Michael Gerson vs. George Will on Global Warming
I've gotten a bunch of requests for a response to George Will's assertion that “If you’re 29, there has been no global warming for your entire adult life.” I'm actually puzzled enough by that comment to not really know how to respond. I guess I'll post this graph and leave it at that:
George Will appears to have gotten this devastating rejoinder from Mark Steyn. Steyn is not, as you might imagine, a climate scientist. He's a polemicist best known for writing a celebrity obituary column in The Atlantic. I actually like Steyn's celebrity obituaries -- they're quick and sharp-witted and gracefully written -- but I'm not sure I'd use him for a source on global warming. I'd be more likely to listen to this guy.
But to be a bit positive about this, I wanted to point out Michael Gerson's column from July 1. Would that the debate between liberals and conservatives on climate change looked more like this:
Obama's ideological overreach on issues from the fiscal stimulus to health-care nationalization has put conservatives in a scrappy mood. The recession has brought the public's economic anxiety into sharp focus and moved environmental concerns -- droughts in the Sahel or floods in Bangladesh -- into the hazy distance. And the House cap-and-trade bill itself was a riot of loopholes, concessions and offsets -- legislative sausage-making with an excess of offal.
But none of these political considerations change an underlying reality. A serious concern about global climate disruption remains the broad (not unanimous but predominant) view of the scientific community, including the National Academy of Sciences. Global warming since the 19th century is undeniable -- a trend not disproved by year-to-year variations. These changes are closely correlated with increases in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide since the Industrial Revolution. Climate disruption has become so rapid in some places that it is overwhelming the natural process of adjustment, reducing crop yields and leading to the extinction of species. Meanwhile, global carbon emissions are increasing faster than expected. Some scientists warn of possible "tipping points" -- the rapid disintegration of the ice sheets, the sudden release of methane from warming northern soils -- that could turn a challenge into a catastrophe of lethal heat waves and rising sea levels.
Is this scientific viewpoint certain or guaranteed? Not when the scientific models concern a system as complex as the Earth's climate. Neither is it guaranteed that an Iranian nuclear weapon would be used against that country's enemies. But the realistic possibility of disaster, in both cases, would recommend a serious response.
In the '60s, legislative action on civil rights did not come from an alliance between Northern and Southern Democrats, in which Northern Democrats started with a good bill and then made the requisite concessions to get Southern Democrats on board. It came from an alliance between Democrats who believed in civil rights and Republicans who believed in civil rights. And it was a better bill for it.
You could imagine the same happening on global warming: an alliance between Democrats and Republicans would produce a far better bill than an alliance between Democrats from states that don't rely on the coal industry and states that do. That's the sort of future Gerson is pointing toward in that column. But it's rather harder given that conservatives like Will are doing their level best to make the Republican position a denial of the problem's seriousness and a misrepresentation of the clear trends. The end result will be a bill that is probably worse from Will's perspective -- as it's more bureaucratic and complex and problematic for the market -- and is insufficient to the scale of the problem.
Posted by: ender3rd | July 23, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: pneogy | July 23, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: davestickler | July 23, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bluegrass1 | July 23, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: MosBen | July 24, 2009 7:22 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: timdaly | July 24, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: upton1 | July 24, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: LarvellBlanks | July 24, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: cfrank2 | July 24, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: goaway41 | July 25, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: karl-keller | July 25, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: robertbee | July 25, 2009 11:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ibsam | July 26, 2009 12:36 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: chairsocst | July 26, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: tyunck | July 26, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.