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GOP chair denies global warming

Speaking on a nationally syndicated radio program, Michael Steele, whose official job title is Embattled Chairman of the Republican National Committee, placed himself in opposition to empirically observed reality earlier this month when he denied the existence of global warming.

By Blogger for The Christian Science Monitor / March 18, 2009

Filling in on a nationally syndicated radio program, Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele claimed that the planet is getting cooler and that Greenland was named so because it was covered with vegetation at the time. Neither assertion corresponds with scientific findings.

Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/MCT/FILE

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Speaking on a nationally syndicated radio program, Michael Steele, whose official job title is Embattled Chairman of the Republican National Committee, placed himself in opposition to empirically observed reality earlier this month when he denied the existence of global warming.

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Mr. Steele who was filling in for conservative pundit Bill Bennett on Mr. Bennett's drive-time "Morning in America" call-in show on March 6, responded to a caller who mocked the concept of global warming. Here is Steele's response, as transcribed by the Huffington Post's Sam Stein:

"Thank you, thank you," he said. "We are cooling. We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I am using my finger quotation marks here, is part of the cooling process. Greenland, which is now covered in ice, it was once called Greenland for a reason, right? Iceland, which is now green. Oh I love this. Like we know what this planet is all about. How long have we been here? How long? No[t] very long."

Steele managed to pack many factual inaccuracies into this statement. The notion that the planet has entered a cooling phase is a common – but highly misleading – trope among climate change deniers, who often cite temperature readings that show that the hottest year on record was 1998, implying that the planet has been steadily cooling since then.

But it hasn't. According to Britain’s Met Office, which has been recording temperature data since 1850, the next 10 warmest years after 1998 were, in order, 2005, 2003, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2001, 1997, 2008, and 1995.

One could argue that the earth has entered a cooling phase because each of the last three years have been successively colder. That would be a lot like declaring that the US economy has entered a recovery because the Dow is higher than it was last week.

And as for Steele's suggestion that Greenland was named so because it was covered in vegetation and not ice at the time, one could deploy the same logic to argue that the West Indies migrated halfway around the globe over the past five centuries. Alternatively, one could say it's just a name.

The island was christened "Greenland" in the 10th century AD by Erik the Red, who picked the verdant moniker to attract settlers from Iceland. Mr. the Red wasn't trying to scam prospective Greenlanders: the southern portion of the island really did have green valleys, as it does today.

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