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Legislators, open minds to science

Rep. Kerry Gibson, R-Ogden, has called for a halt to the Environmental Protection Agency's attempt to slow global climate change because of a "conspiracy," "a well-organized and ongoing effort to manipulate ... data in order to produce a global warming outcome."

In the hearing, Rep. Gibson cited "inconclusive" science and asked us not to make "rash decisions" so as to let "science develop" to gather more evidence.

There is an obvious contradiction here. If you believe that climate science, the world over, is bought and paid for by corrupt government grants to the tune of $7 billion, as Randy Parker of the Utah Farm Bureau testified, what's the point of letting science develop? Your mind is already made up. People convinced of a conspiracy only see more reasons to believe in their fears, never fewer. In fact, the more our anti-global warming legislators are shown to be ignorant of evidence and tilting at windmills, the more emboldened and even proud they seem to feel.

Just how confused they are becomes apparent when you ask yourself, as thinking citizens should, "Well, what about the billions of dollars of government-sponsored research on cancer and other health issues. Should we distrust that science, too?" Or "I wonder how American science and technology came to lead the world if it is so corrupt?" You might ask, "Why would a government systematically fabricate a theory that runs counter to the very foundations of its economy?" Are we invited to consider that every argument in their joint resolution comes from the work of conservative think tanks well-funded by the oil industry? No. The point is not that the deniers' claims have been roundly disproved by scientists (though they have been).

It's the shameful double standard in their "follow the money" line.

Deniers are fond of saying that the jury is still out, but they never mention just how few legitimate skeptics are left in the scientific community. Some 97 percent of climatologists accept human-caused global warming, but for deniers such consensus is evidence of deception.

They claim they will change their minds once "climate data and global warming science are substantiated." Don't ask what their standard for substantiation is. There is none. Have you ever heard the deniers admit how long their odds are or how risky it would be to do nothing? You won't, because ideology is their battleground, not science. Just look at the mess the resolution makes of science. It denies that human activity affects the climate but then suggests chlorofluorocarbons and not carbon dioxide cause warming. It states that the world is getting warmer and yet claims that the "global warming hypothesis is unable to account for the current downturn in temperatures." Downturn? 2009 was among the top five warmest years on record, at least for those willing to throw caution to the wind and believe the World Meteorological Organization over the wisdom of talk radio.

It was bad enough that in June Gov. Gary Herbert walked out during a presentation by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, only to then announce he wants help understanding the science. Will Gov. Herbert tell the public what happened to the comprehensive state-level report filed by the Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee on Climate Change in 2007, commissioned by his predecessor? Will he explain why he ignored a letter in 2009 from local leaders pleading with him to use the committee's report for discussion and why, to this day, the report appears to be unavailable to our legislators who are now assaulting us with this campaign to discredit climate change science?

Is it too much to hope for leaders with the courage and wisdom to put us on track for true energy independence, cleaner air, a more diverse economy and more business and corporate accountability for sustainable energy development and use?

George Handley teaches environmental humanities courses at BYU, serves on the executive board of Utah Interfaith Power and Light, and lives and teaches in Provo.