Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Reverse New Deal: Scolding science, embracing ignorance

(Congressman David McKinley, R-WV. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

On Thursday, May 22, 2014, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted "yes" on a legislative amendment that "would bar the Department of Defense from using funds to assess climate change and its implications for national security." 

The author of the amendment--Congressman David McKinley (R-WV)--wrote: "This amendment will prohibit the costs of the President's climate change policies being forced on the Department of Defense by the Obama Administration. The climate is obviously changing; it has always been changing. With all the unrest around the [world], why should Congress divert funds from the mission of our military and national security to support a political ideology?" 

This is the latest astounding display of ignorance by right-wing politicians. It seems that they are trying to take us back to the days when mankind thought the Earth was flat. To them, science is a "political ideology." 

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

According to NASA, "Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position." 

(See interesting op-ed by CNN's Carol Costello, "Why are we still debating climate change?")

The Department of Defense--who Republicans are now trying to silence on this issue--recently highlighted the climate change problem in their 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, writing: "Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, including growing, urbanizing, more affluent populations, and substantial economic growth in India, China, Brazil, and other nations, will devastate homes, land, and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs. The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence."

(A WPA poster promoting the study of science. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

New Deal policy-makers were not hostile to science and research--indeed, they encouraged it. For example, WPA workers built scientific facilities and assisted in scientific research. But, of course, we're no longer living in the New Deal era. Instead, an era of ignorance has taken hold. One of our two federal legislative bodies has, essentially, told the science community to "shut up." Why? Because Republican and Tea Party politicians are beholden to right-wing millionaires and billionaires who make their fortunes from high-pollution industries. These super-wealthy Americans give gargantuan sums of money to any conservative politician who is willing to protect them from pollution-curbing regulations (see, e.g., "Koch Industries: Still Fueling Climate Denial"). And, sure enough, Congressman McKinley's top industrial campaign contributor is the mining industry. 

Let's not beat around the bush--these conservative climate-change-denying politicians are putting the world in grave danger in return for campaign cash. We are paying a high price now, and our children and grandchildren are going to pay a much higher price in the future.

 Above: The description for this photograph reads, "Atom Smasher (Cyclotron) being constructed at Ohio State University with WPA assistance. Photo shows WPA work on the atom-smasher at Ohio State University." Cyclotrons have been used in physics research and are still used today by the medical community. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and New Deal Network.

Above: The description for this photo reads, "California Institute of Technology - The Soil Conservation Service is operating a project, using WPA labor for the purpose of studying erosion and problems bearing on the sedimentation of flowing water. Final results will be of great value in the design of reservoirs and dams to prevent their being filled with silt and which will eventually effect the prosperity of the entire West. The building used for experiments was constructed by WPA. Special apparatus for experiments is made by WPA. The machine shop and material for equipment is supplied by the Department of Agriculture. Photo shows a model constructed by WPA workers for studying the erosion caused by falling water, which occurs at base of gulley control dam." Photo courtesy of the National Archives and New Deal Network.

Above: The description for this photo reads, "WPA Ocean Climate Survey Project at New Orleans. LA - Sponsored by the US Weather Bureau." Photo courtesy of the National Archives and New Deal Network.

 Above: Merriam Laboratory, one of many structures built at Patuxent Research Refuge by WPA workers. Scientists at Patuxent Research Refuge have made important discoveries, such as the effect of DDT on bird eggs and the effect of lead shot on waterfowl. This research has led to important regulations that have protected wildlife and, thus, ensured a healthy game population for outdoor sportsmen. Photo by Brent McKee, 2011.

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