NPR logo Global Warming's Real: Ex-GOP Lawmaker To His Party

Global Warming's Real: Ex-GOP Lawmaker To His Party

Sherwood Boehlert in 2006. Kevin Rivoli/AP Photo hide caption

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Kevin Rivoli/AP Photo

Science is science, regardless of which party controls the House of Representatives, Senate or White House.

There isn't one scientific method for Republicans and another for Democrats.

There's just the scientific process — you observe something about the world that leads you to make a hypothesis. You then test that hypothesis repeatedly through experiments or further observations. Your results or either reproducible, which is good, or not, which is bad.

That understanding of how science works lies behind a Washington Post op-ed piece by Sherwood Boehlert, a former Republican congressman from upstate New York, in which he urges his GOP successors in Congress to accept the science of global warming and the human contribution to it.

Boehlert is clearly troubled that so many fellow Republicans have rejected the scientific consensus of what he views as indisputable. Boehlert, who served 24 years in Congress until 2006 and was the chair of the House Science Committee, wrote:

National Journal reported last month that 19 of the 20 serious GOP Senate challengers declared that the science of climate change is either inconclusive or flat-out wrong. Many newly elected Republican House members take that position. It is a stance that defies the findings of our country's National Academy of Sciences, national scientific academies from around the world and 97 percent of the world's climate scientists.

Why do so many Republican senators and representatives think they are right and the world's top scientific academies and scientists are wrong? I would like to be able to chalk it up to lack of information or misinformation.

I can understand arguments over proposed policy approaches to climate change. I served in Congress for 24 years. I know these are legitimate areas for debate. What I find incomprehensible is the dogged determination by some to discredit distinguished scientists and their findings.

For Boehlert, there is nothing un-Republican about believing in climate change and engaging in the debate about what to do about it.

And he drops the name meant to strike Republican consciences — he mentions the 40th president.

What is happening to the party of Ronald Reagan? He embraced scientific understanding of the environment and pollution and was proud of his role in helping to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals. That was smart policy and smart politics. Most important, unlike many who profess to be his followers, Reagan didn't deny the existence of global environmental problems but instead found ways to address them.

The National Academy reports concluded that "scientific evidence that the Earth is warming is now overwhelming." Party affiliation does not change that fact.

Boehlert's op-ed piece ran the same week Rep. Bob Inglis, a S. Carolina Republican defeated in his party's primary earlier this year, used his dwindling time in Congress this week criticizing fellow GOPers for doubting climate change science.

Meanwhile, the liberals at ThinkProgress.org, have compiled a list of Republican lawmakers who have made statements or one kind or another expressing skepticism about climate science.