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A GOP Candidate's Primer of Climate Change Answers

Austin American Statesman

President Obama used his recent trip to Alaska—and about every other opportunity he’s gotten—to proclaim that climate change is the most important issue of our time. “We’re here today to discuss the challenge that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other—that’s the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate,” he said.

While not all environmental scientists agree with the president, most of the mainstream media emphatically do. And they are the ones who will be grilling Republican candidates—and not just the presidential candidates.

That means GOP office-seekers need to be informed about climate change matters and ready with clear, evidence-backed answers, because the media will be looking for a “gotcha moment.” What are some of the key issues?

Is the earth warming? Well it certainly has warmed since what was known as the Little Ice Age—a cold period that lasted from about 1550 to 1850. There has been a gradual increase since about 1910, with a strong uptick between the mid-1970s and about 1997. Since then, global temperatures have been relatively flat.

But it is important to understand that the flattening came after a significant warming trend. That means even a slight temperature increase in a given year allows the media to claim it is the warmest year on record, even if the change is within the margin of error.

While we don’t know whether the warming trend will resume in the near future, we do know that almost all the global warming proponents never saw the flattening coming. They incorrectly predicted much warmer temperatures that have not occurred.

And now some climate scientists are predicting a multi-year cool down, a mini-ice age, within the next decade or so that could raise further questions about the temperature trend.

Is Arctic ice melting? While in Alaska, the president visited Exit Glacier, which has been shrinking for decades. Yes, Arctic ice has been gradually declining—but Antarctic ice has been growing. As NASA observes, Antarctic sea ice hit a record maximum last year.

We know the rise-and-fall process has been going on naturally for millennia, without any help from mankind. What we don’t know—though many will say we do—is whether the recent temperature increase is part of the natural variation that occurs about every 100,000 years or is caused by human activity.

Are humans to blame? Carbon dioxide has been increasing, and most climate scientists believe man is playing a role in that increase. But is carbon dioxide causing the warming?

As the Environmental Protection Agency shows, for the past 400,000 years, temperature levels and carbon dioxide levels have followed virtually identical tracks. And Dr. Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics points out that rising carbon dioxide levels usually follow rising temperatures rather than leading them.

Can the U.S. solve the problem? After journalists try to trap the candidates into making a gotcha statement that will live indefinitely on the Internet, they will ask what Republicans intend to do about climate change.

Obama is bragging about his agreement with China, which is the largest CO2 emitter in the world. But China is rapidly expanding its coal production, as are other developing economies, because they want cheap energy regardless of carbon emissions.

And that puts America in a quandary. The U.S. is responsible for about 14.5 percent of world carbon emissions, with China at 23.5 percent. When you’re only 14.5 percent of the total, you have to make huge carbon reductions just to decrease total emissions by a fraction of a percent.

Arguably the U.S. has been doing its part, cutting energy-related carbon emissions over the past decade back to levels not seen since the early 1990s.

The good news, at least for conservative candidates, is that the public ranks cutting carbon emissions very low among their priorities for the upcoming election. The environment doesn’t even appear in Gallup’s recent polling of key 2016 campaign issues.

Even so, the environment, and specifically climate change, is one of the media’s biggest issues, and they are likely to make it very hot for Republican candidates who don’t know the facts or give them politically incorrect answers.