Michael Steele Helps Make "Sense" of Global Warming

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Ever since ascending to the top of the party leadership, it’s been one humiliating misstep after another for beleaguered Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.

What started out as a relatively benign, though admittedly idiotic sounding, attempt to remake the party’s image and grow its ranks by “planning an ‘off the hook’ public-relations offensive to attract younger voters, especially blacks and Hispanics, by applying the party’s principles to urban-suburban hip-hop settings” (no, really, he said that) quickly became a very public train wreck following a series of stumbles and misstatements.

His stances on abortion rights and homosexuality have earned him the enmity of the religious, conservative wing of the party while his threats of deploying primary challengers against three popular GOP senators who supported President Obama’s stimulus package have angered the moderates. On one issue, though, Steele stands firmly with the wingnut crowd of his party: global warming.

In a little noticed radio broadcast picked up by The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein, Steele, sitting in for talk radio host Bill Bennett, answered a listener’s complaint about global warming alarmism by positing the following:

“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 very long.”

Ladies and Gentlemen: I give you the putative leader of the Republican Party.

Now, given that this is the same party that has brought us such climate “luminaries” as Sen. James Inhofe, this latest outburst, though stunningly misinformed on first (and second, third, fourth, etc.) glance, fits well within the established meme.

His argument, as far as I can discern it, is that the current warming trend is part of a broader cooling process – one that apparently turned a once lush, warmer Greenland into a mostly frozen and uninhabitable island. (To say that Iceland is “green” is somewhat of an exaggeration – as Matthew Yglesias pointed out, most of its landscape is now desolate wasteland because of intense deforestation and topsoil erosion.)

While Steele is correct in implying that a cooling period helped make Greenland what it is today, he doesn’t seem to realize that that period, dubbed “The Little Ice Age” by historians and climate scientists, ended a long time ago – over 150 years ago, to be exact. During this era, which lasted several centuries, Norse settlements on the island were wiped out due to a combination of malnourishment, armed conflict and declining temperatures.

Similar century to millennia-long periods of intense cooling and warming, triggered by abrupt climate shifts, have occurred throughout history. Therefore, while it is certainly not implausible that the planet may eventually lapse into another mini ice age, most projected trends point to several decades of warming, made worse by anthropogenic influences. Of course, if Steele understood this, then he’d already know why scientists are so concerned about the dramatic rate of melting of Greenland’s ice sheet – melting prompted by higher air and water temperatures, I might add.

So take heart, conservative loyalists: While you may not see eye-to-eye with Michael Steele on most issues, you can at least take comfort in knowing that he shares your disdain for climate science. George Will, the Washington Post columnist who wrote two of the most blatantly mendacious stories about global warming (and who apparently is still at it), would certainly approve.

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