Thursday, 5 March 2009

I got riled by sceptics getting airspace this week

My media clippings service came up with a "Denver Weather Examiner"
story on IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri visiting town, complete with lots of
space to a misguided "sceptic".

How is this still happening? I appreciate that journos have to
manufacture conflict to get attention; but it would be good if they
picked opposing views that have some agreed foundation.

There are lots of ways to bring such content into a climate story:
debates about solutions, such as should we have nuclear or not, is coal
sequestration a diversion or a genuine part of the solution.

If you were running a story on a cold front moving through the North USA
you might have debate about whether it'll mean snow or just rain, or
options for how people should prepare to manage possible snowstorms. But
would you bother featuring a story debating whether the cold front
existed? That's what legions of US online journals are still doing.

Given that every institutional climate authority in the western world
(or just about) agrees that climate change is happening and that it's
"very likely" (to use the very careful formulation of words that the
Saudis allowed the IPCC to use) to be human-induced .... then it seems
clear we have a pretty severe climate front coming through.

And having just been in Australia where the scientists are saying pretty
unequivocally that the extended high temperature periods that created
the recent killer firestorms were part of the human-induced change of
climate ... I think we can say the effects of that climate change front
are already being felt.

Now, any of us can decide to rubbish the work of thousands of climate
scientists around the world, or of an internationally appointed panel of
the world's leaders in their areas of climate-related practice, or of
every major scientific institution and every major scientific
professional association in the world, or of the political leaders of
every western nation (except, I think, the plucky little Czech Republic)
... and say that climate change is not human-induced. But I think you
could rightfully be accused of being misguided.

Of course nothing about the future is certain; climate change would be
academic is we all go in a meteorite hit before the year's out. But if I
was flying a plane and the relevant authorities tell me there's a 90%
chance of a very severe storm up ahead, I'd take evasive action. We all
need to take evasive action around climate change.

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