The attack on climate-change science

At TomDispatch, Bill McKibben writes:

Twenty-one years ago, in 1989, I wrote what many have called the first book for a general audience on global warming. One of the more interesting reviews came from the Wall Street Journal. It was a mixed and judicious appraisal. “The subject,” the reviewer said, “is important, the notion is arresting, and Mr. McKibben argues convincingly.” And that was not an outlier: around the same time, the first president Bush announced that he planned to “fight the greenhouse effect with the White House effect.”

I doubt that’s what the Journal will say about my next book when it comes out in a few weeks, and I know that no GOP presidential contender would now dream of acknowledging that human beings are warming the planet. Sarah Palin is currently calling climate science “snake oil” and last week, the Utah legislature, in a move straight out of the King Canute playbook, passed a resolution condemning “a well organized and ongoing effort to manipulate global temperature data in order to produce a global warming outcome” on a nearly party-line vote.

And here’s what’s odd. In 1989, I could fit just about every scientific study on climate change on top of my desk. The science was still thin. If my reporting made me think it was nonetheless convincing, many scientists were not yet prepared to agree.

Now, you could fill the Superdome with climate-change research data. (You might not want to, though, since Hurricane Katrina demonstrated just how easy it was to rip holes in its roof.) Every major scientific body in the world has produced reports confirming the peril. All 15 of the warmest years on record have come in the two decades that have passed since 1989. In the meantime, the Earth’s major natural systems have all shown undeniable signs of rapid flux: melting Arctic and glacial ice, rapidly acidifying seawater, and so on.

Somehow, though, the onslaught against the science of climate change has never been stronger, and its effects, at least in the U.S., never more obvious: fewer Americans believe humans are warming the planet. At least partly as a result, Congress feels little need to consider global-warming legislation, no less pass it; and as a result of that failure, progress towards any kind of international agreement on climate change has essentially ground to a halt.

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3 thoughts on “The attack on climate-change science

  1. Alexno

    As someone who has studied climate change, though as a historian rather than scientist, I wasn’t much impressed by McKibben’s article. It is about the politics, not the science.

    Climate change is a very complicated subject. Climate heating is certainly taking place, but no-one really knows whether it is natural, or man induced. No doubt a bit of both. But the climate change scientists have taken it very simplistically.

    However, big money is at issue. Climate change scientists have claimed certainty when there is none, and that’s a problem.

    The only certainty is that human activity is fucking up the planet. What is not certain is the way that it is happening, and is climate heating part of it?

  2. Geir Aaslid

    No more Climate Voodoo Science please, let us have the truth and a bit of real science instead.

    Arctic Ice has increased by more than 30% since the “low” year of 2007!

    When do the Himalayan Glaciers really melt? Indian researchers say we’ll have an ice age before they will melt.

    Even the Climate Bandits at CRU/East Anglia university who fiddled with their data and refused to share their “research”, now admit there has been no global warming the last decade, and they also admit it was warmer during the Middle Ages.

  3. Marcia Earth

    I agree that the problem is that science has become political. On both (political) sides of the debate – conservative climate skeptics and liberal environmentalists, statistics are taken out of context and irrelevant examples and ad hominem arguments are used to prove that their beliefs are correct.

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