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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Some time ago, I heard a power company executive arguing that humans have played no role in global warming. Actually, he went further, “demonstrating” that global warming isn’t even happening. (This is often done by cherry-picking dates to start with an unusually warm year.) He ended by spreading his arms and beseeching us in his common-sense voice, “Can’t we meet in the sensible middle?”

To which I thought, “If I say the moon is made of lunar rock and you say it is made of green cheese, is the ‘sensible middle’ that the moon is half lunar rock and half green cheese?”

That’s the problem with sensible middles. You can’t do the give-and-take without agreeing on facts. Nowadays, some of the thorniest problems get hung up on one side’s dismissal (or corruption) of accepted science. We can compromise over how far our society will go in confronting climate change, but we must first agree it exists.

Thus, when we ask questions like “Would Hillary Clinton be a centrist president?” what do we mean by that? We can be sure that if nominated, Clinton the candidate will try to seem centrist, as will her Republican foe. Americans like the sound of moderation.

Some debates can’t logically end in compromise. The right to abortion does not lend itself to concessions, making it a landmine for Republicans in a general election. Religious conservatives want abortion banned, but most Americans want it kept legal. So you have Republican candidates saying that they oppose abortion but would allow it in cases of rape and incest.

They may even paint others as extremist: “My opponent won’t even make an exception for rape or incest.”

In reality, the so-called extreme position is the only logical “pro-life” stance. If one holds that the organism formed at conception is a full human person, it is a full human being whether conceived through rape or through marital love. There is no biological difference.

I don’t agree that two cells fused at fertilization are a full human being. I respect the views of those who do, but not if they won’t accept the consequences of their position.

Another problem in reaching a sensible middle is finding the middle. Tax and spending policy is an area where compromise can be reached. But there’s no middle to work toward when one side portrays any tax increase as a deal killer.

In 2011, eight Republicans running for president were asked at a debate whether they’d accept a deal with Democrats giving them $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases. This would seem a conservative’s debt reduction dream, but not one of the eight would say yes to it.

The candidates were surely mindful of President George H.W. Bush’s electoral loss after breaking his pledge, “Read my lips: No new taxes.” The elder Bush happened to be doing the responsible thing, but his party’s right wing had moved fiscal management from the realm of political science to black-and-white religion.

Today this faction doesn’t want its leaders to be seen shaking hands with President Obama, much less compromising with him on matters of substance. The outcome is Republicans disinheriting their own ideas because Obama has adopted them. The great example was the Affordable Care Act, whose blueprint came out of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Many Americans only pretend to seek a sensible middle by placing the middle in the middle of their stuck beliefs. No, it’s worse than that. Many are scuttling rational thought altogether, accepting or rejecting beliefs not on their merits but based on who is holding them. The end product is neither a middle nor sensible.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

Republican presidential candidates are pictured during the Iowa GOP/Fox News Debate at the CY Stephens Auditorium in Ames, Iowa, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011. From left to right: former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum; businessman Herman Cain; Rep. Ron Paul, R-TX; former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney; Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-MN.; former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty; former Utah governor Jon Huntsman; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, Pool)

  • m s 57

    Interesting, sensible article. On some issues there is no middle, there are only facts. But I think the phrase “global warming” is a term that both reflexively ignites a reaction from the right and is inaccurate. The problem is really global climate change.

    • GraceAdams830

      Some claim that global warming is the mechanism, the fact that CO2, methane, nitrogen oxides, and a few other rarer man made gases are transparent to visible light but trap infra red re-radiating from earth warmed by absorbing visible light, and that climate change is the result of global warming or lack thereof. Climate is weather averaged over many decades, and weather is chaotic.

      • m s 57

        Thank you much, Grace. I’m sure you are right as to cause, but being embarrassingly ignorant of science I tend to concentrate on effect — and to try to get people to wake up to the looming if long-range dangers. But thanks for the lucid explanation of what’s actually going on. Cheers.

        • GraceAdams830

          Thanks for the compliment. Til we run into each other again on the internet.

  • anothertoothpick

    Isn’t that picture of the clown car debate the one when the gay marine, calling from the war zone, got booed?

    The repub primaries push these clowns so far right that it renders them unelectable in the general election. But unfortunately it pushes all candidates further right and makes it impossible for the dems to get anything done.

    And you get insanity like this.

    • Allan Richardson

      Except for the early Deists, and those who like Lincoln did not name a specific church affiliation, ALL of our presidents have been Christian. We have NEVER had a Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or avowed secularist president. Maybe the sign holder means “we need a MY KIND OF CHRISTIAN president?”

      • ericlipps

        As I understand it, the Deists considered themselves Christians, and I’m sure Lincoln did as well, formal church affiliation or no.

        These days, evangelical Protestant fundamentalists have appropriated the label for themselves, casting doubt o the genuineness of the Christianity of those Protestants who don’t believe as they do. (They don’t consider Catholics real Christians at all, though they prefer not to push the issue because they need the Vatican’s money and influence on their side in their holy war against abortion, birth control and of course homosexuality.)

        • GraceAdams830

          I believe that Deists believe that God exists but are agnostic about details beyond that and kind of suspect that God created the universe and/or world and then left, either to go do something else or to sit back and just watch. They might like Jews believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a historical figure but doubt that he was the only begotten son of God. Jews believe that after creating humans, **** claimed to be the father of all humans for creating humans, which would make Jesus a son of **** but not an only child.

  • Dominick Vila

    When it comes to global warming, the main problems involve a misconception of what that means, ideological bias, failure of the scientific and government communities to explain what it means without engaging in partisan politics, and a robust disinformation campaign by special interests that would be adversely affected if measures are taken to mitigate the effects of global warming.
    First of all, we should not confuse weather patterns in a specific part of the world, on a specific year, as evidence to support or reject global warming. Weather patterns have absolutely nothing to do with this issue.
    Secondly, it does not matter if the problem is a natural phenomena, exacerbated by excessive carbon emissions; or the exclusive result of human habits or intervention.
    The fact is that it is a reality, that our polar caps are melting, that large glaciers in places like Iceland, Greenland, and the Andes are melting at an unprecedented rate. In some places 3 meters per year; and that the ozone layer is thinning.
    Our choices are clear. We can either do something about it, the way Europe, Japan, Australia and other countries are doing, or we can ignore the whole thing and let our grandchildren worry about it.
    There is no middle on this issue. We either do something about it, or do nothing.

    • CrankyToo

      If I was a one percenter, I’d be spending my fortune trying to figure out how my grandkids are going to flee the nest once the climate-deniers and money-grubbers have finally made it uninhabitable.

    • DEFENDER88

      I am not against developing alternate energy sources but I wonder if anything we could possibly do will be enough with China bringing what ? 50 new coal based electrical power plants on line every year? Seems like we are wasting money building a dike for a pond when the Chinese are filling an ocean.
      I tried watching a golf tournament near Beijing a few yrs ago it was a “grey out” pollution was so bad you could barely see anything.
      So I wonder why should we wreck our economy and make the Chinese stronger when, in the end, it will be futile anyway.
      If the Chinese were “on board” I would say hell yeah lets do it.

      Also if you look at 100k yr and 1 mil yr earth weather cyles it is not so clear this is not one of those cycles.

      • Dominick Vila

        Doing nothing because someone else is irresponsible is not the answer. A better model are all the countries that have already implemented tremendous changes, not only in the area of alternative energy sources, but by doing things such as infrastructure improvements to mitigate the effects of rising sea levels on coastal towns and cities, improving potable water management, protecting arable lands, etc. Instead of such improvements destroying our economy, they may provide the employment and entrepreneurial opportunities needed to strengthen and grow our economy, as well as job creation. The next phase, in the not too distant future, may involve alternate forms of habitat, to make our dwellings more energy efficient and protect us from increased solar radiation, a change that would give our construction industry a huge boost., if our goal is to protect our environment for future generations, and preserve our heritage.
        We should also start thinking out of the box to find ways to strengthen the economy by pursuing opportunities that are being ignored by ideologues and people without a vision.

        • Doing nothing is never the best choice, but doing something without knowing if it will actually help is a knee-jerk reaction unlikely to improve the situation.

          I don’t deny that the climate is changing. I question whether the cause is man-made or part of a natural cycle. The Earth’s climate has been hospitable to human development for a very small percentage of the time the Earth has existed. We exist because we evolved at a time when our existence was possible. We wouldn’t have survived the several ice ages or extremely hot periods the planet has seen.

          Let’s be clear: we don’t have to “save the planet”. The planet will
          survive with or without us. If, however, we want to survive along with
          it, we may need to adapt to inevitable changes.

          Greenland is mostly covered with ice, but it is called Greenland because is was once a fertile, green land. Things change, and we need to adapt.

          Rebuilding New Orleans is an example of our unwillingness to adapt. It makes little sense to build a city below sea level. If the sea level is likely to rise, it makes little sense to insist on living at the sea shore. Parts of the world that are currently suited for farming may not always be so. Other areas that have been inhospitable may become more suitable. Adapting to these changes will have serious geopolitical repercussions, but if we are to survive we will have to adapt.

          Believing that we have the power to alter the planet’s natural climactic cycles is sheer hubris.

          • Dominick Vila

            I did not suggest that we have the power to alter our planet’s climatic cycles. My comment addressed issues that exacerbate what may very well be a natural phenomena. Namely carbon emissions.
            Whether or not New Orleans, parts of Florida, and other coastal areas in the USA can – or should be – saved is debatable. Clearly, people in the Netherlands thought it was worth saving theirs, and have done a splendid job at it.
            An important component of this issue for me involves the claim that it would be too expensive to mitigate the effects of global warming, or climate change if that’s a more acceptable or accurate term. I believe that, if done correctly and efficiently, it may actually contribute to job creation, not only in the area of construction, but by addressing the effects of droughts in parts of the country, scarcity of potable water for human consumption and agriculture. The latter could be solved, or at least mitigated, by better management of water resources, construction of desalination plants, water restrictions in urban areas, etc.

          • I appreciate your common-sense approach. Most of what we hear on this topic is neither sensible or scientific.

            Earth has never had a stable climate. This is a fact that climatologists will tell you, if you ask the right questions – of the right climatologists.

            If we want to know the history of the planet’s climate, one would think we should consult someone who specializes in “Historical Climatology”, but the method known by that label is the study of climate as related to human history and thus focuses only on the last few thousand years.

            Another approach, known as Paleoclimatology, reconstructs past climates by examining records such as ice cores and tree rings. This method gives us a much longer historical span, and allows us to see patterns that indicate cycles in the
            Earth’s weather. From these folks, we learn that the planet has survived several Ice Ages and several periods during which temperatures warmed. There has always been a cycle of warming and cooling. We do not know why that has
            been the case, but the record indicates that this is natural.

            Today’s climate specialists are quick to assure us that the current warming trend they are tracking is not in line with patterns established before. Since it does not fit the natural cyclical course of Earth’s history, they conclude that human
            activity is the cause. They may be correct. Were it not for the increase of greenhouse gases, we would be experiencing the onset of another Ice Age! In fact, those same specialists were warning us of that likelihood a mere thirty years ago. Based upon the long historical record, it seemed the logical next

            Politicians tell us their point of view is “settled Science”, but science is never “settled”. Theories are agreed upon until additional data becomes available. That’s how Science works.

            What has been lacking in this debate is the question of what would have happened if we humans had not tampered with nature. The answer is evident by history and by the climate models used as recently as thirty years ago. The next question that must be asked is, if we are able to reverse the warming trend, what will prevent Global Cooling?

          • ericlipps

            The planet has survived drastic warming and cooling episodes, but human civilization hasn’t; it has existed only during a few thousand years of (relatively) stable, temperate climate. And we don’t know whether it can survive a major climate shift, either. I’d rather not take that kind of gamble.

          • I’m not fond of the possibility, either. The difference is, I’m not convinced we can have a sizable affect. First, we’re told we have altered the climate and we shouldn’t have. Then we’re told we SHOULD alter the climate.

            We know the planet has undergone drastic changes throughout its existence. We don’t know why. The truth is, we don’t know nearly as much as we think we know. What if the drastic climactic changes are necessary for the survival of the planet? Assuming we even are capable of making a difference, are you willing to gamble that our choices will be the correct ones?

          • GraceAdams830

            We have technology to capture CO2; Global Thermostat does it on a small scale–each unit is designed to capture CO2 emissions from energy use of an average 3 to 4 person household. Combined with a compressor, capturing CO2 with Global Thermostat and compressing it to use as fracking/hydraulic/heat-transfer fluid in enhanced geothermal systems will cost at least (2014)$50/metric ton, and that is after achieving economy of scale. So it will be very expensive, but probably still a lesser evil than putting up with weather-related disasters (storms, floods, heat spells, drought) from climate changed due to global warming. Since it would be entirely for the benefit of the commons, there is no profit for private enterprise unless as federal contractor and it is too big for any private philanthropy, so either Congress will eventually approve or it will not get done.
            Meanwhile the risk of an Electro-Magnetic Pulse is even hairier and likely to hit sooner than catastrophic climate change, so that will need to be tackled first, by redoing our electric grid to make it much more rugged and able to survive something like an EMP and also stocking lots of spare parts to speed up repairs if something does happen.

          • Dominick Vila

            The enclosed NASA website has information on this subject that may be of interest to you.

          • Ah, where to begin…
            Facts are undeniable. Conclusions drawn from facts are conjecture. It’s the difference between objective and subjective. Science is a combination of both, which is part of the reason that science is never “settled”.

            I suspect Man has contributed to climate change, but possibly in ways that are not being considered. But first, I have a few problems with the assumptions (subjective) that are stated often and in this article. One is the assumption that temperature readings taken 1200 miles apart can be averaged to obtain a correct reading for an entire area. A lot depends on where the readings are made. For example, the average temperature in Gilbert, AZ is about 4 degrees F below that of Phoenix, AZ. The two are less than 30 miles apart. Dense construction and a lot of pavement create “heat islands”.

            This is an example of man-made climate change that might prove the entire world is warming since the world’s population is increasing, resulting in the creation of more densely populated areas. It is reasonable to conclude that the average temperatures should be rising. Note that this conclusion has nothing to do with emissions.

            So, the data confirms a warming trend, but the assumption that the cause of that warming is CO2 may be wrong.

            CO2 is necessary for plant growth. Trees absorb CO2 and produce oxygen, without which we would not be here. Another way Man may be contributing to global warming may be through deforestation – clearing away trees to build more heat islands to accommodate the increase in population. Once again, we have a man-made cause of climate change, but the solution would seem to be not removing the forests. If we increased the amount of trees, our emissions would be less of a problem.

          • Allan Richardson

            Actually, we DO have the power to alter natural cycles because there are SO MANY of us and we are releasing carbon into the atmosphere which had previously been underground for many millions of years, faster and faster. It’s not hubris, it’s the factor of scale. Even primitive hunters in post ice age America hunted mammoths, mastodon, etc to extinction (with the help of the thaw). All those lions you read about in the Bible? The Asiatic lion which once roamed the Middle East but is now extinct, due largely to “harvesting” by the Romans for their gladiatorial games.

            Even if it were NOT true that we are altering the climate, there would STILL be two GOOD REASONS to quit using fossil fuel: first, there is a limited supply, and it takes millions of years for nature to make more; and second, the pollution OTHER than CO2 which stays near the ground and makes people and animals sick. But fortunately, if we go green for THOSE two reasons, we will get amelioration of climate change as a BONUS. Well, our grandchildren will, because it may already be too late to stop it in our generation.

          • dpaano

            I have to agree with you in some ways, but I don’t think that the ozone layer that is being subjected to a number of pollutants isn’t also a consideration.

      • Charlotte Sines

        The Chinese are ‘on board’. Their coal imports have dropped by more than 42% in the last year and they have installed more solar than the US has. They know they have a problem. They have admitted it and they are working on doing what they can do fix it. We are doing better all the time with more solar and wind but we need to do more and admitting the problem exists would be a great start.

      • bobnstuff

        China has seen the light and is cleaning up their act. They are closing coal fueled power plants and conserving energy. The reason you can’t buy a old fashion light bulb is that China outlawed them.

      • ralphkr

        I do so love it when people such as yourself, Defender, say that we should do nothing because China is doing nothing while completely ignoring the fact that China is doing far more than the US as are many European countries. Actually, Defender, the US is the most backward of any of the major countries in dealing with climate as well as in health care.