Climate deniers’ new dodge: “All energy matters” + “Very fine scientists on both sides”

  • Published on November 3rd, 2017

All year we’ve been watching as Trump nominees squirm to answer direct congressional questioning about climate change. For the most part, they’ve avoided embracing Trump’s idea that it’s all a Chinese hoax. Gone, too, is the old axiom of “I’m not a scientist, but…” Instead, they give more seemingly nuanced but similarly silly answers. The most recent example was at yesterday’s hearing for Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine, Trump’s nominee to lead NASA.

Tom Toles the climate change debate has changedBy Climate Denier Roundup

At a lively hearing (where Twitter reports Brindestine was grilled to the point of turning red), he acknowledged that climate change is already causing destruction, that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and that greenhouse gases cause climate change. But like all the other deniers, he refused to acknowledge the degree to which humans are responsible for warming and suggested natural cycles could be playing a role in progressively warmer temperatures.

The correct answer, per the leaked National Climate Assessment, is that human activity is responsible for 92-123% of the warming trend experienced between 1950 to 2010. In the absence of carbon pollution, natural factors would have us cooling slightly. But we’re emitting so many greenhouse gasses that we’ve overcome that natural trend, and thus the odd 123% attribution. (NASA’s Gavin Schmidt has been trying to explain this concept to Judith Curry for years.)

But to acknowledge this truth would be to accept that fossil fuels are a major problem and that the solution is to curb their use by embracing renewable energy. Because that answer would be unacceptable to Trump’s fossil fuel friends, we hear asinine statements like the one from our new ambassador to Canada, Kelly Craft. As a Republican fundraiser married to a coal-owning billionaire, she’s as close to wed to fossil fuel friendly talking points as one can get. Which explains why she made the bizarre statement that when it comes to climate change, she believes “both sides of the science.”

Unfortunately, Craft will be getting some messaging support from outside the administration, specifically from the newly formed Consumers Energy Alliance. This industry group is supposedly speaking on behalf of energy consumers, and, according to their president, “the most important voice–families.” Their list of members include 89 energy companies including Exxon, Shell and Chevron, and over a hundred manufacturing associations and business groups, and not a single member appears to be in any way family focused. (Weird, huh?)

Formed to push back on the success of the Keep It In The Ground movement, CEA’s president told the Washington Examiner the organization would be pushing an “all lives matter”-type response (terminology ours) Meaning: yes, CEA supports solar and wind, but not if it means displacing oil and gas. In other words, this organization is just out to protect the status quo.

So just like “all lives matter” is a way to deliberately misinterpret the call for justice inherent in “Black lives matter,” and just like Trump’s insistence that “both sides” were to blame for the death of Heather Heyer and that there were “very fine people” among Nazi marchers elevates white supremacists to the same level as those opposed to fascism, these talking points are transparently bad-faith efforts to distract from real problems by equivocating two very obviously opposed positions.

The two sides of climate science are right and wrong. You can’t honestly believe both simultaneously. And we can’t address these problems without reducing fossil fuel use and increasing renewables. Pushing an “all energy matters” platform is disingenuous, and claiming “both sides” of the science are very fine is wrong.

Not that being wrong has ever stopped Trump or his appointees before.

About the Author