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Pawlenty's flip-flop on energy and environment -- and what's ahead for our state

Tim Pawlenty
REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Tim Pawlenty

It was toward the end of the state House Commerce Committee meeting on March 3, 2011, that Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, directed everyone's attention to the screen. The House DFL media folks had put together a three-minute video. Up popped former Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

In sound bite after sound bite, Pawlenty was saying how much he believed in global warming and creating jobs through a new green economy. You can see the video for yourself here.

According to two people who were there, the Republicans on the committee seemed annoyed. Here was their one-time party leader saying things like: "I think global warming definitely exists, so we've got to take steps to control greenhouse emissions and carbon emissions."


Eyewitnesses report a lot of eye rolling.

There on the screen was Minnesota's former governor saying: "I don't think many people would disagree with the fact that what we are doing is unsustainable, environmentally, economically and from a national security standpoint."

For Republicans, it must have been like watching an old home movie of your crazy uncle who has since recovered his senses.

If this video had a musical soundtrack, it would be Barbra Streisand singing "The Way We Were."

In 2008 it was a bipartisan love fest at the capital. It isn't a love fest now. Not only is Pawlenty gone, but that particular version of the former governor has also left the building, not only bodily, but philosophically.

The new Tim Pawlenty doesn't believe much of anything he said back when he was considered one of the most progressive governors in the country on energy and environment. Republicans, and some DFLers, are ready it appears to dismantle much of the environmental reforms Pawlenty accomplished.

What happened to change so many minds in such a short time?

Puzzled and worried
The centrist environmental group Conservation Minnesota is puzzled and worried by the change. Paul Austin, the group's executive director, said: "They didn't campaign on these issues. They didn't tell people to vote for them because they intended to dismantle our environmental protections."

He thought a moment, and then said: "There is no area of government where the public has more vigorously affirmed that it is worth spending taxpayer money. When the public passed, by an overwhelming margin, the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, it was saying these things aren't getting enough attention. In a financial crisis, the people were willing to tax themselves to make sure Minnesota's resources were protected."

The Legislature is trying to lift the ban on nuclear power plant construction. The earthquake in Japan and fears of a meltdown might influence the debate, and Gov. Mark Dayton has indicated he won't sign the bill unless it contains three provisions he wants concerning a permanent storage repository, rate-payer protection and no production of weapons-grade plutonium. There is no apparent interest in meeting the governor's requirements.

The Legislature is moving quickly to remove restrictions on coal-fired power plants in Minnesota, even though no big utility is considering a coal plant. In fact, Xcel Energy is converting coal plants to natural gas. But Great River Energy wants to import electricity from the coal-fired Spiritwood plant in North Dakota. A repeal of the coal plant restriction would allow that to happen.

There seems little concern from the party in power about the effects of pollution from such an endeavor. Conservation Minnesota points out that emissions from the plant, including mercury, could harm the fish in our lakes and rivers. And there seems to be little concern for greenhouse gas emissions. A concern like that would require a majority in the Legislature to believe in global warming. That's not happening.

One of the chief skeptics about greenhouse gases and global warming is state Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria. He is the former sheriff of Douglas County. As the new chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, it is fair to say there is a new sheriff in town.

He told me that he has not changed his mind because of any political pressure. In fact, when Pawlenty signed the coal-plant restriction bill, Ingebrigtsen voted against it.

"I don't know about everyone else, but my thinking hasn't changed since I got to the Senate," he said. "I was one of three people who voted against the restrictions. Some powerful people told me, 'You won't be around here long. The governor is in favor of these alternative mandates.'"

A move to the middle
Ingebrigtsen is one of the most well-liked legislators at the Capitol. His door is always open, he says, and he is always willing to listen. He just wasn't sure then-Gov. Pawlenty was making good conservative sense.

"I think he came up with this emphasis on global warming and environment about the time he was being considered for John McCain's presidential ticket," Ingebrigtsen said. "He needed to move to the middle. After that, I started being suspect of anything that came out of that office.

"That's the difference between him and me," he added. "I'm not looking for anything bigger or better. I just want to work hard, do the right thing for Minnesota as a senator, and then return home to enjoy beautiful Lake Ida with my wife and family."

The Legislature is considering exempting ethanol plants from environmental review. Ethanol plants use a lot of the state's water, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has levied repeated fines against violators. A bill already signed exempts the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board from environmental review.

"There is an anti-mandate mentality," said Jenny Myers, senior energy associate for the Isaak Walton League of America, Midwest Office.

I asked her what has changed at the state Capitol. "They see these environmental policies as anti-business and anti-growth," she said. "I think they are wrong. It has been shown that the greenhouse-gas reductions, renewable-energy standard and energy-efficiency goals have created thousands of jobs and economic growth, especially in greater Minnesota.

"According to a bi-partisan survey last year, voters in Minnesota overwhelmingly support clean energy solutions. So, the truth is, I'm not sure why they are taking these positions."

Game-changers
A lot has happened since Minnesota and Pawlenty were the models of cutting-edge environmental leadership. Among the game-changers worth considering is the long economic crisis, the high unemployment rate, the growth of the Tea Party, the concern that the government has been over-reaching, and the fear, expressed by some commentators, that the country is on a trajectory toward socialism. Add to the  list that, according to polls by the Pew Research Center, the number of people who believe in human-caused global warming is declining,  despite the overwhelming agreement on its causes among scientists publishing in the field.  

These are merely guesses. I would be interested in what you think has happened, and whether it is good or bad for Minnesota. I'll read the comments and my emails, and will use the best of them in a future post.

In the meantime, state Rep. Atkins is trying to get Pawlenty to come back and testify at a hearing on lifting the restrictions on coal fired plants — the bill Pawlenty once thought necessary for his state. So far, no RSVP.

Maybe the former governor will send a video.

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Comments (28)

The hostility to any environmental protection beyond
stocking walleye or feeding snowbound whitetails on private land has always been there in Minnesota republicans. Koch money fuels Pawlenty's
changes. The majority party delights in rolling back environmental protection while giving lip
service to " our great outdoors". They are out to freeze phosphate standards on the Misssippi and would change the sulphate standards in the mining
district to accommodate Poly Met if given the chance.

The current Republican party suffers from a severe case of fact-resistant historical ignorance.

We are supposed to pretend that health, safety and environmental regulations were imposed by a bunch of hostile America-hating Martians instead of by people concerned with addressing real issues that affected real people with real consequences. We are supposed to ignore what overwhelming current informed science says on a topic like global climate change that will have world-wide consequences and instead be happy and reassured by the beliefs of a legislator that has little or no background in the subject beyond what they've seen on Fox. We are supposed to have a serene belief in the benevolence of corporations and their concerns for their workers. We are supposed to believe that the America we are familiar with was given to us by companies and their owners instead of wrestled from them with vigorous and sometimes bloody labor battles.

How do you deal with a party that denies facts and history?

..."I'm not looking for anything bigger or better. I just want to work hard, do the right thing for Minnesota as a senator, and then return home to enjoy beautiful Lake Ida with my wife and family."...

Well, there is a bonfire building in the world, and Mr. Ingebretson or his children WILL feel the warmth by his beautiful lake. That much is certain.

Because disbelief does not stop the inevitability of changes in progress. Because disbelief does not strip away the motives of those who want you to remain ignorant of science and history. Because ultimately, fact remain facts.

"I just want to work hard, do the right thing for Minnesota as a senator, and then return home to enjoy beautiful Lake Ida with my wife and family." --Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen

He also wants to weaken environmental protections.

Is this guy listening to himself?

The Republican agenda it roll back the 20th century. See, there good sense, and then there's good "conservative" sense. This is why reality is irrelevant.

I’m not a biologist, and make no claims to scientific expertise, but much of the environmental debate has little or nothing to do with science anyway. Claiming that the country is “…on a trajectory toward socialism,” whether true or not, isn’t an environmental argument, it’s political – or to be more accurate, it’s ideological. Much the same could – and should – be said about other points raised in Don’s “Game-changers” paragraph. Economic crisis, high unemployment, the growth of a political movement – none of these events are directly related to pollution of air, water or food.

Even if human activity isn’t the sole cause of global warming, there’s ample evidence – again, I’m not a scientist, and this opinion is simply based on my considered judgment of what I’ve read – that human activity is *contributing* to global warming. Why, then, would we not want to limit our "contribution?"

The debate isn’t about the science. “I don’t believe in global warming” isn’t a scientific argument, it’s an ideological and/or political one. Mr. Ingebrigtsen is a former sheriff, not a biologist, chemist, or physicist.

One of the ironies of the current Republican opposition to environmental concerns is that the kind of anarchic “freedom” espoused by so many “conservatives” mostly takes the form of freedom for big companies to do as they please, while leaving individuals – the very people supposedly being served by “conservative” ideology – to deal with the environmental consequences. Economically, this usually works out to subsidies for industry, while taxpayers pay for the environmental cleanup when the resource du jour has been exhausted.

“People should be able to do what they want” is a philosophical position that’s on the one hand difficult for Americans to disagree with, but which, on the other hand, we generally apply only to toddlers and infants. As we grow older, we become more aware that my actions sometimes have consequences for you, and vice-versa. It’s called “maturity,” and it’s almost entirely missing from the arguments currently in vogue among people who call themselves “conservative.” Perhaps it’s an outgrowth of the recent infatuation some “conservatives” have developed with the infantile selfishness of Ayn Rand.

The sort of “I can do what I want” freedom that’s typically advocated has several shortcomings, among them a tendency to focus almost exclusively on the short term. Environment, by its nature, is something for the long term, and thus not readily amenable to a short term-focused ideology. With that in mind, I’ve not seen “conservatives” opposed to environmental regulations propose either a realistic alternative to breathable air and drinkable water, nor any sort of plan to address what might need to be done just in case they’re wrong. Lake Ida may remain pristine, but most of the state’s population lives along waterways that are demonstrably affected by pollution, whether Mr. Ingebrigtsen believes in global warming or not.

There’s plenty of evidence, even for non-scientists, that burning coal pollutes the air, that “fracking” pollutes ground water, and that human activity that made no noticeable environmental difference when America was a rural nation of a few million people makes a significant environmental difference when America is an urban nation of 300 million. Neal Rovick’s big paragraph in #2 seems to me both accurate and to the point.

I agree that ideology rather than fact drives much of this hostility to environmental concerns.
They make a fetish out of private property for
example while denying the idea of a shared commons
which the environment represents.

This comment is more about Pawlenty flip-flops than environment. Though actually I felt no comment needed...

Star Tribune November 15, 2006
Conrad DeFiebre

"In a sweeping policy departure that aligns with a top agenda item of the newly elected DFL legislative majorities, Gov. Tim Pawlenty called Tuesday for extending health care access to up to 90,000 uninsured children as a step toward coverage for all Minnesotans."

"Pawlenty also peppered his remarks with broad criticism of the nation's current "tattered, outdated, inefficient" health care system..."

link to complete article for remarkable reading: http://www.startribune.com/politics/11759271.html?elr=KArksUUUoDEy3LGDiO...

Regarding Pawlenty, the matter is simple. The man has no core principles other than advancing his own political career. His positions have changed rather dramatically since the 90's, and always in the direction of pleasing the right wing. As the conservative movement in general, and tea partiers in particular, have gained strength, Pawlenty's pronouncements have tacked further right in an effort to curry favor and right wing votes. After all, he has turned his back on the blue collar friends, family and neighbors he grew up with, despite shamelessly pluging his blue collar background.

Regarding Republicans and environmental issues, surely no one is surprised at the anti-environment stance of the new legislature. The vehemence directed at anyone who accepts the science of climate change and the human contribution to global warming - especially leaders such as Gore and Dr. James Hansen - is only the most extreme example. Business and the profits it generates - and protection of those who bank the profits - are their creed. Environmentalism gets in the way, makes them spend a little more and profit a little less (they say), and that makes it the enemy. They package it up as a "jobs" issue, and so garner votes from average people who will ultimately pay the price. I find it ironic that the party of "family values" cares not in the least about leaving a degraded world for their children and grandchildren to inherit, but it seems that they do not.

What I fear, more than the damage the current crop of Republicans will do, is that as the world population grows and crises of all kinds (financial, food, clean water, extreme weather, energy, shortages of all kinds) grow in magnitude and frequency, those environmental protections that remain will simply be swept aside by a needy and panicked population, stoked by the righties who seek to squeeze out every last penny of profit before things really go to hell. By the time the extent of the lie is revealed, it will be far too late to do anything about it. Watch "Soylent Green" for a glimpse of where it could lead.

I don't think you need look any further than the oil industry to know what kind of people we're dealing with. They know the realities of peak oil and the effect that carbon emissions is having on the global climate. They know it better than anyone, they have all the inside information, and they are not stupid. They are liars, but they are not stupid. They simply do not care. The mega-rich do not need to care, since they can always use their riches to construct a good life for themselves, walled off from the increasingly grim lives of the hoi poloi. They're willing to let the world burn, literally and figuratively, in order to keep their industry rolling and the profits piling up as long as possible. They are no different than the tobacco company executives who were willing to let their customers die a nasty death while denying the link between their product and cancer - a link they knew all too well existed. The party that supports them shares in their "values", and their guilt.

Even the Dems - both Obama and Dayton - disappoint in the environmental arena. Politics and self-interest trump all.

That's all rather gloomy, but as I age, I grow increasingly weary of this world.

Sen. Ingebrigtsen is right on, global warming is a total hoax. Remember the fear of the coming ice age of the 1970's? Now, all of the sudden we are supposed to believe in global warming? Nuts, just nuts. But, there's money coming to you if you put up a shingle and say you'll "study" the issue. The old rule - follow the money.

This new video from Pawlenty's PAC kind of sums it up. About 30 seconds in, a woman says of T-Paw: "He says what the Tea Party believes..."

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/polinaut/ar...

*sigh*.

Any scientist who was interested in "following the money" would have gone into finance. What motivation do some of the world's most highly trained and accomplished individuals have to engage in a global science conspiracy to steal grant money to fund salaries that max out at a tiny fraction of what they could get in the private sector? It doesn't make any sense if you stop to think about it for more than a microsecond but clearly that doesn't matter anymore.

Instead of his "Do the Right thing" effort of the past, Pawlenty has now chosen to "Do the Far-Right thing" required of Republican candidates since the rise of the Tea Party.

This bodes well for Democrats in 2012.

Jim (#10)

Take a look at this link from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute:

http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=12455&tid=282&cid=10046

Are We on the Brink of a 'New Little Ice Age?'

A new Little Ice Age IS within the realm of possibility if the great conveyor current is shut down by too much fresh water melted from ice in the Arctic region.

The real answer is that the possible range of consequences with respect to any one particular region is uncertain, but none are good, especially if you can't or wont make changes.

And Jim (#10), with your fine, cynical world view, answer this question:

Who benefits financially from the concern over global warming?

Who benefits financially from the denial of global warming?

I think you will note that the biggest bucks and most power are on the denial side.

In your cynical world view, are you trusting the one with the biggest bucks in the game to be the ones telling the truth?

If you are, you're not cynical, you're gullible.

We will not know what the effects of Global Warming will really be until they arrive...

But there will be massive effects.

It's very likely that Global Warming will operate according to the dictates of chaos theory:

nothing much will happen...

nothing much will happen...

nothing much will happen...

(and we'll be all-too-easily lulled into a false sense of security by the "deniers," who are trying to convince us that NOTHING will EVER happen)...

then a very great deal will happen in a rather short time, at which point it will be too late to prevent massive disruptions in where crops can be grown (and what can be grown), in where people can live; in whether the earth can even support its current population.

But there's a very wealthy and powerful subgroup of international business executives whose continued ability to extract massive money from the pockets of the world's population, depends on their continuing to convince the earth's inhabitants that burning fossil fuels and thus, continuing to build up the CO2 load of the atmosphere will NEVER cause us any trouble.

By their behavior, they make it clear they could care less what happens to the rest of us when the global climate tipping point is reached, since they assume that the wealth they've accumulated by that time will allow them to continue to live lives of unimaginable (to the rest of us) avarice no matter what happens to planet earth and many if not most of it's inhabitants.

We listen to the misinformation they spread at our great peril.

While it's sad to see Pawlenty move further to the right to curry favor, which I believe is his motivation of late, it's even more sad to realize that there are many who still refuse to even consider the idea that we humans are responsible for the changes in our environment. And we cannot expect those who stand to profit the most from exploiting the environment to care about what happens to the environment. As has been noted earlier the Koch brothers and their oil billionaire friends will always be able to afford to protect themselves and their families from whatever damages their "environment-be-damned" approach causes. It is the rest of us who will ultimately pay the price, both literally and figuratively, for the damages caused. Sen. Ingebritsen better enjoy Lake Ida now. If the anti-environmentalists have their way, it won't be beautiful very long.

Typical Republican Candidate,he will say anything to get the nomination.
Just like Romney has changed all of his positions again and again.

Personally I think he is running for VP.

Well, I waded through this lenghty piece and in the end really don't have a clue what Don was trying to say. But whatever it was he said it in a way that didn't make liars and hypocrites look bad, so I guess its all good.

You forgot to mention Representative Pederson's two horrendous pieces of destgructive environmental legislation working their way through the legislature as we speak. One allows towns to exempt their sanitary sewage treatment systems from new upgraded regulations designed to save Lake Peppin and improve water quality in the Mississippi. The other piece prevents any state agencies from enacting more stringent water quality regulations for two more years. This is expressly designed to counter the funds in the legacy amendment the state's citizens earmarked for upgrading water quality. I cannot find a single piece of legislation from Minnesota's republicans that will help middle class Minnesotans.

//Sen. Ingebrigtsen is right on, global warming is a total hoax. Remember the fear of the coming ice age of the 1970's?

Jim, your memory fails you. We did experience a decade or so of colder temps during the 70s and early 80s, in the midst of a warming trend that started around about mid century. Some called it a mini ice-age. How does this accurate and reliable meteorological observation from the 70s undermine climate theory today? At the time, the long term warming trend, and increased CO2 levels were being accurately predicted. Jumping forward to today, models of a warming planet predict extreme weather will be triggered, hotter summers, colder and snowier winters, more storms in some places, fewer in others... in general more extremes. This is not a political phenomena, it's a climate phenomena that will not bend to your ideology.

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, would do well to research similar opinions of those that denied the existence of acid rain. Maybe his beautiful Lake Ida will be no more. Maybe it will be for his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren.... What a legacy that would be when it no longer is "beautiful Lake Ida.".

Numerous compelling historical points are frequently missed, or ignored in the debate about “global warming” and/or “climate change.” Even this MinnPost article and comments have ignored these important facts.

Here are 7 compelling historical facts that justify reasonable people to be skeptical about the view that mankind is responsible for climate change.

1. Climate has always changed, long before mankind even discovered fire. Climate change, warmer then colder, then warmer again, has cycled in this way for as far back in history as science can measure. These cycles occurred long before any humans were burning fossil fuels. This point could be expanded with volumes of data. Did humans cause the retreat/melting of world-wide continental glaciers (global warming) 4-6 times in the last 50,000 years? Of course man did not melt the glaciers with CO2 into the atmosphere, we all know that. The global warming was a caused by normal earth climate change cycles.

2. “Climate Gate.” It is now well understood that some scientists falsified their climate data to falsely show greater warming than the collected data actually showed. These unfortunate decisions to present false data dramatically damaged the environmental movement and have caused many learned people, who previously supported the movement, to become more skeptical of the science being used.

3. More recent climate data actually shows a more stable climate with some regions of the Earth falling in temperature slightly. This newer data has its science supporters as well. Note that climate “average” is defined as 30 years by NOAA (Nat. Wea. Serv.) when the Earth behaves in periods of far greater trends such as 15,000 years between glacial period. There are scientists that believe we are between glacial ages, and that the next glacial age is due to begin in the next 1-2 thousand years because glacial ages have occurred about every 10,000015,000 years over the past 50,000 years. We are about 12,000 years from the last one.

4. Any mitigation of CO2 will be very costly, and many nations will never mitigate their emissions. This means that we in the USA could suffer huge inconveniences, substantial tax increases and loss of more world competitiveness with USA imposed CO2 controls when most of the rest of the world will do little to nothing about it.

5. One two-week long volcano eruption can put out more C02 and green house gases in a single eruption than the world population can produce in a 100 years. This point also has its credible science supporters and one recent notable book on this subject that details the math about recent and historical volcano eruptions.

6. The “science community” knew that the world is flat, not round. The science community as a whole was absolutely sure about the world being flat at one point in time, not so far back in our history. The “general science community” has frequently been wrong in the past. There are more recent examples of mass mistaken science by a scientific community. The true cause of human ulcers is also a fun example to study in this realm.

7. The energy from our Sun and the strength of the Earth’s Magnetic Field also change over time and participate in climate change. There have been studies about this and some well done documentary films as well. No science exists to tell us what % of climate change these huge factors (Sun and Magnetic Field) have played in our past or present climate change.

Those who write about climate change from any perspective would add a great deal to the credibility of their work by delving into the seven points above with some level of acknowledgement and/or explanation and questioning. My own science degree and training taught me that those in pursuit of science truth should remain in a constant state of questioning, wonder and skepticism of even their own data and own beliefs because there is such a great deal that mankind simply does not yet understand.

Reasonable people have plenty of facts, history and even some scientist corruption to more than justify their skepticism about climate change being caused (mostly/exclusively/a great deal) by mankind. It’s reasonable to be cautious and skeptical based on the seven points above. Personally, I know we are in a warming cycle since the last ice age that covered much of our continent about 12,000-14,000 years ago. However, there does not seem to be any science to demonstrate what % of warming is caused by mankind and what % is caused by natural forces that have always caused dramatic climate change in our world. I hope for a future where we gain more complete scientific knowledge and world community support for a far more sustainable human foot print on our precious home we call Earth.

I read a great book to educate myself on global warming, and this is what I learned. Of all the gases in our atmosphere, carbon dioxide is almost imperceptable. By percentage the gases are Nitrogen 78.1%, Oxygen 20.9%, Water Vapor .4%, Argon .9%, Carbon Dioxide .038%, and a host of other tiny gases. Of that 38/100ths of the earths atmosphere, 3% is generated by mankind. 3% of 0.038%!

We are supposed to go back to hard scrabble living (while some get filthy rich trading carbon) to decrease our 3% contribution to 38/1000ths of the earths atmosphere? There is good reason to call this a con job.

"It is now well understood that some scientists falsified their climate data to falsely show greater warming than the collected data actually showed."

It may be "well understood" by people who lie to make their arguments, but the claim that data was falsified is not true.

http://www.factcheck.org/2009/12/climategate/

Jim (#24) was your "great book" a 4th grade science textbook? Because that is where I learned about the makeup of the earth's atmoshere. Whatever it was, way to stick it to those climate scientists with your great analysis. I am sure none of them ever considered the arguments you raised.

Climate Gate Lies are well documented and part of English Parliament Records. Text below and its link are one of the great number of available sources for verification of the misrepresentations made about climate change by these scientists.

Disgraced Professor Phil Jones of Britain’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and his boss, Professor Edward Acton, head of the University of East Anglia appear to have been exposed in a blatant attempt to pervert justice. The Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) has released evidence that proves Jones lied to Parliament during his testimony last week on the Climate gate scandal.

The evidence was released yesterday by top skeptic science blog, Watts up With That (WUWT)
Professors Jones and Acton had vigorously sought to defend themselves last week under cross-examination at the Parliamentary Select Committee Hearing against accusations that their university criminally defied demands under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In his testimony Jones claimed various nations, including Sweden, would not authorize release of their climate data and this was why he could not comply with FOIA requests. But the Swedes’ evidence proves this is a lie. SMHI have just released the following PDF files as proof:

http://www.climategate.com/swedegate-climate-professors-lies-exposed-by-...

Articles dealing with global warming/climate change - even tangentially, such as this one - inevitably draw the Denialists who post a list of pseudo-scientific "facts" and spurious reasoning, citing unnamed "scientists" (but not climatologists) in an attempt to refute established mainstream science. Personally, I have long since ceased arguing with people in comments sections about global warming/climate change, since it is futile (their motives are political and have nothing to do with scientific debate or pursuing truth), and science is not decided in web site comments pages. I think it's best to let them post their nonsense and otherwise just ignore them.

However I'm going to make one specific exception, which is to respond to Mr. Halonen's post on the relative percentages of atmospheric gases. Specifically: "Carbon Dioxide .038%, and a host of other tiny gases. Of that 38/100ths of the earths atmosphere, 3% is generated by mankind. 3% of 0.038%!"

Denialists love to post the .038% number and then exclaim, "it's such a tiny percentage, it can't possibly have any effect", as if that had anything to do with anything. Small numbers impress uneducated brains, I guess.

Mr. Halonen, when a person has .08% blood alcohol content, they are intoxicated. But how? It's such a tiny number! Over 99% of the blood is not alcohol in that case, so how can you be intoxicated?

Do you understand now how ridiculous is your argument? Small numbers can signify very big changes, if the small numbers represent a critical factor.

BTW, you do realize that if not for the presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, Earth would be an iceball and we wouldn't be here to debate it, right? So if pre-industrial levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases kept us from freezing, how can adding more not raise the temperature further? I'll pause while you puzzle over that ...

...ok, now back to numbers ...

As to the human contribution consisting of only 3% of the .038%, that is nonsense. Atmospheric CO2 in pre-industrial times was 280ppm (a more useful number than .038%). Today, it is 390ppm - an increase of 40%. That 40% is entirely due to human activity. It is also at least 40ppm above the threshold for severe climate impact due to warming.

I don't know why I bothered since, as I said, the motivation of Denialists is political, not scientific, and therefore correcting the numbers will change no one's mind. After all, if you don't respect science or the truth, a few numbers aren't going to get in your way. Still, there it is, and having done so, I now return to my boycott of comment page global warming "debates". Have fun fooling yourselves, Denialists - the Earth doesn't care about your politics, and will do what it does, regardless.

Mike Naas - the points you raise in your comment (#27) go to what the climate scientists were guilty of: not complying with information requests. That is what "climategate" is all about. Contrary to your earlier assertion, however, there is no evidence that any climate data was falsified. The only one lying about the climate science is you.