“A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth …”

— Political writer Michael Kinsley

Kinsley, an acerbic leftist, went on to say that such utterances, whether intentional or accidental, were “gaffes” because they offered the speaker’s opponents the chance to pounce on them.

That opportunity could presumably have been avoided if the speaker had either kept silent or hid behind a dense cloud of meaningless bafflegab (see: Wasserman Schultz, Debbie).

But that’s not what Maine GOP senatorial candidate Charlie Summers did, and people who value substance over image should be proud of him.

The occasion was a three-way debate last week between Summers, Democrat Cynthia Dill and independent Angus King. As reported by this newspaper Sept. 14, this is what stirred the pot:

“Moderator Jeff Thaler found the clear point of contention with his first question: ‘Do you accept the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and is being primarily caused by human activities?’

“Summers answered bluntly, ‘No, I don’t.’ “

Bluntness is good. Especially when it directly confronts what liberals consider as their approved wisdom (which isn’t the same as actual wisdom, by the way).

The article continued: “While humans are having an effect on the environment, Summers said, other factors such as volcanic eruptions play a role. ‘We have to also understand there are natural forces at work here,’ he said.

“Democrat Cynthia Dill answered next: ‘The exact opposite of what he said.’ Dill said the evidence is clear and ‘I am also convinced that it is the biggest threat to civilized society.’ “

Wow. The chance that temperatures might rise on average a couple of degrees over the next hundred years is a bigger threat to civilization than the chance that Islamic jihadists might get nuclear bombs?

Doesn’t she know it will be a lot hotter at Ground Zero if the Iranians blow up Tel Aviv (or, for that matter, New York) than it might become on a midsummer day in Cape Elizabeth in 2075 due to “climate change”?

As “biggest threats to civilized society” go, one can think of quite a few more immediate worries than Al Gore having his beachfront house in Malibu swamped by a higher tide than he’s used to.

The article added, “Former Gov. Angus King, an independent, disagreed with Summers, too, and pulled up a graph on his smartphone showing carbon dioxide levels rising in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. ‘I don’t see how you can possibly avoid the science,’ he said.”

OK, Mr. King. You’re a smart guy, and we both know that CO2 levels have been rising since industrial development began lifting people out of widespread poverty in the 19th century.

But those levels have been 10 or 20 times higher in the distant past, and somehow life managed to continue.

Indeed, it flourished, as carbon dioxide is plant food and nursery owners now pump it into their greenhouses because current atmospheric levels aren’t high enough for maximum growth.

If CO2 increases, so will food crops and trees, and that’s not a bad thing.

Sure, CO2 is a greenhouse gas, trapping heat from the sun. But it’s a weak one, and far less prevalent in the atmosphere than the strongest and most plentiful one, water vapor.

The only way the warmists’ computer models can produce long-term hotter trends with projected levels of CO2 is by adding speculative “forcing” factors to the math.

They also say things like, “Arctic sea ice is declining!” (But Antarctic sea ice is at record levels, Forbes magazine just reported.) “Glaciers are getting smaller!” (Except for the ones staying the same or growing.) “Sea levels are rising!” (Yes — at the same rate they have been since the end of the last Ice Age.) “Ninety-seven percent of scientists think global warming is real!” (Only according to an extremely limited survey conducted by a warming partisan.)

And don’t even ask about the totally unendangered polar bears.

The claims go on and on. But I’ve written about all that before, and the studies confirming it are available all over the Internet, at places like icecap.us, www.sepp.org and www.thegwpf.org, among many others.

Most significantly, governments all over the world are declining to adopt programs to limit CO2 emissions (or extend them if they have them).

The Rio conference to extend the Kyoto pact collapsed, and if warming were the threat its partisans say, there surely would be more international action than there is. Instead, it is declining precipitously.

One sign is that many nations are reducing or halting funding for so-called “renewable” (that is, “highly expensive and inefficient”) energy sources like wind and solar, and instead are pouring funds into exploiting vast new discoveries of shale gas and oil worldwide.

Summers, as it turns out, not only makes sense; he has plenty of company all over the globe.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]