Despite Overwhelming Evidence, Sen. Marco Rubio Doubts Global Warming

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Feb. 7 2013 8:00 AM

Marco Rubio: Another Senator Who Doubts Global Warming

Picking out one United States legislator for antiscientific thinking is quite a chore since the field is so crowded. But Marco Rubio (R-Fla) deserves a bit of extra attention; for one thing he sits on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. For another, he appears to be one of the Republican White House hopefuls for at least the next election cycle. For a third, I’m still not terribly happy about his comments on the age of the Earth.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

So, given all that, when he casts doubt on the human influence on global warming, and even the existence of global warming itself, I take notice.

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He was interviewed recently by Buzzfeed’s Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, who asked Rubio, “Do you see global warming as a threat to Florida [Rubio’s home state],” his reply was interesting. Here’s the video (Rubio's response is at the 1m15s mark).

The first thing Rubio said was, “Well, first of all, the climate is always changing.” And sure, that’s true…on a 10,000 year time scale. What we’re seeing in the past few decades is climate change on scale unprecedented since records have been kept, and extremely unusual even when compared to proxy records (tree ring data, for example, and measurements using ice cores) that go back millennia. Weather can change abruptly, year-to-year, but climate change as we’re seeing now is extremely rare, and generally catastrophic for many species alive at the time. Climate really shouldn’t be changing on the time scale of years, or even decades, but that’s precisely what we’re seeing.

Rubio goes on, saying, “I understand people say there’s a significant scientific consensus on that issue, but I’ve actually seen reasonable debate on that principle.”

Earth on fire
We should probably do something about this.

Credit: Phil Plait

Actually, no he hasn’t. There has been no reasonable debate, at least not from the deniers, who for the overwhelmingly most part are not climate scientists, who twist data, who leave out critical information, who use cherry-picked graphs, and who resort to outrageous ad hominems to cast doubt on the reality of global warming.

Any controversy in this field has been manufactured, politically and ideologically motivated, and is not based on the actual science. Among climate scientists—men and women who have studied this very issue as their career—there’s a 98 percent consensus that the Earth is warming up and human activity is to blame.

The truth is, our poles are melting. Nine of the hottest years on record have been in the past decade. Even a study funded by the oil magnate Koch Brothers found the Earth is warming up.

So, oddly enough, I take exception to what Senator Rubio said. There is no longer reasonable debate. All we see is denial.

And the time for debate is long since past anyway; the science is in, and it’s sound science. I’m tired of politicians equivocating and hemming and hawing about global warming. We need to stop fiddling while the world burns, and start putting out this fire.

Tip o’ the thermometer to Dave Razowksy.

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