Our state Senate’s anti-science cocoon on climate change was on full display this week.
At least nobody brought in a snowball to argue that the planet is cooling.
That’s about the best I can say about our Washington state Senate and the issue of climate change: That it isn’t as willfully misinformed as its national counterpart, the U.S. Senate.
But a half-hour debate this week in Olympia showed it’s a depressingly close race.
For know-nothing science denial, nothing can top the spectacle of U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma bringing a snowball onto the Senate floor last month to debunk global warming.
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The senator’s logic train was this: For it to snow, it has to be cold enough so water falling from the sky will freeze. Right? So if the planet were warming like scientists say, this snowball I’m holding here in my hand couldn’t exist.
Q.E.D.: Global warming is a fraud.
Afterward, the normally staid Washington Post editorial board said the fact that Inhofe is chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee is “a national embarrassment.”
Scene shift to Olympia, where this week our state senators also debated global warming. Nobody brought snow props (probably because they couldn’t find any.) But somebody did argue that if we’re causing climate change, it’s because we’re not logging the forests fast enough.
That was Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republic, vice-chair of the Natural Resources and Parks Committee. The Senate was debating language stating that “human activity significantly contributes to climate change,” when Dansel sprang to his feet.
What about human inactivity, he asked.
“We haven’t been doing the logging that we’re supposed to do,” he informed the Senate. “I ought to put in there that we’re not doing enough timber harvest, and that’s a cause, too. Human inactivity is also leading to climate change.”
Except trees absorb carbon dioxide. Maybe he was talking about the timber industry notion that logging can reduce forest fires. But he didn’t say this.
The rest of the debate was scarcely better. A few senators gamely argued that it isn’t scientifically controversial anymore that humans have some hand in global warming. They cited scientists and various studies, including by UW researchers. This was met with a shrug.
“We could spend all night going back and forth with regards to my study versus your study, hours and hours and hours,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who as chairman of the state’s Energy and Environment Committee is basically our Inhofe. “If you want to keep throwing studies up, we can keep knocking them down with other studies. It’s not productive.”
What a messy bother science is. Ericksen is also becoming famous for dodging any question about global warming with inoffensive but meaningless koans, such as “climate change will always happen.”
In the end every Republican senator but one voted against the statement that “human activity significantly contributes to climate change.” They replaced it with “human activity may contribute” to climate change.
There are plenty of important debates to be having about global warming — how it might play out, say, and what we might do about it without breaking the bank. That it exists, and that humans are involved, are just not two of them.
Last month scientists announced they had directly witnessed the human-influenced greenhouse effect in action. This is as close as science gets to proof. (Side note to Sen. Dansel: This research also includes the first direct observation of why there’s a dip in greenhouse heating every spring — because of a sharp increase in the absorption of carbon dioxide by trees and plants.)
Yet Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, is the sole Republican who voted to accept that this science foundation exists.
Litzow is said to be considering a run for governor. That he is not in his party’s anti-science cocoon is good news for the state, and will probably also be a good move for him politically. But he’s remarkably the only one.
If one of our two major political parties won’t even acknowledge something is real, what are the odds of doing anything about it? About a snowball’s chance in hell.