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Conversion of climate change skeptic not likely to sway GOP

SciencePolitics and GovernmentEnvironmental IssuesElectionsWeatherEcosystemsConservation

Are two of the left’s most useful villains, Charles and David Koch, not quite as unredeemable as liberals believe? Could it be they might change their minds about climate change and admit that it is real? 

UC Berkeley physics professor Richard A. Muller says that, after years of paying for studies by global warming skeptics, the Koch brothers honestly want to get the science clarified. They helped fund Muller who, only three years ago, doubted that the Earth was heating up to dangerous levels due to human activity. Now, with his Koch-funded research complete, he has reversed himself.

In a column published in the New York Times, Muller wrote, “Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

Muller can now be welcomed into the enormous club of scientists who have, for years, been warning about this impending threat to life as we have known it on this planet. The question is whether his conversion can bring along any conservative politicians, such as most of the Republicans in Congress. Scientific research is unlikely to convince them (Why should facts sway them now if they have resisted the truth up to this point?). But Republicans might possibly reassess if the word comes down from two of their biggest financial backers, the Koch brothers.

Through their super PAC, Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs have dumped a mountain of money into Republican campaigns. They were the sugar daddies behind Herman Cain’s curious run for president and now are doing their best to elect Mitt Romney. When these libertarian billionaires snap their fingers, Republicans rush to do their bidding.

Muller told U.S. News & World Report blogger Elizabeth Flock that the Kochs do not match the caricature liberals draw of them. "People think they can look into the minds of Charles and David Koch," Muller said to Flock. "But I have had conversations with them where they are interested in the science and the proof, so that these issues [of climate change] would be resolved."

I will believe it when I see it.

Sure, it is entirely possible that the Kochs do accept Muller’s findings. There are probably plenty of people like them at the highest levels of the oil and coal industries who already believe climate change is real and is caused by CO2 emissions from human activities. These folks are not dummies, after all. But they are also the people who put the special in special interests. Petrochemical kings like the Kochs might understand that the burning of fossil fuels is pushing humanity toward a precipice, yet not really give a damn. When fortunes are at stake and economic power is on the line, quarterly profits invariably outweigh the fate of future generations.

It is no longer necessary to accept abstract science to believe in climate change. The severe drought striking much of the West, Midwest and South presents much more tangible and alarming evidence. Climatologists say drought may be the new normal in those regions. But will the many Republican politicians from those parts of the country stop denying the reality of climate change? Will they spring into action to help their constituents living on that drying land?

Nope, they will do nothing -- unless the money men of industry snap their fingers and say jump. 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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