Palin: It doesn't matter what's causing climate change

In yet another incredible interview with CBS News anchor Katie Couric Tuesday evening, Sarah Palin tackled a response to Couric’s question as to whether climate change is “man-made.”

In a manner imitable only by Tina Fey, Palin gave this response after Couric pressed the question:

“You know, there are man’s activities that can be contributed to the issues that we’re dealing with, with these impacts.  I’m not going to solely blame all of man’s activities on changes in climate because the world’s weather patterns are cyclical, and over history we’ve seen changes there.”

It was what Palin said next that made me hit replay twice to make sure I heard her correctly:

“But it kind of doesn’t matter at this point as we debate what caused it.  The point is, it’s real, we need to do something about it.”

Well, at least the governor of Alaska sees that imperative as her state’s permafrost is melting, glaciers are galloping backward, and polar bears are drowning – though the latter is no motivator for Palin, who opposes listing them as an endangered species so they’ll pose no impediment to accelerating oil and gas development. But to suggest that the cause of the unprecedented heating-up of our planet is irrelevant?

How do we “do something about it,” as Palin suggests, if we don’t understand it?  How does she propose to deal with the effects without knowing from whence they’ve come, and whether they may get worse?  Just how does one address the impacts of global warming if we can’t acknowledge that human-induced carbon emissions are the major driver of the problem, along with 99% of the world’s reputable scientists studying the issue?

While those scientists would not claim certainty about exactly how much of the earth’s warming is human-caused, nor that they can precisely predict the effects to come, they speak with one voice in asserting a basic law of physics that seems to elude Palin: the Earth’s temperature rises when greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap energy from the sun, and the more such gases are pumped into the atmosphere, the greater that heating effect will be.

Jim White, director of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is a paleoclimatologist who does research on ice cores from the earth’s polar regions.  The bubbles found in the ice core samples White studies hold molecules of atmosphere from up to one million years ago, placing natural variability into an extended context and revealing that humans’ fossil fuel burning over the past 150 years has raised CO2 levels higher than at any previous moment in that million-year timespan.

How can Palin, who notes that she heads the only state in the Arctic, not have even this most basic understanding of scientific principles and research methods that are explaining –- in frightening specificity — the destabilization of the earth’s climate that is underway and is inevitably going to become more extreme?  While the Bush Administration disdains science and seeks to keep it from influencing policy, Palin appears to disregard it altogether.

Maybe it is because she doesn’t avail herself of the news and information sources that would force her to confront the science on climate change that says uh, yes, we have a problem and we do know what’s causing it.  In tonight’s interview with Couric, Palin could not name one specific newspaper or magazine she reads regularly, even when Couric asked the question three times.  This is the response I often get, ironically, from many journalism undergraduates I teach, but Palin, herself a journalism major, is running for vice president of the United States.

With three opportunities, surely she could have come up with a handful of convincing responses, even if she was posturing: the New York Times?  No, too liberal.  The Washington Times, then?  Wall Street Journal?  How about the Anchorage Daily News, or the Juneau Empire when the Alaska legislature is in session?   Newsweek, TIME?  The Economist?  National Review?  Maybe The Nation, to keep tabs on the spin those crazy liberals are contriving?  Not one title came to Governor Palin’s lips.

I want to give her the benefit of the doubt.  I want to believe she does follow the news –- even as a citizen — at least in her own state.  It’s too embarrassing, with Palin on the world stage, to imagine otherwise.  But what we are seeing and hearing is a candidate whose anti-intellectualism would appear to trump even Dubya’s – and in spades. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

The meltdown of the economy is very frightening.  The meltdown of the poles is, by any long-term measure, even more frightening.  And the prospect of a potential U.S. president, which all veeps are, who doesn’t care why that’s happening should up the fear quotient by at least another factor of 10.

Image credit: by Robert A. Rohde, Global Warming Art

7 replies »

  1. I’m going to bet that she doesn’t read any newspapers or in-depth magazines, at all. Really. Earlier reports on her have quoted staffers as saying that she doesn’t like to get detailed analyses. She prefers condensed bites from briefings.

    I have a hunch that Palin was one of those students who memorized stuff, then regurgitated it on tests. That’s why she’s great at memorizing answers to questions in debates, but falls apart when she has to think on her feet.

  2. I think a lot of this is driven from religion.

    I was talking with a co-worker yesterday about the economy and government intervention overall (and that was probably the last time I will). At one point she said, seemingly out of the blue, “Religion and Government don’t mix. You should keep Religion out of Government”. .. I thought to myself, “true..”

    Then a few minutes later we were talking about the 100 million people in America that are living very meagerly, suffering, caught between paying various bills and foregoing others.. like paying rent and not having health insurance. I mentioned the Universal Health Care idea, no one has insurance but we still pay just like we do now, but into a different pot.. and employers would pay a little more maybe, and the ultra rich would have their taxes increased a tad to help the overall budget… Then anyone in the country can go in and see a doctor when ever they need to. She said “but why should I pay for them to have health coverage? Why should they get something for nothing?”.. I mentioned the massive disparity between the rich and poor, and how the system demands a certain amount of poor for it all to work, and asked why should we crap on those on the bottom.. and, and I still can’t get my head around this, she said “maybe that’s just part of g-d’s plan for them”.

    So, instead of trying to fix our society, instead of trying to enforce a sense of fairness and decency in our society.. she wants to blame g-d for her advantages and their suffering. G-d is what gives the rich their money and keep the poor down trodden.

    Palin is just like my co-worker, only 100 times more fanatical. She doesn’t think it matters where it comes from because maybe it’s just g-d farting on us.. who knows? No one can know why g-d does what he does, and he might just be giving us a task to do, that being clean up the gas. Once we do that for g-d, he’ll stop making CO2 a component of fossil fuels, maybe! to reward us for doing his will!

    In “Jesus Camp” there’s a scene where a mother is home schooling her child. She asks the kid “what does Science prove? Science doesn’t prove anything!” .. and this kid agrees. How do you make in-roads with someone like that? Everything in her house is attributed to the basic fact that Science is nothing but proof (in a general context), and that proof is what gives her all her modern technology. Science did that. And still she must dismiss it for her superstition to hold cohesion. Amazing.

    I so want to tell my co-worker of one of Jesus’ sayings.. “for that which you do unto the least of them, you do unto me”. .. but it will just upset her more and solve nothing. Republicans refuse to understand that Jesus was a Liberal.

  3. Dean, the apology for overlooking credit on the photo must come from me — I totally missed that as I was searching around online for some public domain images of glacial recession in Alaska at about 1 a.m. last night. And thanks to Brian, I presume, who took care of getting that acknowledgment up there. By the way, how did you find my post?

  4. It was fun watching the Daily Show last night and thinking “does Jon Stewart read S&R?”

    Lara Amber

  5. And “would Jon Stewart like my phone number?”

    Seriously, Wendy, listening to Palin gives me the same sense of squirmy semi-empathy, quickly morphing into rage, that listening to Bush does. I just. Don’t. Understand.