Ask every GOP candidate this question at Wednesday’s debate.
The 14 Republican candidates taking the main stage in the third GOP Presidential debate this Wednesday are blowhards, but none of them can bluster and seethe like Hurricane Patricia.
The superstorm, with winds that maxed out at 200 mph, was the fiercest storm ever measured in the Western hemisphere, may have been the strongest in world history, and broke the Dvorak scale, used to measure the intensity of tropical cyclones.
Yet, despite a cumulative five hours of debating, the candidates at each of the last two varsity GOP debates have spent exactly three minutes on climate change, the product of one question by moderator Jake Tapper in the second debate. The ensuing anti-science orgy was so boring, Tapper changed the subject to the correlation between vaccines and Autism, a much more intellectually stimulating topic on the cutting edge of modern medical thought.
On a previous episode of General Hospital, hosted by Fox news, the candidates weren’t asked about the impending global dutch oven at all, and instead spent more time speculating on their secret service codename and what woman they would place in the 10 dollar bill (Mike Huckabee said his wife, and Jeb Bush, perhaps confusing which side of the Atlantic he was on, or maybe thinking Donald Trump’s nose was shaped like the United Kingdom, said ex-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher).
Enough is enough. On Wednesday, they ought to be asked the following question.
Hurricane Patricia, which recently formed off the West Coast of Mexico, may be the strongest storm in world history. Do you believe that there is a relationship between the warming of earth’s climate and ever-strengthening super storms? If not, why are record breaking storms developing more frequently than at any time since we began studying them?
While it was understandable when the FOX moderators left climate change out of the first debate (but not any less excusable), Tapper’s failure to press the issue when CNN hosted the last Republican debate makes it even more imperative for CNBC and moderator Carl Quintanilla to do so now.
Watching the Republican candidates go through their standard “I am not a scientist” spiel, inspired by soon-to-be-former-but-always-in-our-heart Speaker of the House John Boehner’s famous response to a climate change question in 2014, will be a worthwhile endeavor. First of all, one of them is an eye surgeon (Ron Paul), and another is a pediatric neurosurgeon (Ben Carson — who is desperately trying to prove he doesn’t deserve the title). Second, the question should be asked to force the wild bunch to go on record saying that in the face of increasingly dangerous natural disasters, we ought to sit back on our laurels and relive the tornado scene from Wizard of Oz until Tred Cruz actually becomes a scarecrow and Jeb Bush embraces his inner tin man.
While I am not a scientist either, I’ve read about some pretty good ones. 97% of all actively publishing climatologists believe the climate is warming due to human activity. Last October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the UN organization composed of scientists and participants from 195 nations) released the final segment in its post-2007 analysis.
The report concluded that“unequivocal warming” is human caused and, unless urgent action is taken to reduce fossil fuel emissions by 2100, will result in ever-worsening heat waves, sea level rises, freak storms from warmer oceans, marine die-off from more acidic oceans, decreased crop yields, and mass extinctions of animals and plants. Bleak as it may seem, many science experts described the report as “decidedly conservative,” saying the effects could be much worse.
By comparison, it makes Mrs. Huckabee or Margaret Thatcher’s smiling face on the 10$ bill not seem all that bad.
Speaking of Thatcher, back to Hurricane Patricia, a storm that the GOP candidates will undoubtedly remind viewers didn’t kill a single person because it quickly dissolved upon making landfall in Mexico, a claim that, while factual, doesn’t pass the sniff test. Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in 2013, killed 6,000 people, and is Hurricane Patricia’s only competition for the world’s worst measured cyclone (Patricia may have been stronger, but the two storms were measured with different techniques, so the exact answer is unclear). Moral of the story? Luck doesn’t absolve us from the need to be aware of a disturbing and dangerous trend.
The GOP candidates might also cite a dearth of articles pointing out that an exact articulation between Patricia and climate change is unclear, due to this year’s El Nino season, a cyclical phenomena that results in a warmer oceans and stronger storms. Again, true — which is why the question is worded in a general sense. Almost every article about El Nino this year also mentions the generally upshot in super-storms due to a warming climate.
“Maybe we’ll look back in a hundred years and say, ‘this is where it all began,’” Hugh Willoughby, a hurricane expert at Florida International University, told NPR. “We can look at what’s going on right now and say it’s a preview of what a warmer globe is likely to be.”
As I write this, I’m sure flames from drought-induced wildfires are licking the walls of my downtown LA apartment and UV rays coming through the depleted ozone layer are making creme brûlée out of my skin. Climate change is real, and it’s an abomination for neutral moderators in GOP debate after GOP debate to pay so little attention to it. These are candidates who, when asked about global warming, claim they aren’t scientists, point out the existence of cold weather, and show up on the Senate floor in February with a snowball in a bag (yes, this actually happened) to prove climate change is a hoax. And they’re asking for your vote to be the leader of the free world.
If Hillary Clinton can spend 11 hours testifying about Benghazi & her emails, the GOP candidates can spend ten minutes talking about global warming. If not, send ’em to Mars. I hear the temp is balmy and there might be water — but I’m not a scientist.
Nathaniel Haas is a law student at the USC Gould School of Law, and received his undergraduate degree from USC in 2015 with a double major in political science and economics. His work as a journalist covering national politics and higher education has been featured in POLITICO and The Huffington Post. Follow him on Twitter here, send him an e-mail here, or join his mailing list here.