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This Is Getting Hard To Take

July 27, 2006
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So this month\’s National Geographic has an article written by Bill McKibben. I haven\’t read it all yet, mostly because I stopped after reading the first two paragraphs – stunned. Those two paragraphs pretty succinctly summarize a great deal of recent climate events into one nice, neat little package. The gist – we may already be screwed.

Here\’s a portion of the first paragraph – sorry, you\’ll have to buy the magazine for the rest:

This is the year when we finally started to understand what we are in for. Exactly 12 months ago, an MIT professor named Kerry Emanuel published a paper in Nature showing that hurricanes had slowly but steadily been gaining in strength and duration for a generation. It didn\’t attract widespread attention for a few weeks – not until Katrina roared across the Gulf of Mexico and rendered half a million people refugees. The scenario kept repeating: Rita choking highways with fleeing Texans; Wilma setting an Atlantic Ocean record for barometric lows; Zeta spinning on New Year\’s Day. Meanwhile, other data kept pouring in from around the planet: Arctic sea ice melting past an irrevocable tipping point; thawing permafrost in northeastern Siberia creating so much methane that lakes didn\’t freeze even in the depths of boreal winter; the NASA calculation that 2005 had been the warmest year on record.

Scary stuff. To top it off, I was reading somewhere (maybe the latest Wired, maybe the Dispatch) that an exhaustive study was done lately comparing articles in scientific journals and articles in newspapers. Of the thousands of each type reviewed, not a single journal article was found that questioned the idea of global warming, or that humans are having a profound effect on our planet. Not a single one. In the newspaper articles? About half – in the interest of balanced reporting – mentioned doubts about our impact.

When the scientific community has so completely adopted the thesis of climate change, when the evidence is mounting ever higher (and more evocatively), what is it that prevents more widespread belief in its conclusions?

I know its popular among many of the left to see Bush et al as evil somehow, or that those on the right are somehow nefariously trying to carry out some dastardly plot. But really, I have a hard time believing that (maybe because I have a hard time believing in the notion of an active evil). But what option is left to explain the skepticism of an idea that – scientifically – seems to be established beyond contestation? Are people really that willfully ignorant?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jamie permalink
    July 28, 2006 6:57 am

    Yes they are. Some people just don’t want to believe it’s true. Others are even scarier:

    http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2004/10/27/scherer-christian/index.html

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