MIAMI – Florida Senator Marco Rubio says the planet may be getting warmer but human activities, such as the generation of vast amounts of energy from coal and other fossil fuels that produce massive carbon dioxide emissions, are not the cause.
That would come as a surprise to the literally thousands of scientists worldwide that have been studying the issue for at least two decades. Their conclusion differs from Rubio in one key respect. The dramatic change in the world’s climate during the last fifty year is the direct result of human action, from deforestation to industrialization, say the scientists. But what do they know…
Rubio, of course, lacks any credentials that would qualify him to render a judgment on global climate change. But he is not lacking in opinions or in the audacity to express them to contradict the product of vast and rigorous research by the top experts in the field.
Rubio’s gall reminds me superficially of the time former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, a devout Catholic, tried to take on Pope John Paul II over the church’s acceptance of the theory of evolution. Suarez couldn’t abide it. He wrote the Pope and published a letter in the Miami Herald. It was an exercise in futility (the Pope is not going to reverse himself because the Mayor of Miami doesn’t believe in evolution) and stupidity (the Pope knew the science and realized obscurantism would not serve the church.)
But one can almost forgive Suarez. He was so wacko he almost certainly believed everything he wrote and deluded enough to think he had the standing to debate a Pope on something like this. Rubio is something else altogether. He is the product of the well-oiled machinery the Republican party has developed over the last two decades to churn out ideological clones to serve in state legislatures, governorships, Congress, and ultimately the presidency.
When you sweep aside the smoke screen and the rhetoric, the reason the GOP in general and the party’s young, well-disciplined elites like Rubio use every trick and fallacy in the book to try to discredit climate science is to protect the vested interests that profit royally from the energy status quo (and not coincidentally also contribute vast amounts of money to Republican campaigns).
This is not exactly a revelation. But the problem for Rubio, who wants to be the first of the clone generation to occupy the White House, is that in order to effectively protect those interests he must be a climate change denier. But the evidence keeps piling up and more people have begun experiencing the consequences of climate change for themselves. Climate change deniers are looking more and more like members of the flat earth society. That’s not an image conducive to winning the presidency. It’s also not a stance favorable to winning Florida, a state that is very vulnerable to sea level rise and very important in winning the White House.
Rubio’s attempts to deal with this dilemma have been facile and fallacious. “Our climate is always changing,” he told ABC news. “We can’t do anything about the weather,” he claimed on another occasion. He clings to the discredited notion that there is a real scientific debate on the human causation of climate change. He derides the science and the scientists perhaps because he hasn’t been able to get any experts to back his position. In what seems like a desperate move, lately he has been using some very convoluted logic to try to link the climate change issue with…abortion!
Then, too, he has made ample use of the old GOP standards. Bash Obama. Bash the federal government. “The government can’t change the weather.” Rubio claims any legislation to fight global warming won’t work and will ruin the economy. But the real fear is not about the economy as a whole, which Rubio insists efforts to curb greenhouse gases would “eviscerate,” but one very powerful sector of it: coal, oil, and gas.
In a sane world, none of the GOP’s ploys would work. After all, the answer to the question, “Who are you going to believe on the causes of global warming, 98 percent of the world’s climate scientists or Marco Rubio?” is not hard. Yet Republicans have been able to stymie Obama’s efforts on climate change at every turn.
An American anthropologist may have hit on why. There are two kinds of logic in American society. In ordinary logic you need sound arguments, solid facts, hard evidence. But then there is pecuniary logic, where what is true is determined by what is profitable. So far, on the issue of climate change, pecuniary logic has trumped.