On the front page of Tuesday's newspaper, a headline read: "As summers get hotter, humans get more blame." This idea is being accepted as fact by most scientists around the world, by businesses and by government agencies such as NASA and the Department of Defense.
Even the pope seems to be down with it.
But apparently climate change is still not accepted in the Minnesota House.
The issue came up during the omnibus job growth and energy affordability finance bill discussion on the House floor last week. It was one of those debates that make you slap your forehead — and wonder how some of our elected representatives even found their way in to work that day.
The fun began during a discussion of greenhouse gas legislation passed in 2007, back when tree hugger Tim Pawlenty ran the joint and protecting the Earth seemed to be a rational bipartisan goal.
Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, offered an amendment that stated plainly that the Legislature believes that climate change is indeed happening, and that human activity is one of the causes. She said that 97 percent of scientists agreed on the issue, and cited increasingly hotter weather patterns, and drought and flooding across the state that has cost more than $400 million.
You'd have thought she had asked the members to agree that the state bird was a feral pig.
Granted, it was likely a bit of theater designed to get members on record or diving for cover. British Comedy troupe Monty Python used to call the bit "Spot the Looney."
Hortman said she raised the issue because the House energy bill "repealed or otherwise neutered every progressive energy policy that Minnesota has passed since the early 1980s."
Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, rose to offer that this was a "debate for another time."
Perhaps when hell literally freezes over?
Asked directly if humans cause greenhouse gasses, Gruenhagen said: "I believe there are eminently qualified scientists who would disagree with that comment and I tend to agree with those scientists."
Rep. Jim Newberger, R-Becker, also deferred to a minuscule number of scientists who debunk climate change, saying: "I'm going to trust they are a lot smarter than I. These are men and women who accomplished many things."
(I'll pause here to offer expert rebuttal from Paul Bolstad, a University of Minnesota professor who helped author an important government report on climate change last year: "Almost all of the 'eminently qualified scientists' oft cited as denying climate change can safely be characterized as quacks or paid shills, sometimes both. They are neither eminent nor scientists.")
There was agreement among Republicans that climate change was beyond their pay grade. They weren't scientists, after all. Let's move on from this nonsense.
"Stop talking!" said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington.
Yet, they continued.
A Democrat offered that unless you'd circumnavigated the globe, you couldn't call it round, either, using Republican logic.
Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton, presented a fascinating, if largely unintelligible, theory on the Ice Age: that the Earth warmed itself without combustion machines, so the Earth is at fault for current warming. I think that's what he said.
To which Rep. Yvonne Selcer, DFL-Minnetonka, responded: "I know Will Steger."
(Again, let's have Bolstad respond to Lucero: "There have been several global warming and cooling epochs in Earth's history, and we have a very good idea of the cause for most past events. None of them are causes of the current warming. This argument is like saying we should keep letting the kids play with matches, because we've had fires before from lots of different causes.")
At one point, Rep. Barb Yarusso, DFL-Shoreview, rose to reveal that she is, indeed, a scientist, with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. Her training makes her understand scientific process, energy and the movement of fluids, the very idea of climate, she told me later.
"We always make judgments based on the expertise of others," she began her remarks to the House.
Yarusso patiently, quietly, laid out the argument for man-made climate change, pointing out the struggle some members had differentiating between "climate" and "weather."
"The point of the amendment is, we aren't going to ignore it," she said.
And yet they did, voting almost exactly along party lines against admitting that climate change even exists. They aren't scientists, after all. Well, most of them aren't.
Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, said that the very next day the same House passed a bill legislating that these members will have the final say on complicated, scientific, water quality levels set by pollution control experts.
"This was the essence of last week," Hornstein said ruefully. "This is your government at work."