Henning Town Hall Testimony – Two Forms of Climate Denial

On Tuesday, February 28 I was invited to give testimony at the Spokane People’s Town Hall. I’ve pasted my comments below. You can find some coverage of the event in the local newspaper here.
Good evening. I am Professor Brian Henning from Gonzaga University and I am here to talk about climate change and the desperate need for science-based policy making.

I’ve come to believe that there are two forms of climate change denial.

1) The first form of climate denial is that of President Trump and our Congressional Representative, Cathy McMorris-Rogers, who falsely claim that global warming is a “hoax.” Perhaps this is the case in the alternative-facts reality of McMorris-Rogers and Trump. But in the real world 97% of climate scientists find that global warming is happening and is primarily caused by human activity.

Indeed, I read in the news today that this month, February 2017, has set a record for setting records! In a stable climate the number of record highs and record lows should be about even, 1:1. But this month on our planet there were 3,146 record highs and only 27 record lows, a ratio of 116:1!

That is an actual fact based on actual measurements, not an alternative fact based on the size of checks written by fossil fuel lobbyists.[1] (And this is not a new trend, February was the 27th month in a row with more record highs than record lows.)

Around the world global warming is already causing larger storms and rising seas. In our own home of Eastern Washington climate change it is already reducing summer irrigation water available for agriculture and hydropower. In our own community climate change is already creating larger and longer wildfire seasons, such as in 2015 when a record 1 million acres of our forests burned.

Who is it that McMorris-Rogers is really representing when she votes:

  • FOR opening the Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling
  • But AGAINST enforcing limits on CO2 global warming pollution
  • AGAINST tax credits for renewable electricity, with PAYGO offsets
  • AGAINST tax incentives for energy production and conservation
  • AGAINST tax incentives for renewable energy[2]

The climate denial of McMorris-Rogers is consistent with the fossil fuel industry, which has donate more than $361,000 to keep her in office,[3] but it is in direct conflict with the opinions of the majority of her constituents.

According to a study published by Yale University just today, in McMorris-Rogers’ 5th Congressional District:

  • 69% of her constituents and our neighbors said they “Believe Global Warming is
  • 74% of her constituents “support regulating CO2 as a pollutant”
  • and a whopping 82% of the 5th Congressional support “funding research into renewable energy”[4]


2)  This brings me to the second form of climate denial and this is a form that we are all guilty of. Though most of us recognize that climate change is happening and will continue to get worse, each of us deny the reality of climate change when we refuse to take steps in our everyday lives to reduce our impact. We deny climate change when we drive in our cars when we could use mass transit, bike, or walk. We deny climate change when we buy cars that are bigger than we need and we deny climate change when we intentionally buy homes far away from where we work.

We do need to fight Cathy McMorris-Rogers, Donald Trump, and their cabinet full of oil interests; we need to fight for the EPA and against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Keystone XL, coal trains, and bomb trains. But we also need to change the thermostat in our home and the amount of meat on our plates.

We each need to seek ways to reduce our impacts on the planet and next year we need to elect a congressional representative who shares the views of the majority of her constituents and recognizes climate change as the existential threat that it is.

[1] Brian Kahn, http://www.climatecentral.org/news/record-high-temperature-february-21186.

[2] On The Issues, February 8, 2016, http://www.ontheissues.org/House/Cathy_McMorris-Rodgers_Energy_+_Oil.htm

[3] OpenSecrets.org,  https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/industries.php?cycle=Career&type=I&cid=N00026314&newMem=N&recs=20

[4] Yale Climate Opinion Map-2016, http://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us-2016/


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