"The government can't change the weather," said Florida Senator Marco Rubio last week, describing his opposition to President Obama's State of the Union call-to-action on climate change policy. Given the staggering costs of droughts, heat waves, and super storms, it would seem our political leaders would come quickly to some consensus on these seemingly urgent issues and take some kind of concerted action.
So where do our political leaders get their information that has instead led to partisan gridlock?
President Obama appears to be relying on facts, as he said in his speech. "The 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods — all are now more frequent and intense." These facts are supported by the costs in human life, higher food prices, and insurance payouts for the catastrophes he itemized. Moreover, the National Academy of Sciences reported in 2010 that 97 percent of 1,372 climate researchers agree that these fundamental changes in our climate are human-caused.
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By contrast, Republican Senator Rubio's skepticism may be based on a very different set of numbers, such as 146 million. That's the number of dollars spent in recent years by the Virginia-based Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund to cast doubt on the causes of climate change. This money is more than double the contributions made to similar denial groups by the more widely publicized Koch brothers and seven times the funding provided by ExxonMobil during a similar period. It total, these funds can buy a lot of doubt about the overwhelming scientific consensus and the weather patterns that are changing before our eyes.