A couple of months ago I wrote about the GOP’s wunderkind Marco Rubio and his struggle reconciling the scientific consensus about the age of the earth with the account immortalized in the Book of Genesis. Admittedly it’s a difficult job. One is based on scientific observations analyzed through the lenses of geology, physics, and celestial mechanics, while the other is based on the oral legends of the ancient Sumerians. It’s a tough call to make, but I think he handled it well. Knowing that a lot of his constituents like those easy-to-understand legends, he gave an answer that put them on the same level as the centuries worth of discovery that have proven them wrong …
… and insulted anyone who remained awake during grade school earth science everywhere:
GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?
Marco Rubio: I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians [...] I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.
The short answer – as I said back then – is that it’s not a mystery. There’s a good deal of certainty about the age of the earth, and while we’re not too sure about the conditions of the universe at t=0, there’s no evidence to date of a giant bearded man shouting things into existence. If that changes, you can bet your ass every scientist from here to India would sell their own grandmothers to be the first to prove it.
Well, he’s at it again. This time he’s throwing red meat to all of the corporations who stand to lose some short term profits by having to comply with environmental regulations reducing carbon emissions. Either way you look at it, he’s still denying science as soon as reality becomes politically inconvenient, which is a frightening trend within the GOP:
Huffington Post offered up a good summary response to his take on the source of climate change:
Rubio’s skepticism contrasts with a study, published in 2010 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that surveyed 1,372 climate researchers and found that “97–98 [percent] of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of [anthropogenic climate change] outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” Furthermore, several of the world’s most prominent national science academies have acknowledged that the world’s climate is changing as a result of man-made causes.
He also provided two reasons to kick the global warming can down the road, and both of them sound like the musings of a CEO who’s out in six months and only cares about the contents of his golden parachute. First, that any changes we make will have a short term negative effect on our economy if corporations and businesses are given no worthwhile (monetary) incentive for “going green”. The solution to this is giving them some in the form of tax breaks. Corporations love tax breaks, which his party knows quite well. Second, he claims that taking this issue on unilaterally and expecting everyone else to follow suit won’t work. Funny talk from a party beating their chests over American exceptionalism and the obligation this country has in leading the rest of the world into the 21st century. But global warming? Screw that … it’s too hard. Let someone else work on it.
China is continuing to strengthen policies begun in the previous Five Year Plan to help it meet its energy and climate intensity targets. In 2011, it reduced its energy intensity by a little over 2 percent compared to 2010. Key among these efforts are its policies to improve the efficiency of its heavy industry and power sector (the largest coal-consuming sectors) and to shift its economy towards less energy-intensive high technology manufacturing and service sectors, to improve the efficiency of its buildings and appliances (including beginning a phase-out of incandescent lights), and to encourage the use of fuel efficient vehicles and public transportation. China has also become a leader in renewable energy manufacturing and, increasingly, deployment. In 2011, it installed 16 GW of wind power, the most in the world, and it implemented a solar PV feed-in tariff to add to its existing windpower and biomass power feed-in tariffs. China is increasingly looking to expand its distributed energy sources, including distributed PV, with the State Grid corporation recently announcing a policy to support free connection to the grid for distributed rooftop PV projects under 6 MW in size. China is also experimenting with market mechanisms to supplement its low-carbon policies, with provincial and city carbon trading pilots set to begin as early as next year. As it goes forward grappling with the pollution from coal is a key challenge that confronts China with policies like a coal cap being actively debated.
For the record, China is also the leader in CO2 emissions, contributing 29% of the world’s total. No wonder they feel the need to do something about it; they can barely see their own hands when they go outside.
India is making major strides in its efforts to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and increase its production and use of clean, sustainable energy. The country is already a global leader in wind energy – with the world’s fifth largest wind energy production. And its installed solar power jumped to more than 1 GW in 2012, from just 17 MW in 2010 thanks to its ambitious National Solar Mission. India is preparing to double the amount of clean energy by 2017. And they are beginning to put in place critical policies to tap into the huge energy efficiency potential that is available. India recently launched the Perform, Achieve and Trade program—an energy efficiency cap-and-trade scheme—for energy intensive industries that has the potential to reduce 25 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions annually by 2015. The State of Andhra Pradesh recently took a historic step towards this potential by adopting the Energy Conservation Building Code by early 2013. More than a third of the states in India are now taking action towards setting building standards that would help improve the energy intensity of its buildings. Continuing this kind of action will be essential to help reduce India’s global warming pollution.
There are more, and what’s being done likely isn’t enough, but it’s significant nonetheless. It should be noted that China is coupling its breakneck economic growth with significant investment in alternative energy sources and the infrastructure to manufacture and deploy them. That in itself should provide incentive for businesses here to get up off their asses and do some green development of their own, or else we’ll be left in the dust as a result of our own laziness and short term greed. “American exceptionalism” indeed. If this is our response to what others clearly see as an opportunity, we’ll all be speaking Mandarin by 2030.
As opposed to the US, there also appears (at least to me) to be more of a consensus in other nations that something has to be done – if not necessarily for the goal of reducing long global warming, then for being able to just go outside and not die from asphyxiation. A worthy goal in its own right. The problem we have in our political system is that science – like the truth – is handled with carelessness by the very people who should be using it to fuel their decisions to the point where it no longer means anything. Evolution? It’s still up for debate. Big Bang Theory? Teach the controversy. Contraception? My religion hates sluts.
Denial of reality and scientific fact is dangerous, no matter what the motivating factors are. In both cases above it’s being done to buy votes with religious- or corporate- friendly legislation so they provide money for re-election. All the while, our environment, our scientific aptitude, and our growth as a rational, secular nation all suffer.