Dave Reichert is Washington's Congressional representative from the 8th District, which is safely protected from the wilds of Seattle by Lake Washington. He is in a tough election battle with Darcy Burner, and they happened to speak at a PAC forum in the building complex where I work. The 8th District race is considered one of the keystone races for control of the House, but that isn't the only reason I was interested.
In my hometown of Seattle, the race is between Congressman-for-life Jim McDermott, Republican sacrifice Steve Beren, and Independent Linnea Noreen. Noreen is the most interesting candidate, by merit of holding "nominating conventions" at Tiki Bob's. If McDermott doesn't win, everyone in Seattle will drop their coffees and microbrews. I wanted to get a close look at a much livelier contest, even if it meant that I had to face the 520 Bridge.
On the East Side, Burner and Reichert told their life stories and fielded questions from energy company employees. I didn't realize that the meeting was open only to Puget Sound Energy employees, but no one asked for my identification at the door, so I stayed. The candidates, talking one after the other, did not have terribly surprising answers for most of the hour, although Reichert looked tired and was rambling.
And then someone asked him whether he believes in global warming.
Image of "Global Warming Predictions" by Robert A. Rohde, from Wikipedia.
Global warming is a concern, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, which scientists believe will get even more rain over the next several decades. That climatic shift should produce a music style that would make Grunge sound like a barbershop quartet by comparison, and makes Goth music appear positively frisky. There are more serious concerns about Global Warming, including mass species extinction, starvation, and the end of life as we know it. I perked up when Reichert appeared defensive on the topic.
Reichert has good reason to be defensive. At a June meeting with the Sierra Club, he told the members that he wasn't convinced that global warming is real. In a September interview with the Seattle Times, he muddied his position further.
"The problem is, you have some scientists who say it's happening, and some who say it's not happening. The problem is the Sierra Club says that every scientist says it is," said Reichert, a member of the House Science Committee. "I'm going to wait until all the facts are in. There were many scientists who used to say the world was flat."
At the forum on Tuesday, Reichert quickly checked that there were no reporters in the room and clarified his position. Sort of.
According to Reichert, global warming is an undisputed reality, but the key question is whether the causes are natural or man-made. The unanswered question, he said, is whether climatic changes can be attributed to human beings. Apparently, scientists need to provide Reichert with a kind of DNA trail that incriminates humans as a cause for global warming.
Presumably, this means that Reichert thinks that humans shouldn't change their ways until we know for certain that we are the cause of climate change. Someone didn't see Al Gore's movie. Coincidentally, Gore was in town that very day, the perfect chance for Reichert to rub elbows with the former Veep.
Reichert says that he wants to be convinced and that he wants more evidence supporting global warming. The climate record is limited, stretching back in time a mere 650,000 years. On a geographic scale, that is a small sampling. The problem is, humans can't afford to wait another 650,000 to determine whether the record temperatures of the past century are a blip. While some scientists have criticized the prevailing climate-change theory, they are in the minority; others have been misquoted to support the minority view.
Reichert's rambling position on global warming is disappointing in light of actions he has taken to protect the environment. If Reichert is re-elected, let's hope that he comes around on the topic.
Reichert's office has a press release that attempts to clarify his position further.
David Goldstein over at Horse's Ass has a good analysis of "Doubting Dave's" statements on global warming.
Darcy Burner, who was endorsed by Al Gore during his Seattle visit, has blogged about her view that global warming is a serious threat that must be addressed now.