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In recent hearings on the Keystone Pipeline, Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) invoked nearly all the climate change denial talking points in his exchange with climatologist James Hansen, director of the Program on Climate Science. Below is one of the more pivotal moments in the senate hearing:

Johnson: "I live in Wisconsin. There were 200-foot-thick glaciers in Wisconsin. How do you explain change before man ever had a carbon footprint?"

Hansen: "The statement that you just made is blatantly false—"

Johnson: "How do you explain—"

Hansen: "We do know."

Johnson: "How do you explain climate change that occurred 10,000 years ago before man had a carbon print?"

Hansen: "There are variations in the earth’s orbital elements. The eccentricity of the earth’s orbit, the time in the season in which it’s closest to the sun."

Johnson: "Those variations just end right now, so now it’s all man-made?"

Hansen: "No one has said it is all man-made. However, the man-made effect is now dominant, And we can measure that, because we can measure the energy balance of the planet, and we can see that there’s more energy coming in than there is going out. So therefore, the planet is going to continue to get warmer. It doesn't mean each year is going to get warmer, because there are natural fluctuations. But this decade is going to be warmer than the last one, and the following one will be still warmer."

Johnson: "I agree with Ms. Harbert, I think the science is far from settled."

Excerpt from: Capital Times "Ron Johnson on climate change: 'The science is far from settled"

What can we make of this all too predictable encounter between climate scientists and the increasingly assertive deniers?

First, as we all know, Johnson is a Koch brothers shill and, in keeping with his standard MO, espouses the unadulterated idiocy of "for profit" climate change denial. Climate scientists have well-supported explanations of the factors that led to the end of the last ice age and can enumerate the specific forces that contributed to these changes, as exemplified here -- Fact sheet excerpt from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -

Also, Ron Johnson, like his Koch-funded cronies, is committing the standard logical fallacy that anchors climate change denial arguments. As noted in the report cited above:  

These examples illustrate that different climate changes in the past had different causes. The fact that natural factors caused climate changes in the past does not mean that the current climate change is natural. By analogy, the fact that forest fires have long been caused naturally by lightning strikes does not mean that fires cannot also be caused by a careless camper. FAQ 2.1 addresses the question of how human influences compare with natural ones in their contributions to recent climate change.

But, here is the problem with these recurrent and oh so very frustrating exchanges. Anyone who knows diddly squat about climate change readily admits that it involves a complex set of interrelations among multiple factors and that it generates equally complicated and counter intuitive outcomes (e.g., a polar vortex which creates unusually cold conditions in certain parts of the globe).

That inherent multifactored complexity unfortunately plays into the hands of climate change deniers. Most people are not scientists or even have an appreciation of how science and scientific explanations (which are always contingent on the best available evidence) work. It is easy to exploit that ignorance in relation to an abstract and hard to conceptualize event like climate change.

That is why I continue to believe that warnings about climate change are not the right messaging strategy for the environmental movement. Imagine if the Johnson and Hansen exchange had gone something like this instead:

Senator, your arguments are not supported by climate science but for the moment, let's not worry about the carbon emissions-climate change link. Let's talk instead about ocean acidification - do you understand the causes and ramifications of that? (Extrapolation on that issue). And the problems of rising carbon emissions do not stop with the devastation of our oceans. Do you understand that carbon emissions lower air quality which directly translates into higher rates of asthma, emphysema, cancer? Can we please talk about the costs to health care system and Americans' quality of life that comes from that undeniable consequence? And can I remind you that these  pandemic health problems did not exist when glaciers covered your fine state of Wisconsin. Can we factor in these costs when debating the Keystone pipeline? How many children are you willing to have suffer or die from asthma so that large energy companies can continue to exploit the dirtiest source of energy on the planet?


Climate change remains an abstract concept that one a day-to-day basis has a less noticeable impact on peoples' lives than more immediate meteorological events. However, the effects and consequences of rampant carbon emissions also have tangible ecological and health consequences that are far more difficult for climate change deniers to evade.

The full session of the Senate hearing can be seen here

Senate hearing on Keystone XL

Originally posted to madtownpopulist on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 10:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Is it possible... (12+ / 0-)

    that Ronny is a bigger douchebag than Walker?

    No one knows what it's like, To be the bad man, To be the sad man, behind blue eyes....

    by blueyedace2 on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 10:33:21 AM PDT

  •  How oh how did we ever (8+ / 0-)

    elect this moran (snark) over Russ Feingold?  

  •  RoJo's probable answer to your question (4+ / 0-)
    How many children are you willing to have suffer or die from asthma so that large energy companies can continue to exploit the dirtiest source of energy on the planet?
    All of them.  :(
  •  It's time for independent candidates... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    madtownpopulist, buffie, verdeo

    to run against Sen. Johnson and Congressman Ried Ribble and Governor Scott Walker.  They aren't like any of the decent, reasonable Wisconsin republicans I know and respect.  

    The issue of climate change is absolutely one of out-of-control economic growth that is clearly having non-beneficial outcomes.  And getting ALL special interests out of this important political discussion can only be done by getting objective people in positions of power and influence.  I know Sen. Johnson, and I'm embarrassed (and frustrated).  

    There's an opportunity for an independent gubernatorial candidate in Wisconsin to step up and lead on this issue, but no sensible person would probably run.

    •  It makes you shake your head (10+ / 0-)

      Having worked in the losing Feingold campaign, it was disconcerting to say the least, how deeply tea party beliefs had infused Wisconsin politics. In the suburban areas of Milwaukee and much of rural Wisconsin, you have voter blocs whose world-view has been framed by Fox news and conservative talk radio (Charlie Sykes and his poisonous ilk as well as the national blow hards like Limbaugh).

      Honestly, in the short term, the only immediate hope is high turnout of the democratic base as in 2012, which carried Tammy Baldwin to the US Senate. I am very worried that 2014 is going to look a lot like 2010. The polls on Mary Burke versus Scott walker do not look promising at this point. A lot of work to do.

      •  Considering how progressive Wisconsin was (12+ / 0-)

        100 yrs ago, they have come a long way.

        Significant Wisconsin legislation:

        1911: Workman's Compensation
        The Constitutionality of the Act was upheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court on November 1, 1911 (and by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1926).

        photo WisconsinWorkCompHeadline.png

        1913: Elevator Safety
        Wisconsin's first elevator safety code took effect in 1913.

        1913: Wage Laws for Women and Children
        The first Wisconsin wage law was enacted in 1913 and specified that a "living wage" must be paid to women and minors. A woman's work week was limited to 55 hours and a childs workweek was limited to 48 hours.

        1914: State Building Code
        Ithe first building code in Wisconsin was adopted to help in the enforcement of the safe place statutes for all buildings and places of employment.

        1915: Apprenticeship Law
        A new Wisconsin apprenticeship law required apprentices to attend school 5 hours a week, at the employer's expense.

        1917: State Employment Services

        1919: Minimum Wage Law
        A 22-cent minimum wage was established for women and minors 17 years of age and older.

        1919: Worker's Compensation expanded
        Occupational diseases were added to Worker's Compensation coverage.

        1921: Mine and Quarry Safety
        A complete safety code was developed for all mines and quarries by the Industrial Commission.

        1921: Worker's Compensation expanded
        Wisconsin created the Vocational Rehabilitation program with emphasis on people injured in industrial employment accidents.

        1931: Prevailing Wage
        New legislation required employers to pay all laborers, workman and mechanics on state public works projects at the "prevailing" wage rate of the area.

        1931: Owed Wages
        Wisconsin Legislature created a new division to help workers collect wages owed by former employers.

        1932: Unemployment Compensation Law
        The Wisconsin Legislature passed the nation's first unemployment compensation law.

        1936: First Unemployment check
        Wisconsin issued the first Unemployment Compensation Check in the United States on August 17, 1936. It was in the amount of $15.00 and issued to Neils N, Ruud.

        .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 12:18:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you for that compilation, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jollie Ollie Orange, JeffW

          It's interesting to note that most of those came under Progressive Republican control.

          Here are a few firsts:

          In 1867 Wisconsin became the first state to enact legislation limiting hours of work for women and children.

          A 1911 law created the first safe work place statute in the United States

          Wisconsin was the first state to adopt a collective bargaining law for public employees, in 1959.

          In 1982, Wisconsin was the first state to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

          In 1907, Wisconsin was the first state to provide pensions for the blind.

          In 1913, Wisconsin was the first state to provide aid to dependent children and in 1925 offered old-age assistance.

          Wisconsin was the first state to establish a system of state support for vocational, technical and adult education in 1911.

          Wisconsin was the first state in America to open a kindergarten, as well as the first school for training rural teachers.

          Under Republican control, Wisconsin created the nation's first comprehensive statewide primary election system, and the first state income tax, predating the federal income tax.

          Wisconsin was the first state to ban DDT.

          Wisconsin was the first state to limit acid rain.

          Wisconsin was the first state to enact an endangered species list, before the federal list.

          Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to achieve approval of its solid waste program by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

          Under Governor Tommy Thompson, Wisconsin was first to pass a mandate that required municipalities to enact recycling programs, and provide funding subsidies for them.

          Wisconsin was the first state to celebrate Earth day.

          Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the 19th amendment, which secured the right for women to vote.

          Wisconsin was the first state to abolish the death penalty.

          Wisconsin was the first state to outlaw human RFID tag implantation requirements.

          Wisconsin was the first state to grade cheese for quality.

          Around 1918 Wisconsin was the first state to start mass growth of Italian hemp.

          Wisconsin was the first state in the U.S. to number its highways, erecting signs in May 1918.

          In 1930, Jennie Kelleher of Wisconsin was the first woman to bowl a perfect 300 game in a sanctioned tournament.

          The Green Bay Packers were the first football team to win a Superbowl.

          In 1965, Wisconsin was the first state to convert abandoned railway beds into recreational trails promoting hiking, biking, snowmobiling and some ATV use.

          In 1949, Kenosha's Nash was the first auto manufacturer to offer seat belts as an option. Later, Wisconsin was the first state to pass a law requiring safety belts in all new cars bought here.

          "All war is stupid" - JFK

          by jorogo on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 09:33:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Losing Feingold was a real blow... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        madtownpopulist, verdeo, BRog

        Do you think that if Mary Burke starts polling under 40% another candidate could emerge?  I've heard that a successful guy in NE Wisconsin with a strong business pedigree is mulling a run as an independent - he sees the Governorship as a non-partisan office that should represent all of the residents of WI, not just ones of his own party.  Progressive candidate running on a sustainability platform who could migrate conservative business people could make for a really good race.  It's unfortunate that the Dems have all rallied behind Burke without anyone else being given the chance.  Even Feingold endorsed her right out of the gate.  Kinda sad.

        •  Maybe (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          verdeo, GreatLakeSailor, NoMoreLies

          I am always hesitant to speculate on what may or may not happen in an upcoming campaign.

          For example, Russ Feingold's winning the Senate in the first place against a sitting Republican incumbent completely smashed the conventional wisdom.

          But, it would late in the game, and hence against the odds, for an independent to make major in roads against Walker (whose campaign is already spending like man on political advertising) but voters really don't pay serious attention for a few more months so maybe. I think the concern of independent is that it would simply split the opposition and effectively gift the race to Walker and his very loyal tea party base.

          The hope with Burke is that her business credentials can be leveraged against Walker's dismal job creation record. She's a better candidate (emphasis on candidate) that Barrett.

          I am not sure why with the talent pool in Wisconsin they have not been able to come up with someone who brings Tammy Baldwin charisma to the race but it is what it is...

        •  Short answer - no, no one else is running... (4+ / 0-)

          Better or worse, Burke is the candidate. I'd personally have liked to see a primary, but given Kathleen Vinehout's injuries in her car accident I completely understand her giving up on the governor's race.

          FWIW, Burke is polling tied with Walker right now at 45%.

          I'd be really leery of an independent getting in. All that would do would be to take votes from Burke.

          Unless the independent's coming at it from Walker's right (not sure where that is).

          Screw John Galt. Who's John Doe?

          by Mike Kahlow on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 06:04:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  For a list of basic global warming talking points (4+ / 0-)

    go here.

    And for an intuitive picture of our colder than normal storms please go here.

    You'll find in the last link that about 5% of the earth is colder but is surrounded by warmer than average temperatures that go up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit above normal especially in Siberia.

    A million Arcosantis.

    by Villabolo on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 01:36:32 PM PDT

  •  For more information on global warming issues (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peptabysmal, madgranny

    please go here.

    And for an easy and intuitive look at the colder than average temperatures go here.

    You will find in the last link that about 5% of the Earth's surface is colder than average yet is surrounded by hotter than average temperatures up to 20 degrees above normal in places like Alaska and Greenland.

    A million Arcosantis.

    by Villabolo on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 01:50:25 PM PDT

  •  RoJo is a fascist tool of The Hoarders Koch (6+ / 0-)

    Sent him an email lately through his senate website portal?  His handlers have capped the message length to 500 characters!?!?  Yuppers, 500 characters, not 500 words.  That's 3.57Twit units as a means of constituent communication.

    Dumb it down, stifle communication.  I bet the Hoarders Koch can send him longer emails through an unofficial 'alternate' addy.  Or they just put the way they want him to vote on the 'Memo' line of the check.

    Lobbyist, PAC, SuperPAC - a bribe by any name is still corruption

    by GreatLakeSailor on Fri Mar 14, 2014 at 02:51:46 PM PDT

  •  If Johnson were any more dense a parrot, (2+ / 0-)

    he'd have to wear a special parrot-beanie with a flashing beacon so the Kochs could keep track of his whereabouts.

    The last time he experienced a talking-points seizure, it was a "Ben — GAHH — Zee!" episode and Hillary Clinton figuratively pulled his Jockeys™ down around his ankles.

    What a lummox.

  •  Recommended for "Kochsplains" alone (5+ / 0-)

    There's no way this joker can win in 2016, is there?

    •  the Return of Russ (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      madgranny, Jollie Ollie Orange

      A lot of people are hoping with all their might that Russ Feingold will campaign to reclaim his seat, Its all rumor and speculation at this point but i think if the state got a do-over, Johnson would be a one termer.

      Barring that, the base that put Johnson, Walker and company in power remain very, very loyal..

      I can't emphasize this enough, other than the large population centers of Dane County (which includes Madison) and Milwaukee proper (excluding its conservative suburbs), Wisconsin is sadly a very RED state.

  •  Russ is running in 2016, and Johnson is a dead (2+ / 0-)

    senator walking. Russ lost because of the tea party wave in 2010, that wave has since receded, as the people who were elected during that wave have proven themselves completely unfit to hold elective office. lePage, Corbett, Scott, etc. Burke is currently tied with Walker at 45 each, and i doubt Burke will drop much below that 45%. she has room to grow, as shes the challenger and everyone knows who Walker is.  walker will have plenty of money, but the more that comes out about the john doe probe- about all the wrongdoing hes done in office, that will likely turn voters against him.  they gave him a chance to srve out his term, but i dont think they are eager for 4 more years of Walker.

  •  Can anyone say Russ Feingold 2016? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Maverick80229, madtownpopulist

    I'm ready to say it.  Russ Feingold being defeated for re-election is the biggest tragedy of November 2010 aside from Democrats losing control of the House of Representatives.

  •  What a Koch-sucker! :-) (0+ / 0-)

    When speaking to conservatives, scientists really do need to remember to dumb their statements down. They have to pretend that they're explaining to a five-year old.

    Because that's where those Conservatives are, mentally speaking.

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