One day in high school I found myself faced with the daunting challenge to think like a scientist. The time had finally come to create a required glorified science project, euphemistically dubbed “Group 4.” After two months of apathy and another month of procrastination, my group faced an impending due date with only a sketch of an idea in mind. With “global warming” trending in the headlines, we hoped to create an apparatus that could model the absorptive effects of carbon dioxide.

And so, with the help of some pipes, a salt-and-vinegar solution, an infrared laser beam, and an Android application programmed to measure carbon dioxide transmission, we created our simulation. I was surprised by how efficiently carbon dioxide absorbed infrared light, a source of radiation that accounts for over half of the sun’s power output. The compound captured heat within the apparatus (as climate scientists had led us to suspect it might).

I tell this story not to label myself a scientist, but rather because I genuinely worry that this project allowed me—someone with the scientific literacy of a salted pretzel—to know more about the scientific theory surrounding climate change than many Republican representatives do today.

I am not being hyperbolic. In recent decades, members of the Grand Old Party have had more than their fair share of altercations with scientists of all fields.

Consider the hostility involved in the implementation of airbags in the 1970s and 1980s. On one side were researchers, who advocated for the life-saving capabilities of the new technology. On the other side were auto companies, which lobbied conservative politicians, including Presidents Nixon and Reagan, in order to avoid safety regulations. As a supplement to their lobbying efforts, the companies launched campaigns to discredit science activists and to inform the public about apparent ambiguities in the effectiveness of the safety measure.

Recall the decades of denialism surrounding the link between cigarettes and cancer. As men and women unknowingly poisoned their lungs through what they considered a harmless social fad, cigarette companies denied mounting evidence that showed the negative ramifications of smoking on human health. Cigarette companies had a long history of contributing to the campaigns of conservatives, who they believed could downplay the costs of smoking and prevent stricter government oversight.

Think about the endless brigade of ignorance the modern Republican Party espouses on issues of public health. Faith in such ignorance might make for powerful political talking points, but it also comes with palpable consequences. Today, HIV is most heavily concentrated in southern states. In these bastions of conservatism, individuals continue to misidentify AIDS as a gay man’s disease; Republican leaders repeatedly reject proactive public health initiatives like needle exchanges; and teenage students are not comprehensively taught about sexually transmitted infections. For other detrimental examples of denialism, spend some time reading about the effects of vaccine denialism or of the battle between the factory farmers who overuse antibiotics on their animals to boost production and the researchers who argue the farmers are promoting antibiotic resistance.

I like to believe that Republicans do not deny scientifically proven phenomena because of naïve stupidity. In most of the examples of denialism listed above, science opposed unfettered capitalism. Automakers did not want to expend profits on safety equipment, cigarette companies sought consistent demand, and factory farmers now need to produce enough to offer competitive prices. Republicans stand up for the stability of corporations, especially when change can be economically harmful. Of course, this type of politicking for the special interests of the few over the well being of the many does not sell as well as politicized denialism.

Such is the case for action against climate change. Curbing emissions of greenhouse gases—considered the primary agents of manmade climate change—comes with high immediate costs for companies throughout the world. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans are mistaken about what the true debate surrounding climate change should involve: not whether humans are themselves altering climate for the worse, but instead the extent to which governments can and should counteract these effects at the short-term expense of corporations and in the interests of future generations.

The science verifying man-made climate change is as abundant as it is abundantly clear. 97% of climate scientists throughout the world agree that human activity is negatively affecting the climate. These scientists span 18 scientific associations, multiple science academies, and an intergovernmental body called the International Panel on Climate Change. The latest report from the IPCC stated: “It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.”

The report goes on to underscore the likely consequences of manmade climate change on food security, animal extinction, rising sea levels, and the displacement of human populations. Even more interestingly, the report describes a series of “co-benefits,” positive externalities of fighting climate change including improved energy efficiency, reduced energy and water consumption, and more sustainable agriculture and industry (and then there is that whole thing about a more stable earth for our kids and grandkids).

As President Obama tries to work with other nations to combat climate change at the G7 summit, Republican candidates for 2016 brace themselves for campaigns of intellectually diluted catchphrases crafted for climate change debate. The most common, espoused simultaneously as an excuse for ignorance and as a justification for denialism: “I’m no scientist, but . . .”

On this point, I think I would ironically agree with Rick Santorum—let’s go ahead and leave climate change to the scientists.

Brendan McCartney is a Trinity senior. His column will run bi-weekly in the fall.