Hoax-Watch: Michael Steele, RNC Chairman

It's important to call people on the mistaken things they say - the more we don't, the stronger those mistakes become. And it's doubly-important when it comes to influential people making mistakes - or lying - because they have the power to convince large numbers of people.

So when the Republican National Committee uses the name "Greenland" as a primary piece of evidence for current global cooling, there's a responsibility to say "No, Mister Steele. No, that's not right."

The quote:

We are cooling. We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I am using my finger quotation marks here, is part of the cooling process. Greenland, which is now covered in ice, it was once called Greenland for a reason, right? Iceland, which is now green. Oh I love this. Like we know what this planet is all about. How long have we been here? How long? No[t] very long.
According to multiple surviving Icelandic texts, Eric the Red thought up the name Greenland to make it sound more attractive than Iceland (even though its climate is much harsher).

But it goes a little deeper than that.

When Greenland was settled, it was more hospitable than it is today. There were more forests, better soil, and stable wildlife. Out of those things, what Norse settlers didn't destroy (through over-farming and timber harvesting) the Little Ice Age during the Middle Ages finished - and while it was at it, it seems to have wiped out the Norse colony itself. It took another few hundred years for Greenland to be settled by Europeans again.

So, in a way, Michael Steele is hinting at something correct; he's just off by five hundred years. There was a cooling trend that made Greenland inhospitable - but it reversed. And, with the help of humanity's industrialization, has continued to reverse - on and on and on.

In the end, Michael Steele can safely be labeled ignorant. (Which is a problem, considering how he's become a powerful figure for conservatives.) But his ignorance exists on so many different levels - basic history, a basic knowledge of how climate works, any sort of understanding of climate cycles - that it's really mind boggling that he's the head of the second most powerful political party in the United States. And they let him on the radio.

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