Thursday, July 20, 2006 12:01 A.M. EDTSee? It's our fault after all! Because, if we hadn't been all ideological about the physical properties of the biosphere, and corrupted the process where all the world's scientists got together to be serious about it, we could have explained to everybody that it was somewhere around 2.5 to 3 C per doubling, and that we really ought to have stopped at 350 ppmv, but there's still barely time to stop at 450 ppmv, and we'd better get on it.
During the past week's heat wave--it hit 100 degrees in New York City Monday--I got thinking, again, of how sad and frustrating it is that the world's greatest scientists cannot gather, discuss the question of global warming, pore over all the data from every angle, study meteorological patterns and temperature histories, and come to a believable conclusion on these questions: Is global warming real or not? If it is real, is it necessarily dangerous? What exactly are the dangers? Is global warming as dangerous as, say, global cooling would be? Are we better off with an Earth that is getting hotter or, what with the modern realities of heating homes and offices, and the world energy crisis, and the need to conserve, does global heating have, in fact, some potential side benefits, and can those benefits be broadened and deepened? Also, if global warning is real, what must--must--the inhabitants of the Earth do to meet its challenges? And then what should they do to meet them?
You would think the world's greatest scientists could do this, in good faith and with complete honesty and a rigorous desire to discover the truth. And yet they can't. Because science too, like other great institutions, is poisoned by politics. Scientists have ideologies. They are politicized.
All too many of them could be expected to enter this work not as seekers for truth but agents for a point of view who are eager to use whatever data can be agreed upon to buttress their point of view.
And so, in the end, every report from every group of scientists is treated as a political document. And no one knows what to believe. So no consensus on what to do can emerge.
If global warming is real, and if it is new, and if it is caused not by nature and her cycles but man and his rapacity, and if it in fact endangers mankind, scientists will probably one day blame The People for doing nothing.
But I think The People will have a greater claim to blame the scientists, for refusing to be honest, for operating in cliques and holding to ideologies. For failing to be trustworthy.
But because we ideologically INSISTED that it was somewhere around 2.5 to 3 C per doubling, and that to be on the safe side we really ought to have stopped at 350 ppmv, but there's still barely time to stop at 450 ppmv, and we'd better get on it because that might be less than totally catastrophic, and because we had big serious meetings where everybody pretty much agreed on those things, nobody is going to believe us.
So it's our fault. If only we had been more flexible about that sensitivity!