According to a UK Guardian Report, e.g.
"Some parts of the world could soon be at a tipping point. For others, that tipping point has already arrived. "Both warm water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts," the approved version of the report will say."
"The gravest of those risks was to people in low-lying coastal areas and on small islands, because of storm surges, coastal flooding and sea-level rise."
This is already being seen in islands like Barbados, where the increasing sea level is reclaiming ever more prime beach land. It's also at work in South Florida, steadily shrinking beach sand unless it's constantly replaced. But tourists sunning themselves on beaches is the least of our concerns. The biggest is catastrophic climate change leading to the runaway greenhouse effect.
NY Times' columnist Nicholas Kristoff, several weeks ago, noted a contest he'd held for the "Neglected Topic" winner among his columns. By a large margin it was climate change with one person comparing it to "staring down an asteroid". This is not exaggeration, other in terms of the time scale. If we fail to act decisively and dramatically our species will experience as much devastation as if a Torino scale 9 asteroid had hit. What are we doing about it? Nothing of substance! Even Kristoff admitted:
"We in the news media manage to cover weather very aggressively but we are reticent on climate."
He adds that the coverage of climate has actually declined in American media since 2007 - according to researchers at the University of Colorado. As this media attention factor has declined, so also have the proportion of Americans who accept global warming is real. Of course, the largest divergence is between Republicans (24% accept it) and Democrats (65%).
Into this milieu, statistics guru Nate Silver has entered with his revived 538 blog, now incorporating a climate science section. Unfortunately, Silver picked exactly the wrong person to be the central contributor - a denier named Roger Pielke Jr. who - truth be told - isn't even a climate scientist. According to one profile on Wikipedia:
"Pielke Jr. is an American meteorologist with interests in climate variability and climate change",
Leaving out all the fulsome bollocks on his assorted "numerical modeling" skills this is basically what it all comes down to: his meteorological background. As I noted in a Jan. 2012 post on the climate agnotologists, citing the Jan.-Feb. 2011 issue of The Columbia Journalism Review, most meteorologists have a distorted view on climate change- global warming. They can't help it (as Al Roker also demonstrated a couple weeks ago) it's how they're taught. The Review pointed out the following aberrations in its survey of members of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and why most don't buy climate change:
2- Most skeptic meterologists (like Bob Breck an AMS-certified chief meteorologist at New Orleans WVUE) didn’t properly recognize the limits of their own scientific training – and hence the implausibility of their pronouncing on climate science.
3- Because of (2) the skeptic meteorologists tend to see their own “informed intuition” as the source of some kind of ersatz scientific authority – particularly if the skeptics are also excellent communicators, or fancy themselves so.
Some of the paradoxical statistics that were cited in the article, based on surveys carried out by Emory University Journalism lecturer Kris Wilson, included:
- 29% agreed with Weather Channel mogul John Coleman’s take that global warming was “the greatest scam in history”.
-Only 24% believed that humans were responsible for most of the change over the past half century.
- 50% were certain this wasn’t true and that humans weren’t responsible.
-Only 17% of the opinionated TV weathermen “received a graduate degree, a prerequisite for an academic researcher in any scientific field”.
He basically brushes aside climate change as if it were a trivial concern. His proposal is to tax carbon at such a low and inconsequential rate that even Exxon Mobile agrees to the tax, and then to use the proceeds to fund more research on alternative energy and other mitigation strategies. That's IT. Well almost.
He also spends an inordinate amount of time bashing climate scientists (which he is admittedly not) for being human beings and voicing their intense concern for the future of the planet, which their research has shown is in big trouble if we do nothing or little to decrease carbon emissions in the very near future. This book is not worth reading and I regret the time I spent getting through it. If you want to learn about climate change and our options for dealing with its consequences, there are dozens of other books that really address the issue.”
A recent salon.com article on Pielke Jr. perhaps offers some of the most trenchant observations of the guy, such as:
Even someone who is sympathetic to the claim that political considerations sometimes find their way into climate science might shrink from Pielke Jr.’s characterization of climate science as “a fully politicized enterprise.” He makes such institutions as the
The Jewish Daily Forward meanwhile has this take: