Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Contract with the Earth 5: Climate Change

On pages 39-40 of A Contract with the Earth, Newt Gingrich and Terry Maple refer to the problems posed by climate change:

"Incredibly, as water temperatures have risen over the years, the biological foundation of the Pacific food chain has crashed. Like technology, ecosystems are linked, and the creatures along the food chain are also experiencing a sudden and dramatic decline. In the prestigious journal Science, Scripps oceanographer John McGowan reported a drop in zooplankton in the California current of 70 percent, the largest change ever measured in plankton populations. In the thirty-two years since a 1967 aerial survey of kelp forests, the California coastline had experienced a 75 percent decline. The animals that depend on a healthy food chain suffer accordingly; the sooty shearwater, a once common predatory seabird, has declined by 90 percent, just one of many bird species in trouble...Although no one knows the full implications of these alarmist findings, it is clearly a time to rally, not rant."

Newt and Maple focus here on how the increase in water temperatures negatively impacts plants, animals, and coastlines. This coincides with their belief in the preservation of species and their habitats. A number of conservatives would ask "Who cares?" Pat Buchanan said in his 1992 Republican National Convention speech, "And from the...ancient forests of Oregon and Washington, to the Inland Empire of California, America's great middle class has got to start standing up to these environmental extremists who put birds and rats and insects instead of families, workers, and jobs." George Will questioned whether we should even presume that our current environment is something to preserve, for the earth has undergone numerous changes over the years. But, in this book, Newt and Terry maintain that current species and their habitats are worth preserving, for they inspire human beings.

What is lacking, and Newt and Terry may compensate for this later in their book, is a discussion of how global warming disrupts the balance of nature that benefits human beings and ends up harming them. It has been argued that global warming has something to do with the increase in tornadoes and hurricanes. Do Newt and Terry agree with this?

Newt and Terry criticize using science for political purposes, on both the liberal and also the conservative sides. They are against alarmism. And, on pages 43-44, Newt and Terry refer to a 1999 study by Robert Lichter and Stanley Rothman saying that the media often treat the views of environmental activists as if they represented the conclusions of scientists, which is not necessarily the case.

But, in places of this book, Newt and Terry maintain that pollution can negatively affect the lives and health of human beings. Do they take the same stance regarding climate change? And do they believe that humans cause at least some of the global warming?

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