It would be easy to dismiss Ted Cruz as a fool. I mean this is a guy who mixes up the Arctic with the Antarctic, who thinks that misguided scientific thinking in the 17th century shows that scientists are not to be trusted today, and tells us that because CO2 levels were 10 times higher 10 thousand years ago we don’t have anything to worry about. Not mentioning the perhaps pertinent fact that when CO2 levels were that far off the chart the planet’s temperature was so high that no human could possibly have survived. This is such foolish stuff. No 10-year old would get away with this nonsense at school. Grade D+ : he does try – but fails to understand simple concepts. Needs to try harder. Would be on the T. Cruz science report card. Take the graphic below recently published by NOAA. No way Jose, says Ted Cruz. Just natural variation in the global climate. Maybe sunspots.
But can a man who is that smart really be that stupid? Maybe there are two types of people who deny climate change: those who find the science complicated, confusing, and contradictory; and those that understand perfectly what is going on but decide that it’s in their interest to deny that the evidence is compelling. Undermining the scientific basis for climate change has long been the preferred approach for the big oil companies and those who make their money from coal. Because uncertainty delays action to reduce emissions, often for decades. If we are not really convinced that atmospheric CO2 levels are raising surface temperatures, and if we are not quite sure that burning fossil fuels is the main source of emissions lawmakers and politicians will hesitate (and isn’t it a scientific fact that zillions of flatulent cows around the planet belch and fart tons of the stuff? Oh, that’s methane? Well it’s a greenhouse gas isn’t it? What’s the difference?). They will ask for more studies (and there are plenty of academics-for-hire to apply the right spin for their fossil fuel minders). Essentially nothing gets done because uncertainty and doubt creates a situation where understanding the need for action is undermined by the plethora of mixed messages.
But Ted Cruz is on to a good thing. If he went mainstream and accepted the overwhelming evidence that the climate is changing he’d just be Al Gore light. But by presenting himself as the one person who knows that the science is wrong, and the one person who has seen the genuine unretouched satellite data that shows that there has been no surface warming (which satellite is that Ted?), he gets lots of media attention. Not all good but it keeps him in the spotlight, and for people who are confused and uncertain about climate change issue, he comes across as knowledgeable and persuasive. It helps of course to be chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness. It’s the perfect place to project the image that you are seemingly knowledgeable about Space and Science. It provides Cruz with a veneer of legitimacy when he questions the objectivity and the accuracy of NASA’s data on surface temperature warming. When Cruz cannot dispute the data—for instance the clear evidence that atmospheric CO2 levels are constantly rising, he finds a way to assert that it is irrelevant or meaningless. A cynical strategy—but effective.