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GOP Sen. Ron Johnson: Lack of Global Warming Is “Scientifically Proven.”
Yeah, About That …

By Phil Plait

Last week I wrote about a senior Republican congresswoman, Marsha Blackburn, who not only denies climate change is real but made the bizarre statement that the Earth is actually cooling.

I know, right? But not to be outdone by his colleague in the other chamber, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, decided to let loose with a stream of nonsense on the same issue in an apparent attempt of what I can only think of as one-downmanship.

On the Glenn Klein radio show on Wisconsin’s WRJN on Tuesday, Johnson decided to let the world know his grasp of science is at best tenuous, and he’s more than willing to grease his fingers. As an example, he said this:

First of all the climate hasn’t warmed in quite a few years, that is proven scientifically.

Oh, senator. If you want to talk scientifically, then the global warming “pause” you’re referring to doesn’t exist. We’ve had nine record-breaking high temperatures globally in a row. The year 2015 was the hottest one on record, beating the previous record-breaking high temperature year of 2014. Every single year of the past 13 years has been among the hottest ever recorded.

“Proven scientifically,” the senator says. Right.

But he’s not done letting loose the zombies of denial. He continues:”

So, that’s why they changed the terminology from “global warming” to “climate change.” That covers everything. Climate has always changed, it always will.

This is one of the most egregious of the denier lies, and one of the most aggravating: Changing the framing from “global warming” to “climate change” was a Republican strategy. It wasn’t progressives who did that, it was Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist, who did it to make it sound less “frightening,” the easier to downplay it.


Then he makes a more subtle but still grossly incorrect statement:

… [Measured from ice cores, over hundreds of thousands of years] we’ve had temperature variations of 22.7 degrees. There were men and women 20,000 years ago, but not enough building campfire to produce CO 2 to cause those glaciers to recede or to cause those temperature variations… There are greater forces at play.

I’ll admit he does say one correct thing there; surface temperatures measured in Antarctica from the Vostok ice core show a variation of roughly 22° F over time. But note that phrase: “over time.” Natural variations in climate do occur, and no scientist will deny that. As I wrote in the post about Blackburn, the problem is that as humans dump carbon dioxide into the air at huge rates, the speed at which the temperature is now changing is unprecedented. Slow variations are bad enough, stressing the environment and forcing species to adapt; but if it happens too quickly it’s not possible to adapt quickly enough. Rapid climate change can force huge numbers of species to go extinct, and the effect it will have on humanity is profound and terrible.

There’s one other thing Johnson says worth pointing out (though there’s plenty more wrongness to be had in that interview):”

… the question is, how much does man cause changes in our environment, changes in our climate, and what we could possibly even do about it?

Actually, that question had been asked and answered. Essentially all the global warming we’re currently seeing now is caused by human activity (without it, the Earth actually would be cooling slightly). Scientists who study climate overwhelmingly agree about that.

And there is something we can do about it:

Vote science deniers out of office.

And hey, isn’t Sen. Johnson up for re-election this November?

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