Sarah Palin, John McCain's vice presidential nominee, has demonstrated a shocking ignorance of climate science, indicating that the McCain campaign is completely out of touch with reality. While I can relate to Palin's small town background, and am glad that she appreciates her time in the outdoors as a hunter and fisher, her view that climate change is not man-made reflects a willful disregard for scientific evidence and proof, a disregard that enables inaction on the most compelling issue of our time.
Palin, in a Newsmax article published last week, responded to a question on global warming by stating "A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made."
Palin's position that global warming is not man-made flies in the face of international scientific consensus, a consensus that has even convinced the Bush EPA and Supreme Court. Her radically reactionary view on this issue can only be the result of failing to engage with the modern world. Her view that global warming is not man-made is borne out in her policy positions in favor of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge specifically, and oil use generally.
Palin's position, and its dependence on faulty science, can be understood better by considering the report (pdf) on climate change she drafted as Governor of Alaska. She begins from a proposition that "we can't stop the warming." She claims that as warming is inevitable, we must learn to adapt. There is some truth here; some level of future warming cannot be avoided due to extant greenhouse emissions, and it is true that we must adapt to that level of warming. We can do this, for example, by providing disaster support in the wake of tragedies like Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
However, not all future warming is inevitable. If we reduce or cease carbon dioxide emissions over the next few years, we can limit future temperature increases to a manageable level, avoiding a catastrophic tipping point. We can do this, in part, by stopping the burning of fossil fuels like oil.
As Palin does not think human carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming, she is in favor of increased oil exploration, drilling, and burning. These bankrupt practices of the past threaten not only our way of life, but the current balance of life on earth.