Too many turn to politics for “facts”

By Tom McDonald

State columnist

Last week, the latest report about climate change, the National Climate Assessment, came out and it wasn’t pretty.

At least that’s what I heard, since I haven’t read it.

Now before you criticize me for not doing my homework, allow me to point out that only a tiny fraction of the people out there have read it, including the pundits and politicians who speak about it with feigned authority.

The report is 840 pages long, and yet minutes after its public release people were lining up for or against its findings.

All those pundits and politicians didn’t need to read it. They had their side’s talking points, and that’s all that seems to matter these days, when truth regularly takes a back seat to opinion.

The assessment’s findings — which you can find, and read, at — appears to be based on science. But I don’t say that because I’m an expert on such matters, nor do I say it because I’m some sort of tree-hugging liberal environmentalist.

Instead, my ability to reason leads me to a conclusion that the best way to determine if the world’s climate is changing, and that human activity is a cause, is to use hard data and scientific analysis.

The people best equipped to do that are the scientists, the real experts, and an overwhelming majority of them say we’re on the brink of an environment catastrophe.

That said, it’s not the scientists or even the tree-huggers who are going to spur us into action. Nor will it be President Obama, who is reportedly about to unveil unprecedented emissions limits on power plants in an effort to reduce the nation’s carbon emissions.

Instead, it could very well be the Republicans who will put a concerted effort to counter global warming over the top.

Yes, I realize that’s where nearly all the climate-change deniers reside, but that’s precisely why they’re so pivotal in the process.

Late last year, a Pew Research survey found 46 percent of all Republicans and Republican leaners believe global warming is real, but you wouldn’t know that by the noisemakers. Tea party conservatives still hold sway over the GOP, and only 25 percent of them believe in global warming, while among the rest of the GOP, 61 percent believe it’s happening.

I have this crazy notion that our governor, Susana Martinez, could place herself on the national stage as a real GOP leader if she were to reposition her stance on this issue.

If she were to come out and say she has concluded that we must address climate change in a way that protects both the environment and our economy, she’d be praised by moderate Republicans, win re-election as governor by a landslide (who else would the deniers support?) and be placed up not as a VP candidate but for the presidency itself.

Of course, that’s a ridiculous notion. She’s already in with Sarah Palin and the Koch brothers, so her bed is laid.

Still, she’s generally a moderate Republican, and that’s been the secret to her success so far. In this state of mostly centrist voters, a move to the right only hurts her politically.
She may not be able to shed herself of the politics of climate change, but she has already expressed her support for a balanced approach that protects the environment while spurring the economy.

That’s a reasonable position, but it’s still political.

And that’s where the problem with this whole issue lies: Instead of turning to science, too many people turn to politics for their “facts.” Therein lies the greatest deception of all.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at: