Sunday, February 22, 2009

Climate Change Skeptics - Are They Dangerous?

Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Editor of The Nation, in this ABC This Week clip (from March, 2006), quotes the British Commissioner for Pollution, as stating, "Those who deny global climate change [are] 'climate loonies.'" It is an exchange with Washington Post columnist, George Will, a long-time climate change skeptic loony.

Here's the March 2006 exchange:

Will's February 15th, 2009 WaPo column, Dark Green Doomsayers, claims that scientists widely believed the earth's climate was cooling, during the 1970s. He uses that erroneous claim to once again launch into a foray against reason. Complaints to the WaPo ombudsman, and the ombudsman's pathetic reply, have been the subject of many blog posts through the late week and weekend.

Will couldn't keep from trying to pontificate about the economy on TV this morning, prompting Nobel Prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman, to quickly, but p0litely smack Will down:

Back to so-called "climate change skeptics." They sometimes rant about how dangerous those who are concerned about global warming are. Dangerous to the economy, dangerous to personal freedom, dangerous to religious ideas, and so on. Scientists and public policy figures concerned about the dangers of global warming, and industrial practices which exacerbate that change, sometimes do sound more militant about forcing change than is likely to make the general public comfortable. But that doesn't change the fact that in most cases they are right - drastic public policy changes are needed very, very soon.

Locally, in Alaska, the organization that has put the most energy into criticizing the validity of climate change research has been Exxon-Mobil. Interestingly, British Petroleum has come down on the other side of the argument quite often.

The Alaska Legislature contains people with all kinds of views on climate change. Sen. Ted Stevens slowly warmed to the scientific viewpoint. Both Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich take the reality of global warming seriously. Here's Don Young, in full denial mode, back in April, 2007:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been all over the place on this issue. She appeared to come around to admitting human influence upon conditions creating global warming during the 2008 presidential campaign. In 2007 her administration created a sub-cabinet to deal with climate change issues, but it has done very little.

Of far more impact have been anti-science stances by her administration, most notably those involving Polar bear research information access.

The Alaska media appears to be, by and large, accepting of the vast majority of scientists, and of their concern about the impact of climate change upon Alaska. The exceptions come mostly from marginal outlets, such as right-wing talk personalities. Some of these people are given more of a pulpit from which to launch damaging attacks than are others.

The climate change skeptic who has gotten the most air time, column inches, and now his own web presence, is Anchorage talk show host, Dan Fagan. His new on-line blog, The Alaska Standard, has brought some of the weirder writers from the Mat-Su Valley News on board, to write about their views on the subject.

On and off, since the early 1990s, I've asked myself, "Will it get to the point where people who try to stop action mitigating global warming are actually responsible for increased mortality on a wide, trackable scale?"

By early in this century, I was adding the corollary, "Should environmental catastrophes created during war be considered 'war crimes'?" Saddam Hussein's intentional torching of the Kuwaiti oil fields in 1991 was a great example. The 2006 intentional bombing of the Jiyah Power Station's fuel storage tanks by the Israeli Air Force was another. Our uses of depleted uranium munitions in Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq are yet another.

As I've attempted to become knowledgeable about the wide habitat of Yukon and Kuskokwim salmon runs, I've asked several scientists if they feel the Yukon River salmon runs are salvable. Some say they are. Others say they are not. In the latter category, one's answer struck me as surprising, even in the context of severe climate change. He said (I'm paraphrasing):

By the time we could bring a positive change to the Yukon - say 20 years - questions like that will be meaningless as we witness the deaths of so many ecosystems worldwide, the deaths of hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of people, because of other aspects of climate change and related economic disaster.

on that cheery note, I'm off to play in a concert at UAA...

1 comment:

baja said...

I met two young native girls from Barrow last year who were attending UAF. They told me of how the melting ice cap is making it nearly impossible for their people to participate in their yearly whale hunts because the whales swim next to the ice shelf which is now so far off shore that it is nearly impossible for them to manage it.

Then I read about where 8 different ice shelves have broken off or receded in Antarctica over the last 50 years and that a consensus of geologists say the pace is accelerating.

The people who most strongly deny the reasons for global warming are those who represent the interests of oil and gas producers whose product exacerbates these conditions. They don't want to see their shares go down in value if the public should decide it's time to develop green energy.

George (I) Will, like a lot of others, is nothing but a shill for the oil industry / Wall Street status quo.