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President Obama mocks global warming deniers in commencement speech, saying denial is like claiming 'moon is made of cheese'


Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist, theweathernetwork.com

Monday, June 16, 2014, 11:20 - Graduates of the University of California at Irvine were given a rare treat on Saturday, when U.S. President Barack Obama took the stage to deliver the commencement address at their graduation ceremony, and took a few minutes during this speech to bash politicians in congress for their denial of the realities of global warming.

President Obama showed up at the graduation ceremony in answer to a postcard writing campaign the graduating class undertook, after the White House received 10,000 cards in the mail. The requests contained all manner of tactics to get the president to show up, from bribery and guilt, to one request because it was the person's birthday on Saturday. When it came down to it, though, he showed up because they asked, but he had some important messages to convey, to encourage the graduates to be optimistic about the future.

He mentioned the myriad problems the country faces, from the economy to inequality to immigration, voter rights, immigration and even guns. The biggest issue he spoke on, though, was global warming and climate change, and he took the time to call out those politicians in the U.S. Congress that deny the problem, or try to spread the message that the science is still up for debate. 

The minute and a half video above gives the highlights of this part of the speech, including when he mentions the first moon landings, and how there were no debates about the science, or claims that the moon wasn't there or that it was made of cheese. Dr. Michael E. Mann, a leading climate scientist from the University of Pennsylvania, had an even more apt analogy, which he posted to Twitter:

This isn't just pointless name-calling on Dr. Mann's part (he is much too amiable for that). What he's referring to is a study performed by researchers at the University of Western Australia and the University of Zurich, and published in the journal Psychological Sciences in 2012. This study showed that belief in conspiracy theories - such as the U.S. government being 'in on' the 9/11 attacks and the Apollo moon landings being faked by Stanley Kubrick - and rejection of the scientific evidence for climate change/global warming tend to go hand-in-hand for certain groups. Regardless of the fact that the research was scientifically sound and valid, the threat of legal action by some of these groups (along with libel laws that failed to protect scientists from this kind of action), forced the authors to retract the paper. However, the research still remains valid and is available (for free) on the University of Western Australia website (click here).

What President Obama said after the portion in the above video is perhaps most important, though.

"Now, I’m not a scientist either, but we've got some really good ones at NASA," he said in the speech. "I do know that the overwhelming majority of scientists who work on climate change, including some who once disputed the data, have put that debate to rest.  The writer, Thomas Friedman, recently put it to me this way.  We were talking, and he says, "Your kid is sick. You consult 100 doctors. 97 of them tell you to do this, three tell [you] to do that, and you want to go with the three?""

"The fact is, this should not be a partisan issue," he added. "After all, it was Republicans who used to lead the way on new ideas to protect our environment.  It was Teddy Roosevelt who first pushed for our magnificent national parks.  It was Richard Nixon who signed the Clean Air Act and opened the EPA. George H.W. Bush - a wonderful man who at 90 just jumped out of a plane in a parachute - said that 'human activities are changing the atmosphere in unexpected and unprecedented ways.'  John McCain and other Republicans publicly supported free market-based cap-and-trade bills to slow carbon pollution just a few years ago - before the Tea Party decided it was a massive threat to freedom and liberty."

This is really what it comes down to. Not all of us are scientists, including the politicians. However, there are many scientists studying this problem, and it's our job, as well as the job of the politicians, to listen to them, examine their research and their evidence, and remove the 'filter' of political ideology when we do so.

For a simple, straight-forward look at just how strong the evidence is for man-made global warming, see the works of James L. Powell, both here and updated here.

The full commencement speech can be seen here. The DailyKos has the full transcript here.

(H/T to Phil Plait for the link to Dr. Mann's tweet)

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