Scary, Scary Words
Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.
Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.
The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.
The perceptual damage done, at least in the short-term, to the legitimacy of decades of global warming research by “Climategate,” as triumphant global warming deniers are calling it, is unarguable. However, as Andrew Revkin and John Broder document in the New York Times today, the credibility hit is being used by climate change skeptics to discredit the actual science behind climate research beyond what the substantive content of the stolen e-mails justifies and, even more important, without regard to the massive body of evidence that has been collected over decades by hundreds of climate scientists all over the world that leaves no reasonable room for doubt that man-made global warming is real and that it poses a catastrophic threat to human survival.
Yet the case for human-driven warming, many scientists say, is far clearer now than a decade ago, when the skeptics included many people who now are convinced that climate change is a real and serious threat.
Even some who remain skeptical about the extent or pace of global warming say that the premise underlying the Copenhagen talks is solid: that warming is to some extent driven by greenhouse gases spewing into the atmosphere from human activities like the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.
Roger A. Pielke Sr., for example, a climate scientist at the University of Colorado who has been highly critical of the United Nations climate panel and who once branded many of the scientists now embroiled in the e-mail controversy part of a climate “oligarchy,” said that so many independent measures existed to show unusual warming taking place that there was no real dispute about it. Moreover, he said, “The role of added carbon dioxide as a major contributor in climate change has been firmly established.”
It’s easy enough to point to the anti-intellectualism and hostility to science that runs rampant on the religious right and among social conservatives as explanation for the truly extraordinary levels of ostrich behavior in the United States, as opposed to any other country in the world. On this subject, though, I think there is something stronger and more pervasive than fundamentalist religiosity at work. You might call it “American exemptionalism.” Here are a few examples of it:
- Bruce McQuain: Headline: “Copenhagen Is Not About ‘Science’; It’s About Income Redistribution.”
- The Jawa Report: “Warmist Conspirators Reveal True Goal in Mass Editorial.” That’s the headline. And below, in the text:
If you had any doubt that the whole thing is a political movement based on junk science, buried within the common editorial is the real purpose of the hysteria:
Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions.
Copenhagen has absolutely nothing to do with protecting the planet. It’s all about using the manufactured “crisis” to fleece the citizens of the United States.
- Michelle Malkin: “No amount of evidence will dent the cult’s belief in AGW and the need for what the collectivist editorialists call transformative ‘social justice.’ “
Social. Justice. Separately, they are innocent and harmless. But put them together, like so:
and you have the two most terrifying words in the English language.