Other countries see economic opportunity, Trump sees ruin

August 15, 2017

In the Aug. 1 issue, columnist Geary Foertsch responded to the "blowback" he received for his piece praising President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

One of Foertsch's major points was the "inconvenient pause in warming" that supposedly occurred between 1998 and 2012.
Foerstch said the pause was "you know, the one that critics never mention."

I don't know why Foerstch mentioned it, because it doesn't help his case. Foerstch's source was Anthony Watts, whom he referred to as a "retired meteorologist."

First, a meteorologist isn't a climate scientist.

Second, Watts took meteorology courses at Purdue University, but his Wikipedia page says he never received a degree - in meteorology or anything else.

He's neither a climate scientist nor a meteorologist. He's a TV weatherman.

So we're supposed to take the word of a college-dropout TV weatherman over that of thousands of, you know, scientists with advanced degrees.

Watts is listed among the supposed experts at the Heartland Institute, which has received funding from Exxon Mobil, among other energy industry sources. The institute now refuses to disclose its donors.

Heartland Institute, by the way, is also well known for its longtime defense of the tobacco industry. A 1988 column by Heartland President Joseph Bast even downplayed the risks of "moderate" cigarette smoking. Seriously.

You have to read this junk to believe it. (PR Watch, May 2, 2014.)

Another of Foertsch's sources is Bjorn Lomborg of the Copenhagen Consensus Center. Unlike Watts, Lomborg has a degree – in political science.

It's interesting how many of the big names in climate denial aren't scientists.

Now about that "pause" in global warming.

You might recall the El Nino of 1997-98, especially if you're a golfer. It was among the most powerful such events in recorded history. The abnormally warm temperatures allowed golfers to play throughout the month of January.

They were so warm, in fact, that it took several years for the temperatures to regain those heights. But those years only look like a "pause" if you start with the beginning of the El Nino. Go back further and you see a long upward trend in temperatures, with an outlier year in 1998.

Extend the time period and the mysterious "pause" disappears. In any case, we can safely declare the "pause" officially over. "Of the 17 hottest years on record, 16 have occurred in the 21st century (the exception being the strong El Nino of 1998)." (Jan. 18, 2017 Scientific American.)

But don't worry, folks! We have a real-live TV weatherman telling us there's no problem.

Climate change deniers enjoy the huge advantage of not having to prove anything. They only have to make a lot of noise.

If you have a big enough megaphone - and if you're Exxon Mobil, you have a huge megaphone - you don't need logic or scientific evidence to win the argument.

You need only proclaim over and over that climate change is "controversial." Your big megaphone will make the claim self-fulfilling.

Here's an example. This spring, the Heartland Institute sent out 200,000 books to public school science teachers across the country. The title: "Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming."

Sad to say, but the PR effort will probably have some effect. If nothing else, it will persuade some teachers they better tiptoe around such a supposedly controversial subject.

In truth, there's virtually no controversy within the scientific community about climate change.

Who cares? Deep-pocketed corporations can order a "controversy" as easily as the average person can order a pizza.

Near the end of his letter Foertsch writes, "My critics should promote an unbiased debate about global warming/climate change to get to the truth."

Sounds good. But anyone interested in non-biased science wouldn't rely on a TV weatherman like Anthony Watts.

Conservative critics have charged that the Paris climate accord won't be effective enough to make a difference (which, oddly, somewhat contradicts their main point).

By itself, no. It's the proverbial first step in a thousand-mile journey. It's a start.

China and countries in the European Union accept the challenge and even see an economic opportunity.

President Trump, however, wants to return to an imaginary past by taking a step backward. It's foolish, embarrassing and downright un-American. Where Trump sees economic doom, the rest of the world sees opportunity - China, EU, electric cars. Trump appears to believe that we can return to the past through an act of will.

Don Flood is a former newspaper editor living in Lewes. He can be reached at

  • Accomplished writers appear in the Politics column every Tuesday on a rotating basis to explore the dynamic world of politics at the local, county, state, national and world levels.

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