I got into a Twitter fight with Dana Rohrabacher

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Recently, news sources around the world were reporting on a new milestone set by planet Earth. For the first time in human history, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 ppm1. Not cause for celebration, but it is a record, something to stick in our hat.

Naturally, I did what we’ve all been coached to do when news breaks: piss into the void that is Twitter. In this instance, I sought out Dana Rohrabacher, Representative for California’s 48th Congressional District2. He was quoted in a New York Times article3 as a heavyweight representative of skepticism and he’s previously offered up such gems as, “I do not believe that CO2 is a cause of global warming,”4 and “So the polar ice caps aren’t going away, and the polar bears are not becoming extinct.”5 Appropriate or not, I sent him a snarky tweet that read “get your surfing in while you can @DanaRohrabacher” and then linked to the aforementioned Times article.

He responded. Quickly. This is the magic of modern times. Plus, it was a late Friday afternoon, and I suppose little was on the docket. All work and no play, etc. “Most ardent Global Warming alarmist predicted major temp jumps by now, now admit yet relatively NO temp increase 4 16yrs” (emphasis his). I had now entered a discussion with a member of Congress concerning an important global issue. Yo, I had arrived. (“‘Cause we started from the bottom now we here / Sippin’ Rosé with Rozay and it’s Belaire.”)

Full disclosure: There are two main things I believe as I have allowed myself to be influenced by science: CO2 traps heat6 and humans have increased the production of CO27. Beyond that I don’t know many specifics and am interested in arguments about climate science.

What follows is our discussion via Twitter, pieced together according to the timestamps:

N.B.: Congressmen Rohrabacher has since deleted the tweets.

As it is in most social media debates, neither party makes a convincing case. I seem preoccupied with the consensus of scientists and a document from NASA, while Mr. Rohrabacher focuses all his attention on a small sample size. It’s a lot of talking at rather than with; behold, the Internet.

The takeaway here is not about global warming and the truth or fraudulence of its existence. You see, we never really got to that point in the discussion. Mr. Rohrabacher, like any good policy maker stuck to his talking point—“NO temp increase 4 16yrs”—and declined to expand when I asked him “to which mainstream science are you referring?”

Let us ignore that even if we concede the average temperature hasn’t risen in the past sixteen years, we could just extend our sample size like a good little scientist, (because you know 16 years isn’t even a fart in the timeline of Earth) and see a steady rise in temperatures for quite some time8. Let us also ignore that Dr. James Hansen is the only specific Mr. Rohrabacher mentioned, and whether right or wrong, the mainstream climate change advocates have distanced themselves from Dr. Hansen9, and therefore is not an adequate reference point. You see, the most alarming thing to come from this discussion is that here we have an elected official, a person with charge over a district of other people, that will not do something as basic as cite a source for his claim.

The quick and reductive argument is to say Mr. Rohrabacher owes me nothing. But that’s a fool’s route, and I remind you he chose to respond. Mr. Rohrabacher chose to play the game, and to do so correctly you cannot simply say, “google both sides. you tube has great documentaries on GWarming & Gwarming fraud.” Shame on the person who enters an argument and elects not to practice the simple principle of citing sources, a principle instilled in every product of the American public school system since early youth. (I invite the readers to YouTube “Gwarming fraud.” Alex Jones fanboy, “WakeUpCall4World” has uploaded The Great Global Warming Swindle for our convenience.)

Here we have an adult, mind you not just any adult, but an adult who has spoken10 publicly11 about the lack of science to support manmade global warming, and has the potential to effect change, directing me to the websites Google and “you tube.”

Whatever fear I might have regarding our treatment of our one and only planet is compounded now with the knowledge that we continue to elect officials that have no idea what is going on. Because not citing sources not only implies he doesn’t know how to argue but also that his claims are so off base that there are no reputable studies to back them up.

1 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/may/10/carbon-dioxide-highest-level-greenhouse-gas
2 http://rohrabacher.house.gov/
3 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/11/science/earth/carbon-dioxide-level-passes-long-feared-milestone.html?smid=tw-share&pagewanted=all&_r=0
4 http://rohrabacher.house.gov/press-release/press-statement-rohrabacher-response-misleading-reports-his-position-concerning
5 http://sppiblog.org/news/congressman-rohrabacher-on-agw
6 http://www.ucar.edu/learn/1_3_1.htm
7 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/95JD03410/abstract;jsessionid=296FB156598602245B1EDBC5CB249B1E.d03t01?systemMessage=Wiley+Online+Library+will+be+disrupted+on+18+May+from+10%3A00-12%3A00+BST+%2805%3A00-07%3A00+EDT%29+for+essential+maintenance
8 http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus
9 http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/06/29/090629fa_fact_kolbert
10 http://rohrabacher.house.gov/press-release/media-advisory-rep-rohrabacher-keynotes-3rd-international-conference-climate-change
11 http://rohrabacher.house.gov/video/msnbc-rohrabacher-debates-global-warming