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An open letter about climate change to soon-to-be Speaker John Boehner

Dear Representative Boehner,

Congratulations on your party’s recent election victories. Your speech at the end of the night was particularly touching, and your personal story is inspirational. The election results do seem to signify that many Americans are not happy with how the Democratic party has been running Washington, and some change will likely be good for the country. As a scientist, however, I am deeply troubled by some of what I’m hearing about the new Republican House majority, particularly about global climate change policy.

According to an article published in the Guardian, every single 2010 Republican candidate for the United States Senate was a global warming skeptic (except for Mike Castle, who was defeated in his primary). Joe Miller of Alaska even called his opponent Lisa Murkowski’s support of global warming reduction policies “exhibit A for why she needs to go”. The House and the Senate are different bodies, but the trend is troubling.

Global climate change is happening. The evidence is all around us. Despite a cold snap in much of the Southeast last winter, during which many conservative pundits claimed that climate change is obviously a fraud, 2010 is on track to be the warmest year on record. 2009 was one of the warmest years of all time, and the last decade was the warmest ever recorded.Thousands of scientific papers have been published about this topic, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is composed of hundreds of the world’s leading scientific experts on climatology from around the world, settled any small lingering doubt about the validity of climate change with their comprehensive reports. Yes, some scientists still debate a few of the specific consequences of climate change, but the overwhelming majority of us agree that climate change is happening.

In addition to making President Obama’s climate change reduction policy impossible to pass, it seems that certain House Republicans are even planning to hold hearings into the “scientific fraud” of global warming. I would ordinarily dismiss such a rumor out of hand, but there is precedent for it- Virginia’s attorney general has already wasted taxpayer dollars investigating climate science at UVA.

A reasonable argument can be made that President Obama’s proposed cap-and-trade plan is not the best way to combat global climate change. However, to claim that climate change isn’t happening at all is to reject an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence in favor of partisan ideology.

Many aspects of President Obama’s plan should appeal to Republicans. It calls for increased investment in alternative energy, which has the potential to be an incredibly valuable domestic industry. In addition to providing many thousands of high-paying private-sector jobs here in the United States, a domestic, renewable source of energy would cut off the primary source of funding for Islamic extremist groups: oil money. Along the way, it also helps combat climate change.

A lot of analysts are comparing the Republican party’s 2010 election victory to 1994, the midterm election of President Clinton’s first term. At that time, under the leadership of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, Republicans recaptured the House of Representatives. I feel that it is important to note that Mr. Gingrich is a firm supporter of environmental protections. He wrote a book entitled “A Contract with the Earth” (a reference to his 1994 “Contract with America”), and even appeared in a commercial with soon-to-be-ex Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging Americans to put aside political differences to find a solution to global warming.  Despite his acceptance of climate change and his support of conservation policies, Gingrich remains a hero among many conservative voters and is now considered to be on the short-list for serious 2012 Republican Presidential contenders.

I urge you to ignore partisan bickering and work with the President and the Democrat-controlled Senate to pass climate change policy that we can all live with. I urge you to help the economy and the environment by supporting alternative energy. I urge you not to waste taxpayer resources by calling science and scientists ‘frauds’.

I wish you the best of luck in your new role as the third most powerful person in the United States government. I hope that you can help get the country back on track. I just hope you can do it without rejecting science.


David Shiffman, Concerned American Scientist