WASHINGTON -- Die-hard skeptics of climate change believe the rollout of the Green New Deal, with its plans for wealth redistribution, high taxes, and a massive transition to a carbon neutral economy, was a tipoff to a hidden agenda.
"We always knew climate was a stalking horse for socialism, communism, totalitarianism, whatever you want to call it,” said Steve Milloy of JunkScience.com.
Milloy is what many climate scientists and environmentalists pejoratively refer to as a "denier."
But even many Democrats who support a climate change agenda saw the rollout as overreach.
"I have read it and I have re-read it and I asked [co-sponsor Sen.] Ed Markey, ‘What in the heck is this?’" said Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill) on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Panelists responded with howls of laughter.
Some hope that from the excesses of the Green New Deal, more moderate voices emerge.
"The climate debate has been driven for years by the edges of each party," said Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center. "Having a more aggressively unrealistic left edge to contradict the irresponsible right edge is not likely to create the kind of consensus that’s necessary to have meaningful change."
Others question the desperate sense of urgency to transition to a carbon neutral economy.
John Christy, head of the Atmospheric Sciences Department of the University of Alabama, Hunstville, has long questioned the so-called 97 percent consensus among climate scientists. He notes the greatest scientific discoveries in history have often broken with consensus.
Astronomer Galileo Galilei was condemned to life under house arrest for embracing heliocentrism – the belief that the earth and planets revolve around the sun.
In 1931, the book "A Hundred Authors Against Einstein" was published questioning his theory of relativity. More recently Australian scientist Barry Marshall upended accepted treatment for ulcers by suggesting they were not caused by stress, but by bacterial infection. Today, the standard ulcer treatment is an antibiotic.
Christy agrees that CO2 levels are increasing and the planet has warmed slightly, but his research indicates computer models that predict catastrophic consequences of climate change are unrealistic.
"I take a real hard look at climate model output and can demonstrate that these models are just too sensitive to carbon dioxide," he said. "The real world is not spiraling off into some dangerous territory of climate."
For expressing that view and others (his research shows that rising CO2 levels have some beneficial effects – agricultural yields are higher than they've ever been, and the planet is greener than at any time in recorded history.) Yet, Christy has been alienated from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, of which he used to be a part.
After the rollout of the Green New Deal non-binding resolution, many Democratic Senators took to the well of the Senate to lambast what they believed was a ploy by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the resolution to a "show" vote.
"We'll give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal," McConnell said.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it a "cynical stunt."
"I challenge Leader McConnell to say that our climate change crisis is real, that it’s caused by humans, and that Congress needs to act," he said. "This is what two-thirds of the American people agree with."
An impassioned Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., weighed in.
"Americans see this in their daily lives. This is not academic theory any longer," he shouted. "They see the wildfires, they see the droughts, they see the floods, they see the sea levels rise..."
Christy measurements suggest they're wrong.
"What distinguishes me from many of them,” he said, “is I actually build the data sets that can answer questions about climate change."
As to Whitehouse's claims of catastrophic weather extremes, Christy said his data did not back that up.
"I actually did a very detailed analysis of that for the United States,” he said. “What I found is that in the last 124 years, weather extremes and temperature extremes have actually declined, both record high temperatures and record low temperatures."
Novelist Michael Crichton, in the Caltech Michelin lecture in 1993, offered what some might see as a calming reassurance about the future of the earths’ climate. He looked back to the turn of the last century when people, "didn't know what radio was, or an airport, or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet, an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, or what IBM was...”
Crichton went on, presenting a long list of the scientific inventions of the 20th century that changed human life for the better. Toward the end of the lecture he asked, "Now, you tell me you can predict the world of 2100?"