Dealing with Sarah Palin, in the immortal words of Pee Wee Herman, is like unraveling a giant cable-knit sweater that someone just keeps knitting, and knitting and knitting. There is no end to it, no bottom to this ocean of idiocy, as evidenced by the latest iteration of the Palin phenomenon: out of the cold, clear blue sky, the former Alaska governor and internationally-renowned dunderhead, has declared herself an expert on global climate change in general, and on the Copenhagen summit in particular.
Come again? This is the person who burnished her foreign policy credentials by declaring she could see Russia from her house, and had repelled an incursion of Russian bombers with her good looks and charm.
This is the person who thought we were at war with Iran.
This is the person who continues to hammer on the "death panel" canard in the health care debate while jumping on board with the brain donors who think Obama has no birth certificate and is a Muslim hater of Charlie Brown cartoons.
This is the person who talked about the "quitter's way out" during the speech she gave announcing she was quitting the Alaska governorship.
This is a person whose public pronouncements have been so astonishingly preposterous that none other than William Shatner transformed them into poems and did a "reading" of them on Conan O'Brien's late-night talk show.
Now, Sarah Palin, climatologist? Read it, thanks to a dubious decision by The Washington Post to run it, and weep:
I've always believed that policy should be based on sound science, not politics. As governor of Alaska, I took a stand against politicized science when I sued the federal government over its decision to list the polar bear as an endangered species despite the fact that the polar bear population had more than doubled. I got clobbered for my actions by radical environmentalists nationwide, but I stood by my view that adding a healthy species to the endangered list under the guise of "climate change impacts" was an abuse of the Endangered Species Act. This would have irreversibly hurt both Alaska's economy and the nation's, while also reducing opportunities for responsible development.
Our representatives in Copenhagen should remember that good environmental policymaking is about weighing real-world costs and benefits - not pursuing a political agenda. That's not to say I deny the reality of some changes in climate - far from it. I saw the impact of changing weather patterns firsthand while serving as governor of our only Arctic state. I was one of the first governors to create a subcabinet to deal specifically with the issue and to recommend common-sense policies to respond to the coastal erosion, thawing permafrost and retreating sea ice that affect Alaska's communities and infrastructure.
But while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes. We can say, however, that any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far outweighed by their economic costs. And those costs are real. Unlike the proposals China and India offered prior to Copenhagen - which actually allow them to increase their emissions - President Obama's proposal calls for serious cuts in our own long-term carbon emissions. Meeting such targets would require Congress to pass its cap-and-tax plans, which will result in job losses and higher energy costs (as Obama admitted during the campaign). That's not exactly what most Americans are hoping for these days. And as public opposition continues to stall Congress's cap-and-tax legislation, Environmental Protection Agency bureaucrats plan to regulate carbon emissions themselves, doing an end run around the American people.
Where to begin? "I've always believed that policy should be based on sound science, not politics," said the person whose core constituency is comprised of people who don't believe in dinosaurs because they were not mentioned in the Bible. "I saw the impact of changing weather patterns firsthand while serving as governor of our only Arctic state," probably while on the lookout for fleets of Russian warplanes.
The opportunity for Palin's debut as an environmental pundit came about due to what has come to be called "Climategate," a right-wing generated "scandal" surrounding pilfered emails from the UK's top climate research center, the East Anglica Climate Research Unit or CRU. In her op-ed, Palin claims, "The e-mails reveal that leading climate 'experts' deliberately destroyed records, manipulated data to 'hide the decline' in global temperatures, and tried to silence their critics by preventing them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals. What's more, the documents show that there was no real consensus even within the CRU crowd. Some scientists had strong doubts about the accuracy of estimates of temperatures from centuries ago, estimates used to back claims that more recent temperatures are rising at an alarming rate. This scandal obviously calls into question the proposals being pushed in Copenhagen."
The facts, according to a variety of sources, speak otherwise:
In mid-November, thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit webmail server - a top climate research center in the United Kingdom - were hacked and dumped on a Russian web server. Polluter-funded climate skeptics, along with their allies in conservative media and the Republican Party, sifted through the emails, and quickly cherry picked quotes to falsely accuse climate scientists of concocting climate change science out of whole cloth. The skeptics also propelled the story, dubbed "Climategate," to the cover of The New York Times and newspapers across the globe. According to a Nexis news search, the Climategate story has been reported at least 325 times in the American press alone.
While the hacked emails may reveal that scientists might not have nice things to say about climate change deniers at times, they do nothing to change the scientific consensus that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use are raising temperatures and making oceans more acidic. As the right attempts to use the Climategate story to derail the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference this week, arctic sea ice is still at historically low levels, Australia is still on fire, the northern United Kingdom is still underwater, the world's glaciers are still disappearing and today NOAA confirmed that not only is it the hottest decade in history, but 2009 was one of the hottest years in history.