On Monday, Republican Congressman and former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan participated in a debate with his Democratic challenger, Rob Zerban. The two are competing to represent Wisconsin’s first district, which Ryan has held on lockdown for eight terms.
During the debate, the moderator asked each candidate if he believed that human activity is responsible for climate change.
Zerban said that he did, adding that anthropogenic (man-made) climate change is a serious problem in need of fixing.
The Democratic candidate used the potholes in Wisconsin’s roads as an example of the damage done by a vicious winter whose November through March temperatures are projected to be three to five degrees below normal. “These severe weather events have local consequences,” said Zerban.
Ryan, however, had a very different opinion. Asked if he believed in man-made climate change, the Congressman answered: “I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t think science does, either.”
For those playing at home, Ryan has joined the legion of Republicans who would rather deflect or deny the issue of anthropogenic climate change by either ignoring the facts or voicing genuine ignorance.
To clear up any confusion, science does know the answer to that question. An analysis of almost 12,000 peer-reviewed climate articles written between 1991 and 2011 on whether humans are having an effect on the global climate results in a scientific consensus of 97.1 percent in the affirmative. In other words, anthropogenic climate change is disputed by less than 3 percent of the scientific community. This point has been further hammered home by leading climate scientist and Penn State University’s Distinguished Professor of Meteorology Michael Mann, as well as in the ’97 Hours of Consensus’ project spearheaded by Skeptical Science.
In the debate, Ryan also said that fighting climate change would be costly and ignores the fact that “we’ve had climate change forever.”
“The benefits do not outweigh the costs,” said Ryan.
Here the Congressman is also mistaken. Multiple studies have been released this year that say climate regulation policies combined with investments in renewables would be good not only for the domestic economy but also the international economy.
As to whether we’ve had climate change forever, yes, this is true. But the last time the Earth’s atmosphere had a carbon concentration of 400 parts per million was about 800,00 years ago and took place over geologic ages, not less than 200 years.