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At long last, mainstream media begins to pay attention to the flat denial of basic climate science being pushed by rightwing Republican Presidential candidates. Last year, my work on the Climate Zombies earned me, coming from "even leftier Daily Kos," a snippet on a New York Times blog, while most mainstream media ran stories presenting climate science as something deserving two sides.

Things have changed, as the media realize that people who deny climate science also deny other scientific reality.

Politifact finally took on a claim by a Republican candidate for President on his claim that "scientists disagree about global warming," and found it false.

Tim Pawlenty to the Miami Herald:

Q: There is a strong case for man-made climate change, according to a University of Miami climate researcher I’ve spoken to. You don’t agree with him?

Pawlenty: “There’s lots of layers to it. But at least as to any potential man-made contribution to it, it’s fair to say the science is in dispute. There’s a lot of people who say the majority of the scientists think this way. And there’s a minority that way. And you count the number of scientists versus the quality of scientists and the like. But I think it’s fair to say that, as to whether and how much – if any – is attributable to human behavior, there’s dispute and controversy over it…..

Pawlenty's response piqued Politifact's interest.

We divided Pawlenty’s answer into his two essential claims:  

  • Evidence points toward climate change being primarily a natural, rather than man-made, phenomenon.

  • The science about the causes of global climate change is in dispute.

...To summarize: Based on our research, there is very little dispute in the scientific community, especially among climate specialists, on whether climate change is primarily caused by natural or man-made forces. The overwhelming majority of scientists polled feel that human activity is the primary driver of climate change. Also, based on scientific studies by the IPCC and others, global warming over the past 50 years has been primarily driven by human activity.

It's good that Politifact called out Pawlenty. However, he's since quit the Presidential race. Yesterday, both Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry shambled into climate zombie-ism.

Bachmann calls climate change manufactured science

And Perry calls global warming an unproven, costly theory, repeating Pawlenty's false claims that climate change is natural and that many scientists question the theory.

Doubling down on the stupid, Perry claims that climate scientists manipulate data to get grant money, never mind the$11 million he's collected from oil and gas companies, and further claims that complying with anti-carbon programs will cost "billions of dollars," never mind the$35 billion on weather disasters in the first eight months of 2011.

To its credit, the Washington Post Fact Checker gives Perry's made-up facts a Four Pinocchios rating.

Now that Politifact has spoken, will the mainstream media call out Bachmann and Perry for repeating obviously false facts? Or will their statements be presented as one legitimate side of a two-sided debate?

Originally posted to Climate Hawks on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 08:18 AM PDT.

Also republished by Science Matters.

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