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Climate Scientist Warns of Political Heat on Global Warming if Republicans Win

RP Siegel | Monday October 11th, 2010 | 19 Comments

Michael Mann, Professor of Meteorology at Penn Sate warned last Friday, of an impending witch hunt against science, should the Republicans take control of Congress in the midterm elections. Stating that as a scientist, he should, in theory, have no stake in the elections at all, but based on statements that he cited in a recent Washington Post editorial, he essentially has no choice but to fight for his ability to continue his work without harassment. Mann, who is perhaps best known as the originator of the hockey stick graph that Al Gore made famous, described specific threats made against him and other climate scientists by two Congressmen and one state Attorney General should the Republicans prevail in November. Mann was implicated in the so-called “Climategate scandal” as the result of a number of questionable emails emanating from Britain’s East Anglia University, which five separate independent investigations have confirmed to be nothing more than a tempest in a teapot, initiated by those who prefer doubt to the facts on this issue.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has stated that if he becomes chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he will initiate an aggressive investigation on climate science, focusing largely on the otherwise dead and forgotten email scandal. Issa, it should be noted, received considerable funding from oil & gas and electric utility interests. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) claims he will do the same if he takes over a committee on climate change and energy security.

Similarly, Virginia State Attorney General and Tea Party darling, Ken Cuccinelli, continues to investigate the University of Virginia, where Mann worked previously, despite the fact that his subpoena was rejected in court due to a lack of objective evidence of wrongdoing. Undeterred, Cuccinelli has now appealed to the State Supreme Court, despite the fact that his case rests on claims made by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) that have since been discredited. Barton’s biggest campaign contributors by far were fossil fuel industries.

As Mann correctly points out, the physics and chemistry that linked CO2 with global warming were first understood by Sweden’s Svante Arrhenius in 1896. Arrhenius won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1903.The primary scientific debate in the many years since then, has not been been over if, not how much warming will occur, given the innumerable variables involved.

What strikes me as the most pathetic in all of this is the vast number of people upon whom the irony here will be lost. Never mind that the Democrats sat idly by in the face of some of the biggest and most destructive scandals in world history perpetrated by the previous administration, choosing instead to be a bunch of good sports that look ahead rather than behind. No truth and reconciliation commission for our people. Not after two highly questionable presidential elections with clear evidence of fraud, a massive war costing billions of dollars and thousands of lives, and a priceless amount of international good will, built on a complete foundation of lies, a terrorist attack with a number a serious unanswered questions and a financial meltdown built on deregulation that has all but the wealthiest elite reeling and hoping for some kind of relief.

But when these Republicans, unique among all the political parties in the world today, come back, if we let them, they will come ready with hammer and tongs in hand, prepared to drive us further back into ignorance, denial and ever higher profits for the energy companies that they serve. Does anybody really think that’s going to make things better, or perhaps just better for them?

What I’m seeing is not a pretty picture. The house is burning and these Republicans are standing together with eyes closed and arms linked, blocking the exits, making sure that we all go down together. And why are they doing this? What principle are they defending? Or is it not a principle at all but only just, like schoolyard bullies, because they can?

RP Siegel is a Professional Engineer and the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor TrailsLike airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though can we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.

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  • Brad Arnold

    I do not believe that global warming will be able to be denied for long:

    “Few seem to realise that the present IPCC models predict almost unanimously that by 2040 the average summer in Europe will be as hot as the summer of 2003 when over 30,000 died from heat. By then we may cool ourselves with air conditioning and learn to live in a climate no worse than that of Baghdad now. But without extensive irrigation the plants will die and both farming and natural ecosystems will be replaced by scrub and desert. What will there be to eat? The same dire changes will affect the rest of the world and I can envisage Americans migrating into Canada and the Chinese into Siberia but there may be little food for any of them.” –Dr James Lovelock’s lecture to the Royal Society, 29 Oct. ’07

    On the other hand, there is a simple and cheap way to immediately cool down the Earth: just add a little (more) sun dimming aerosol to the upper atmosphere. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt if Republicans get elected and indulge in denial until they can’t deny it any long due to overwhelming evidence. Ironically, then the pendulum will probably swing to denial about the necessity of geoengineering.

    “The alternative (to geoengineering) is the acceptance of a massive natural cull of humanity and a return to an Earth that freely regulates itself but in the hot state.” –Dr James Lovelock, August 2008

    • http://www.triplepundit.com/author/bob-siegel/ RP Siegel

      As far as I am concerned, geo-engineering is a desperate last minute, Hail Mary pass, with very high risk and a tiny chance of dramatic success. By the time we find out what the true consequences of these mega-manipulations are, it will likely be too late to do anything to change them. I have no problem with people studying it, as long as it doesn’t take too many resources away from more practical efforts, like re-engineering our hopelessly inefficient infrastructure and moving away from carbon based fuels. In the mean time,I will stick with prevention until that approach has been exhausted.

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  • http://www.truthtree.com/environ.shtml Ron Savori

    I am confused by the media’s claim that Republicans are headed for some kind of landslide this year. Does no one remember the Bush years? Apparently people have a short memory. Republicans have changed nothing about their policies and tactics. Discontent with the Democrats, I can understand. Not voting, or voting for Republicans, I cannot understand. The way to fix the Democrats is to vote in the primary for better Democratic candidates.

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  • RykeOden

    If the “science” was true then all, and I mean all data would be available.
    When “science” is fake it is hidden from all, I mean all.

    Fact: Climate $cience destroyed the scientific community thanks to “Nature Tricks” and false claims of “Settled Science”.

    • http://nickpalmer.blogspot.com Nick Palmer

      Rykeoden:
      Climate science did nothing of the kind.

      Real Fact: Irresponsible denialist propagandists have made a fool of you by feeding you plausible lies, straw men and irrelevant B.S.

      If you can’t understand climate science, it’s your duty not to just believe whatever convenient politically motivated spin the denialist invite you to swallow.

  • genealogymaster

    The email scandal is certainly not forgotten. Many want to know why all of the inquiries have been whitewashes and never did what they claimed to. Also why is it that some of the data is missing?

    • http://nickpalmer.blogspot.com Nick Palmer

      Genealogymaster: You are just parroting strawman “arguments”. You have to remember that the denialist propagandists just make stuff up that is plausible enough to fool the non-specialist general public.

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  • anon

    I hate to break this to you and Michael, but the physics of the 1890’s is completely obsolete.

    For that matter, the theory reeks as much of the literal Calvinism of the day as much as the Aether climate models.

    • http://nickpalmer.blogspot.com Nick Palmer

      Anon – are you and the other two being paid to write this feather-brained denialist rubbish? The basic physics of the “1890’s” is still valid just as Newton’s laws remain just as valid – since 1687 – the only difference is that now we know of extra aspects that manifest at ultra-high speed etc. For most purposes Newton’s Laws are rock-solid useful still. Just as the early discoveries about greenhouse gases still hold.

      No – repeat – no credible climate scientist – including all those often quoted by the denialists, such as Lindzen, Spencer and Christy – disputes that CO2 is rising due to humanity’s excess emissions of fossil fuel generated CO2 and also that CO2 has already warmed the planet and will continue to do so.

      The ONLY real dispute from the tiny maverick minority is about how much warming there will ultimately be and how many problems it will cause us.

      Any source that tells you different to the above is either lying to you or else is living in a fantasy world of rumour, wishful thinking, half-truth, propaganda and paranoid conspiracy theory.

  • Roald A

    What strikes me as the most pathetic in all of this is the lack of global warming believers taking their own leaders to task for failing to win the hearts and minds of the general public – Al Gore and IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri. If only they would come out with a statement declaring, “Yes we have carefully examined reports from skeptic scientists and we have personally met with many of them. To assure the world of our thoroughness, we have shown in our widely distributed documents ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ how we proved our conclusions and completely disproved theirs, and to further solidify our case, in document ‘C’ we show irrefutable evidence of how unethical influence from fossil fuel industries ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ actually prompted easily understood errors “E’, ‘F’ and ‘G’ in the skeptics’ science reports.”

    Why on Earth haven’t they taken those steps? Instead, Gore refuses to even allow reporters to ask questions that don’t meet his approval and Pachauri calls skeptics Flat Earth Believers. On top of all that, guilt-by-association accusations are thrown at skeptic scientists with evidence from the likes of Ross Gelbspan so superficial that any competent cross examining lawyer would make a laughingstock out of it. Where is the evidence that catches them in the act of fabricating false science reports? This all looks incredibly weak, why haven’t the leaders discredited the skeptics long ago in an internationally public forum instead of looking like they can’t defend the basic science, and have to resort to changing the subject instead?

    Article like this don’t help at all with notes about a “highly questionable presidential election” – forget about the Supreme Court Florida “hanging chads” thing and instead ask why Gore did not carry his own home state of Tennessee. For the love of pete, Fritz Mondale at least carried Minnesota in the electoral wipeout by Reagan.

    • http://www.triplepundit.com/author/bob-siegel/ RP Siegel

      In fact, I saw Al Gore last week. He was very persuasive, speaking to a group of business leaders of all stripes and yes, he took questions from the audience. He also spoke at great length about why the climate bill failed. http://www.triplepundit.com/2010/10/world-business-forum-day-2-al-gore-comes-out-swinging-for-sustainable-capitalism/
      No scientist or politician can convince someone who refuses to be convinced because they are making far too much money with things the way they are to ever consider changing. And those same people OWN most of the media and more than enough senators to keep meaningful laws that would make them change, from ever being passed, while at the same time, they pay pseudo-scientists to keep the public confused with a steady dose of manufactured doubt (just like the tobacco companaies did). Mix in a little cynicism and you get comments like the ones you see here.
      People talk about the government as if the government is one person with one voice. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead you’ve got a group of people with very different opinions coming to, at best, some watered-down compromise, and more often nothing at all. So for JEFFM to talk about what the government wants to do is ridiculous. Which government? What we need is for the people in Congress, to stop and put the needs of the whole planet and the country above the needs of the people paying them off for once, so that we can get meaningful legislation on this, like every other developed country in the world has done.

      • Roald A

        RP Siegel says “…they pay pseudo-scientists to keep the public confused with a steady dose of manufactured doubt…” And as I said in my post, “guilt-by-association accusations are thrown at skeptic scientists with evidence from the likes of Ross Gelbspan so superficial that any competent cross examining lawyer would make a laughingstock out of it.”

        Show your evidence to back your claim, lets see those specific instances where money was given in exchange for specific false skeptic conclusions. Have you ever noticed the ‘coal industry PR campaign strategy’ papers that so many refer to are never shown in their complete context anywhere on the internet? They’re supposed to be the “smoking gun” indictment proving skeptic scientists operate under direction of big industry execs. Have you ever bothered to trace where others’ repetitions of that “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” accusation originate from? Where does your accusation come from?

        • http://www.triplepundit.com/author/bob-siegel/ RP Siegel

          Here’s one pretty typical example for you Roald
          http://www.triplepundit.com/2010/04/koch-industries-climate-change/
          That story was covered in even more detail by Jane Mayer at the New Yorker.
          http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer

        • Roald A

          Looks like I have to reply to my own comment in order to reply to your response below. In attempt to give me a “pretty typical example” by linking to the Jane Meyer New Yorker article, you didn’t reach far enough back about the accusation against skeptic scientists. Plus, you didn’t answer my question about the coal industry memo.

          Jane Mayer herself already was one more added layer to the overall accusation. Her sources rely on prior sources, which themselves rely on prior sources. I wanted to see if you would at least attempt to peel back more layers, or simply identify the original source. The accusation doesn’t originate with Koch brothers activities, as detailed in this article which specifically dissects Ms Mayer’s sources: “Warmist Slander of Scientific Skeptics” ( http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/09/warmist_slander_of_scientific.html ). A careful reading of that article only prompts me to ask again, “Have you ever noticed the ‘coal industry PR campaign strategy’ papers that so many refer to are never shown in their complete context anywhere on the internet?”

  • JeffM

    Why global warming isn’t a threat to Humanity:

    1. Government’s solutions perpetuate continued use of carbon fuels thru subsidies for wind, solar, and biofuels, rather than seriously fund R&D to find the full time energy source that can REPLACE carbon fuels.
    2. Government wants Cap and Trade, but cannot afford the political price to make it work. Why not? Isn’t humanity being threatened by carbon fuels? Government wants Cap and Trade to become a $10 trillion per year taxable business.
    3. Carbon offsets have shown to have the efficacy of snake oil sales in olden days.
    4. GW alarmism has become so preposterous (blowing up little kids in their classroom for not agreeing with the orthodoxy; scaring kids with numerous cartoons that show GW killing helpless animals; claiming that GW could, might, perhaps, or likely will be the cause for every malady that can happen to mankind) that there cannot be any certainty behind the science (else, why the propaganda?).
    5. Climate Gate laid bare the sloppy science at the very foundation of GW science. Losing the temperature data of the past (for starters) helped awaken the sleepiest of citizens.
    6. GW proponents, aided by an eager mainstream media, condemned, ostracized, maligned, and effected the purging of reputable scientists from their posts for disagreeing with the GW orthodoxy. Most recently, alarmists blow up kids in their classroom like the old-style purges. The common thread: denying harmful, manmade GW.
    7. The universal failure of politicians to provide estimates of global temperature reductions that, best case, could result from “solutions” imposed on us by government.

    I could keep the list going except for space constraints. Bottom line: Government’s solutions prescribe massive changes in our way of life, and foster redistribution of wealth on a massive scale. Such extraordinary solutions to the GW problem demand extraordinary proofs that it exists. Yet government has no intention of finding a full time energy source to replace carbon fuels. Government’s doesn’t need or want to eliminate carbon fuels, despite words to the contrary… there’s too much money to be made. Government knows that GW isn’t real. Actions speak louder than words.

  • http://nickpalmer.blogspot.com Nick Palmer

    JEFFM

    Sorry Jeffm, you don’t appear to be able to absorb information that counters what you want to believe.
    You also have swallowed whole the denialist propaganda.

    For example, I previously wrote:

    “No – repeat – no credible climate scientist – including all those often quoted by the denialists, such as Lindzen, Spencer and Christy – disputes that CO2 is rising due to humanity’s excess emissions of fossil fuel generated CO2 and also that CO2 has already warmed the planet and will continue to do so.”

    This can easily be checked up on with a little effort. Read their published words or email those scientists if you don’t believe me. My prediction: you won’t because deniers and pathological sceptics will not do this.

    That quote, if you bother to check it out, demolishes virtually every “argument” of the whole denialist/sceptic/contrarian position in one fell swoop. As I said before, the ONLY real dispute is about how much warming, how soon.

    You wrote: Such extraordinary solutions to the GW problem demand extraordinary proofs that it exists.

    No, it doesn’t. AGW exists. ALL credible scientists agree.

    A very small minority of scientists think that the amount of warming we WILL get (no-one credible disagrees, remember?) will not be a problem. The vast majority think it will be. A minority think it may be the biggest catastrophe ever to befall us.

    Just from a risk analysis perspective alone, we must take rapid action.

    The trouble with denialists is that they have this deluded belief that humans can’t affect the planet badly. If anyone needs to come out with “extraordinary proof” (to justify taking no action to mitigate the risks) it must be them. What proof do you have that we can’t ruin things?

    Denialists ignorant complacency and overconfidence in their incompetent judgement means they are recklessly gambling with their own lives. Fair enough, they have a right to risk their own lives but a more powerful duty not to gamble with mine and everybody else’s…

  • JeffM

    NICK:

    Wow! For a moment I thought you were responding to someone else’s comment.

    I can see that the term “credible scientist”, as you seem to define it, means any scientist you agree with. Of course, scientists are SUPPOSED to be skeptical… at least before AGW.

    When I said, “Such extraordinary solutions to the GW problem demand extraordinary proofs that it exists”, was a modification of a quote attributed to the late Prof. Carl Sagan, who said: “I believe that the extraordinary should be pursued. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    Sagan also said, “Human beings have a demonstrated talent for self deception when their emotions are stirred.” Do you realize that the tone of your writing makes one wonder if you have been bitten by a rabid dog?

    If AGW science is so solid, why can’t you (and many others who write with your sense of absolute certainty in the science) simply reply by dispassionately advocating challenges to the science? That’s how it used to be done. Why does it upset you? Why must “solid” science be defended by attacking the credibility of scientists such as Lindzen, Spencer, and Christy?

    And as I wrote in my comment, why should “solid” science be defended with pro-AGW ads that depict school kids being blown up by their pro-AGW teachers, in the classroom, showering their classmates with blood and guts?

    If government claims that AGW is a threat to humanity, that we don’t have time to develop extraordinary AGW research, that we must act NOW, government will not seriously fund R&D to find a full time energy source that can REPLACE the carbon fuel devil? Likewise, why won’t government fund research to find possible causes of global warming other that manmade? You know… in the spirit of classical, skeptical science?

    Why does “solid” science so often result in the attacking of a scientist’s credibility as you have already written, or has such a scientist’s research grant terminated for finding evidence against AGW?

    Given the dire forecast for humanity, given the extraordinary measures we are told that must be done, why doesn’t EVERYONE want to find evidence that AGW isn’t the threat to humanity that we’re told it is?

    Why don’t scientists calculate the potential warming reductions that government “solutions” will yield?

    I could go on and on, but you get the point.

  • http://nickpalmer.blogspot.com Nick Palmer

    Carl Sagan was talking about extraordinary claims. That Earth is/will heat up due to the increased radiative forcing is not an extraordinary claim in any way – any more than that someone in a cold climate will end up warmer if they put a thicker jumper on.

    I was not attacking Lindzen, Spencer and Christy – look again – I included them within the term “credible scientists” but I was just pointing out that although they frequently get quoted by factions of the deniers, they in fact fully support the basic physics but just dispute the climate sensitivity. BTW, this figure is worked out by considering paleo-climatic variations. L, S and C are not experts in this field.

    As far as your other main point goes, I am not against genuine sceptical science in any way but the vast majority of what is presented as “scepticism” by self described sceptics is in fact a pathological desire to disbelieve anything that supports AGW but, more significantly, to believe almost any old garbage, said by almost anybody, no matter how ridiculous, no matter how contradictory, no matter that it may have been completely demolished a hundred times already.

    Many of the loudest calls for scepticism, masquerading as being reasonable cool-headed sense, in fact are nothing of the kind. The basic physics has been solid since the 50’s and 60s. That was when genuine scientific scepticism about the theory had a place and that was when it was applied. The legitimate sceptical questions then helped refine the science. The denialist movement, of course, have ruthlessly mined the genuine scientific objections then, which were resolved satisfactorily 50 years ago, to reuse to spread doubt and uncertainty. The sceptical objections were really valid and useful then but their repackaged re-use nowadays, for example the idea that the greenhouse effect from CO2 saturates rapidly, is no longer scepticism it is simply black propaganda.

    “Likewise, why won’t government fund research to find possible causes of global warming other that manmade?”

    The other known causes that heat or cool Earth are known. The “forcing” that we are applying is a much bigger effect than them. The science – nay, basic logic – that says that if you reduce the rate at which radiation leaves a body, while maintaining the same input, the temperature will rise to a new equilibrium is simply beyond dispute. There simply is no space for other “possible causes of global warming” large enough to cause what is happening that have been missed. What we’re seeing broadly matches what we expected from the rise in CO2. Why look elsewhere?

  • JeffM

    Nick:

    I apologize for not responding to you sooner, but work got in the way.

    I enjoyed reading your latest comment. It was well written and thoughtful. We don’t have to agree with each other… just explain why we believe as we do regarding AGW. Unless one of us has an epiphany, you and I both know that we won’t likely become converts to each other’s viewpoint.

    I support the precautionary principle, as do you. We SHOULD do something to eliminate the use of carbon fuels. My take on what AGW supporters are saying is that we don’t need to eliminate the use of carbon fuels… just reduce their use. Of course, there’s no consensus within the ranks as to what “reduce” means.

    I can’t judge how complete AGW science is, but I’ve read in many places that it’s still in its infancy. I believe that we have witnessed warming since the Little Ice Age, which seems OK in the natural order of things. I’ll bet George Washington wished for more of it while moving his troops across the river at Trenton. But an ice age must give way to warmer times, and we certainly have it, here and now.

    I judge the validity of predictions about harmful manmade warming based on reports of what is observed. We hear that AGW is causing glaciers to melt but, as glaciers retreat, we find tree stumps sticking out of the ground and we find artifacts of ancient people. To me, this shows that the climate must have been warmer in the distant past as the result of natural climate forces. Why can’t these same forces be at work, once again? The current sea level rise has origins to the year 1790 (or thereabout), long before our modern societies developed heavy industry. Now we are told that AGW will cause sea levels to rise. Warming from any source will do that, not just AGW. We were told that Katrina was caused by AGW, and then we were subsequently told that it wasn’t. Why the mixed signals?

    Government spent $100 billion over the past 20 years on climate research focused on explaining why manmade carbon fuel emissions (and others, as well) can be the cause of harmful AGW. And we both know that funding for research on natural causes only comes from energy companies. Government, not energy companies, should support research for alternative causes. Of course this hasn’t happened. This one-sided research funding bias makes me skeptical that AGW adequately explains why the climate has changed since the LIA. Natural forces are also capable of it, but government research funding ignores this.

    I hear politicians telling us that (based entirely on computer models) AGW threatens all of humanity, and that we’re destroying our planet. Yet government refuses to provide at least as much year-to-year AGW research funding to find an energy source that can replace carbon fuels. What government gives us is old technology for wind and solar power. These are not full time energy sources and cannot replace carbon fuels. Government subsidizes Ethanol so we can dilute our gasoline. Government won’t replace gasoline. Government wants us to have electric cars, charged by (you guessed it) carbon fuel powered generators. Government wants desperately to enact Cap and Trade, said by some to result in a $10 trillion per year carbon trading business, the money for which would come from consumers’ pockets. Of course, at 30% for taxes, government would have an immense new source of revenue to do with as it sees fit. Why would government WANT to eliminate carbon fuels when their continued usage, especially in large quantities, would kill the golden egg of carbon trading? Carbon trading will become a business that’s too big to fail. If carbon fuels were eliminated, the value of carbon derivatives would crash faster than sub-prime mortgages.

    It is not surprising that politicians have never, ever, given us an estimate on how much global temperature reduction would likely result from their “solutions”. Government hasn’t even given us a coherent national energy policy. We haven’t been told where all of their initiatives are taking us.

    If AGW science is that certain, why can’t scientists independently calculate the effect of government’s solutions on global temperatures? It would be my guess that the temperature reductions would be embarrassingly pitiful. Yet government is imposing radical changes to our way of life, and for what result?

    Nick, you have your settled AGW science to promote, but for what purpose? Government uses your AGW advocacy to promote its solutions, but no one has shown how they would solve the problem. Even if AGW wins out in the end, when will you realize that government’s solutions (as seen thus far) are not going to do enough to “save the planet”?

    You and I both support the precautionary principle, but it seems that only Bill Gates and I advocate total elimination of carbon fuels. If carbon fuels were eliminated, a lot of problems would go away. First, manmade warming would end. If it didn’t (because AGW science got it wrong and natural forces are to blame), so what? We will adapt, as in past times. Eliminating carbon fuels would make our environment cleaner, for sure. We could end our energy dependence on foreign countries. We could stop the hemorrhaging of our national wealth to enemies, who then use this wealth to kill us. We could bankrupt radical Islam. And we could end the stranglehold of big energy companies on our economy.

    In the end, my doubts on AGW as a problem are “fueled” by government. How serious a threat can AGW be when government isn’t trying to eliminate carbon fuels, the universally stated problem? Because of its inadequate solutions, government is telling us that AGW is NOT a serious problem. To me, government is using AGW advocacy as a shill for another agenda.

    Nick, if mankind is actually causing harmful climate change, government’s actions will not save us.