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Denier or Mugwumper

In the aftermath of the death of 19 Hot Spot firefighters in Arizona last month, one of their supervisors was asked if the current rash of extreme forest fires has anything to do with global warming. He said he and his fellow firefighters have known this for the past ten or fifteen years. Okay, that’s just anecdotal evidence, but elsewhere it’s been reported that serious scientists think the facts are pretty settled on this issue. So I thought it might be time to revisit what the person who represents all of us in Washington has to say on the subject.

Last year, Dana Rohrabacher, our Congressman, was widely quoted for saying that 80 percent of carbon emissions come from decaying plant matter; so, if we want to reduce greenhouse gases, we should cut down the rainforests. Since then, I discovered that, although he said that, he has denied that he really meant to say that.

Still, when you go to the Congressman’s web site, you’ll find some pretty strong denial on global warming. For example, the site says, “Too often, when congress is asked to pass environmental legislation, the legislation is based on emotional junk science rather than data based on reproducible, rigorous, tested, peer-reviewed results. In no area has this been more obvious than climate change. Because the Kyoto Treaty and much of the suggested environmental legislation would decimate jobs in southern California, constituents may be interested to learn of the growing scientific consensus that global warming is not manmade, if it is in fact even occurring.”

That sounds a lot like denial to me. But apparently outright denial is starting to be politically dangerous.

At a recent hearing, Rohrabacher asked Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, “The only other use of that term is a Holocaust denier. Do you use that term ‘denier’ for those people who disagree with you on climate science, and do you think that term is appropriate in engaging in a civil discourse over a scientific issue?”

Bottom line, Rohrabacher wants to avoid the stigma of being a denier. Better to be perceived as still open to new evidence or still studying the issue. Sort of like Nero fiddling while Arizona burns. Anyway, our Congressman wants to be in denial without being called a denier. So I went in search of an alternate term, which led me to “mugwumper.”

Mugwump is a term reportedly derived from an Algonquin Indian word “mugquomp” for a sanctimonious leader who likes to have it both ways. It is sometimes used to refer to a fence sitter who has his mug on one side of an issue and his wump on the other. So if you’re asked, just say we are being represented in Washington by a mugwumper rather than a climate change denier.

Don’t you feel better now!

 

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