“Goofball weathermen, Climategate, conspiracy theories” the distraction we’re looking for?

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“No one has ever offered a plausible account of why thousands of scientists at hundreds of universities in dozens of countries would bother to engineer a climate hoax,” Elizabeth Kolbert writes in the April 12 New Yorker. “Nor has anyone been able to explain why Mother Nature would keep playing along; despite what it might have felt like in the Northeast these past few months, globally it was one of the warmest winters on record. The message from scientists at this point couldn’t be clearer: the world’s emissions trajectory is extremely dangerous. Goofball weathermen, Climategate, conspiracy theories—these are all a distraction from what’s really happening. Which, apparently, is what we’re looking for.”

Kolbert once again hits several nails on the head. Excerpted from her Comment “Up in the Air” (read the entire piece)—

Joe Bastardi, who goes by the title “expert senior forecaster” at AccuWeather, has a modest proposal. … His theory, which mixes volcanism, sunspots, and a sea-temperature trend known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, is that the earth is actually cooling. Why don’t we just wait twenty or thirty years, he proposes, and see who’s right? This is “the greatest lab experiment ever,” he said recently on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show.

Bastardi’s position is ridiculous (which is no doubt why he’s often asked to air it on Fox News). Yet there it was on the front page of the Times last week. Among weathermen, it turns out, views like Bastardi’s are typical. …

Why, with global warming, is it always one step forward, two, maybe three steps back? A year ago, it looked as if the so-called climate debate might finally be over, and the business of actually addressing the problem about to begin…. Speaking in September at the United Nations, the President said that a “new era” had dawned. “We understand the gravity of the climate threat,” he declared. “We are determined to act.”

Then, much like the Arctic ice cap, that “new era” started to fall to pieces. … Last week, despite the Senate’s inaction, President Obama announced that he was opening huge swaths of the Atlantic and Alaskan coasts to oil drilling. … As Josh Nelson put it on the blog EnviroKnow, “Obama is either an exceptionally bad negotiator, or he actually believes in some truly awful policy ideas. Neither of these possibilities bodes well.”

As lawmakers dither, public support for action melts away. … In a Gallup poll taken last month … only fifty-two per cent of Americans believe that “most scientists believe that global warming is occurring,” down from sixty-five per cent in 2008.

The most immediate explanation for this disturbing trend is the mess that’s come to be known as Climategate. … The e-mails were widely portrayed in the press and in the blogosphere as evidence of a conspiracy to misrepresent the data. But, as a parliamentary committee appointed to investigate the matter concluded last week, this charge is so off base that it is difficult even to respond to: “Insofar as the committee was able to consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU, the committee considers that there is no case to answer.”

The e-mail brouhaha was followed by—and immediately confused with—another overblown controversy, about a mistake in the second volume of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report, from 2007… The screw-up, which was soon acknowledged by the I.P.C.C. and the W.W.F., was somehow transformed by commentators into a reason to doubt everything in the three-volume assessment, including, by implication, the basic laws of thermodynamics. …

No one has ever offered a plausible account of why thousands of scientists at hundreds of universities in dozens of countries would bother to engineer a climate hoax….

The message from scientists at this point couldn’t be clearer: the world’s emissions trajectory is extremely dangerous. Goofball weathermen, Climategate, conspiracy theories—these are all a distraction from what’s really happening. Which, apparently, is what we’re looking for.

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