Mitt Romney flip flops on global warming

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks at a town hall meeting campaign stop in Manchester, New Hampshire October 28, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

Mitt Romney is well-known as someone who will shamelessly change his position for political expediency, and now he’s applying his famous mental gymnastics to the issue of global warming.

The details are here, but basically he’s realizing that his rational statement on climate change in the past are not doing him any good in a GOP primary dominated by voters who hate science.

Blow to climate change deniers

This is pretty interesting, as all of the global warming skeptics will now have to face this study from a former skeptic.

Climate change deniers thought they had an ally in Richard Muller, a popular physics professor at UC Berkeley.

Muller didn’t reject climate science per se, but he was a skeptic, and a convenient one for big polluters and conservative anti-environmentalists — until Muller put their money where his mouth was, and launched the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, in part with a grant from the Charles G. Koch foundation.

After extensive study, he’s concluded that the existing science was right all along — that the earth’s surface is warming, at an accelerating rate. But instead of second-guessing themselves, his erstwhile allies of convenience are now abandoning him.

“When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find,” Muller wrote in a Friday Wall Street Journal op-ed. “Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections. Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate.”

This does not speak to the issue of whether humans are causing the warming, but it’s another persuasive set of data on this issue of warming itself.

Fact check on global warming and scientific consensus

A number of politicians, particularly many Republicans, are questioning whether global warming is being caused by human activity. Some are now claiming that scientists are split on the issue. Politifact decided to check up on these ridiculous claims:

To begin with, a 2007 report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading international scientific body on climate science, states: “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. The observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and ocean, together with ice mass loss, support the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past 50 years can be explained without external forcing, and very likely that it is not due to known natural causes alone.” (External forcing refers to anything that changes the climate that is outside of the normal climate system.)

A 2009 report from the U.S. Global Change Research Programreached a similar conclusion: “Observations show that warming of the climate is unequivocal. The global warming observed over the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases. These emissions come mainly from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas), with important contributions from the clearing of forests, agricultural practices, and other activities.”

Current climate change research was reviewed again this year by the National Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences. The committee it assembled concluded that global warming poses significant risksand is happening primarily because of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. It rejected the idea that those findings are in any way questionable.

“Although the scientific process is always open to new ideas and results, the fundamental causes and consequences of climate change have been established by many years of scientific research, are supported by many different lines of evidence, and have stood firm in the face of careful examination, repeated testing, and the rigorous evaluation of alternative theories and explanations,” the committee’s report said.

The scientific consensus on global warming is clear.

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