Politico reports that former president Bill Clinton lambasted Republican politicians who are in denial of global warming. “If you’re an American, the best thing you can do is to make it politically unacceptable for people to engage in denial” about climate change, the former president said. “I mean, it makes us – we look like a joke, right? You can’t win the nomination of one of the major parties in the country if you admit that the scientists are right? That disqualifies you from doing it? You could really help us there,” Clinton added.
Clinton was referring to the host of Republican presidential candidates who have adopted an anti-science agenda. This includes denial of global warming. In some cases (Michelle Bachmann) it includes begin duped by those who link autism with vaccinations. And in many cases (Rick Perry) it includes disbelief in evolution itself. The unwillingness of Republican leaders to accept science has frustrated even some Republicans — but the only presidential candidate willing to accept reality is John Huntsman, who recently said, “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”
Huntsman appears to be the only Republican candidate who isn’t crazy. Evidently, John Huntsman’s sanity disqualifies him for the Republican presidential nomination.
But Texas governor Rick Perry seems popular with the Tea Party and Republican hard-liners. His approach to global warming is to deny reality and blame scientists for faking data. It’s Rick Perry who’s faking the facts. Meanwhile, the state of Texas, back in June, set a new record for their hottest June ever. Then in July, they set a new record for their hottest month ever. But that didn’t last long. In August Texas set a new record for the hottest single month ever recorded by any state of the U.S.A.
They’re also in the grip of a tremendous drought. Rainfall over the last 12 months has been lower than any other 12-month period in Texas history. Crops are failing, livestock are in peril, wildfires have set new records for acreage burned, thousands of homes have burned to the ground, and Rick Perry’s “solution” is to ask the state to pray for rain while he cut the state budget for the firefighters who have to face the conflagration. The old saying is, “God helps those who help themselves.” That doesn’t include Rick Perry.
Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon highlights the combination of drought and heat with his excellent post spot the outlier. He begins with a scatterplot of summer (June through August) rainfall against summer temperature:
There’s a rather obvious correlation, with wetter summers tending to be cooler while dryer tends to mean hotter. Nielsen-Gammon also shows an approximate relationship between the two, plotting a quadratic fit of temperature to rainfall. But his first plot doesn’t include this year, so he adds 2011 data in his second plot:
Can you “spot the outlier”?
I reproduced his graph and got the same result:
Clearly we can blame some of the heat this summer in Texas on the drought. But just as clearly, we can’t blame it all on the lack of rainfall, because 2011 isn’t just on the line of the rainfall-temperature relationship, it’s far enough above that line (hotter) to be an “outlier.” And it’s not the only year since the turn of the millenium to be hotter than expected given the rainfall amount. Here’s the same graph with years since 2000 circled in red:
Note that 11 of 12 years are above the line — hotter — while 1 is (just barely) below.
We can even compute the difference between summer Texas temperature, and the expected temperature given the rainfall using Nielsen-Gammon’s quadratic model. We can call this the “excess summer temperature,” and here’s the time series of values:
If you wan’t to be worried, you can worry about the Texas drought. You can worry about the Texas heat. You can worry about the record-setting summer heat this year. But perhaps you should worry even more, not about this record-smashing year, but about the increasing trend in Texas summer heat.
Perhaps most of all, you should worry about how Texas will cope when their governor is in denial of a reality which threatens his home state. Or maybe you should worry about Perry becoming president of the United States. The president is “driving the bus” for the country — let’s not put a blind man in the driver’s seat.