Kerry Emanuel: the role of reason

The reign of climate change denial in the US Republican Party is an extraordinary spectacle, hard to credit in an educated modern democracy. It’s also a very sad spectacle in view of the prominent role the US plays in contributing to climate change and the potential leading role it could play in mitigating it. I often wonder what members of the party who take science seriously and understand climate change make of the phenomenon. A recent podcast interview with noted atmospheric scientist Kerry Emanuel, a former registered Republican, indicates that for him at least it has meant becoming an Independent of conservative inclination.

Emanuel was a keynote speaker last year at a New Hampshire conference run during the Republican primaries by a group of Republican voters upset by their party’s anti-science rhetoric. As a result he was subjected to a torrent of particularly nasty hate mail, as reported on Mother Jones.

The interview I’m reporting in this post was conducted by Chris Mooney, author of The Republican Brain. On the science Emanuel says the kind of things we hear from many climate scientists. But it’s always worth being reminded that such statements represent a very wide body of scientific opinion. I’ve picked out a couple of examples from the interview.

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