in 2015 was not only the highest on record, but it blew the competition away. How much hotter was 2015 than 2014, the second-hottest year ever? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it was 29-hundredths of a degree hotter, or:


Virtually identical results came in from the other organizations that measure global temperature, including NASA, the Japan Meteorological Agency, and the UK’s Met Office. You might think that the only question that remains after the publication of this data is: What are we going to do about it?

You’d be wrong.

Republicans and Democrats take, shall we say, different approaches to the matter of climate change.

Global temperatures in 2015 and over time

The Democrats, as evidenced by the discussion in last week’s debate, are in agreement. The moderator, NBC Nightly Newsanchor Lester Holt, didn’t ask whether climate change was happening, or whether we need to do something about it. He asked the candidates how they would “convince Americans that the problem of climate change is so urgent that they need to change their behavior.” The candidates themselves, in other words, did not need convincing. One candidate, Bernie Sanders, got off the line of the night when he all but facepalmed himself on national television:

It is amazing to me...that we have a major party, called the Republican Party that is so owned by the fossil fuel industry and their campaign contributions that they don’t even have the courage, the decency to listen to the scientists. It is beyond my comprehension how we can elect a president of the United States, somebody like Trump, who believes that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese.

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