Iowa Representative Steve King said that “climate change is more religion than science.” Such a comment is perhaps of little importance given the tidal wave of anti-science political rhetoric aimed at climate change from politicians like Mr. King. But it’s worth our time, even a moment, to say out loud that this is wrong. The claim that our planet’s temperatures are rising as a result of the human use of fossil fuels is not religion. It is founded in the scientific study of the observable, physical world.
It is accepted by almost every single scientist who studies climate and supported by almost the entire scientific record on the subject. Climate change is not religion; it is not taken on faith; to say it is religion is simply wrong.
The capacity to study and measure the world, to know the actual global temperature record, to study the physics, to know the contents of our atmosphere, this is all science. We can measure the carbon content in our atmosphere today in a single place or 50 years ago for the global average or 10,000 years ago or more, and from that information we can draw conclusions and test those conclusions and model the consequences of the changes and see what might happen in the future.
These endeavors all fit quite well within the realm of uncontroversial, day-to-day science. You can think this is all wrong if you want, but you can’t think this is religion. It’s science.
This reminder seems to be in order because Mr. King doesn’t seem to understand science very well. This is demonstrated not only in his “more religion than science” comment but his follow-up remarks as well.
Continued Rep. King: “Everything that might result from a warmer planet is always bad in (environmentalists’) analysis. There will be more photosynthesis going on if the Earth gets warmer. … And if sea levels go up 4 or 6 inches, I don’t know if we’d know that…We don’t know where sea level is even, let alone be able to say that it’s going to come up an inch globally because some polar ice caps might melt because there’s CO2 suspended in the atmosphere.”
There will be winners in a warming planet. If that’s what you mean by “more photosynthesis,” Mr. King, you’re right. There will be more plant fertility that results from more carbon in the atmosphere in certain regions of the world, as the impacts of climate change are felt. Such a claim is not surprising, and any benefits will be of little comfort for those suffering the overwhelming negative consequences that will result from changing climate.
One of these overwhelming negative consequences will be sea-level rise. Huge percentages of the world’s population is coastal. 39% of the US population lives in counties on the shoreline.
The world will notice the rise in sea-level because the earth’s population lives on the coasts. Hundreds of millions of people are at risk from rising sea-levels. The threat of rising sea-levels may seem over-stated in Iowa, Mr. King. But not recognizing the threat sea-level rise poses to the world at large shows either a lack of compassion or ignorance. Neither is terribly reassuring.
Finally, Mr. King, you say that “we don’t know where sea level is even.” This is absurd. The study of sea-levels is actual. It’s fascinating, important and, get this: it’s science.