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Steven Hayward Makes A Good Point

June 4, 2012

In response to a comment I made on Power Line yesterday, Steven Hayward writes:

When Algore, Hansen, et al, traffic on anecdotes about stranded polar bears and isolated icebergs to gin up the media, then they have to suffer the consequences of their indiscipline when the opposite anecdotes occur. My point is simple: nothing serious will happen on climate change until the reckless and irresponsible activists like Gore and Hansen are marginalized.

I completely agree with that statement. Our media and blogsphere have gotten out of control with distorted, misleading and sensational reporting. Take this NY Times op-ed entitled, Game Over for the Climate from one of the AGW activists Hayward mentions – James Hansen.

Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.

If this sounds apocalyptic, it is.

This is an extreme position that does not reflect the opinion of most scientists and I agree with Hayward that statements like these are reckless and irresponsible. They create fear in those that believe them, and anger in those that don’t. They are also fodder for reckless and irresponsible people on the other side of the debate – “Hansen was wrong, this proves AGW is a lie/exaggeration/fraud”. What we need is more honest and rational information. For example, here is the official position of the American Geophysical Union.

During recent millennia of relatively stable climate, civilization became established and populations have grown rapidly. In the next 50 years, even the lower limit of impending climate change—an additional global mean warming of 1°C above the last decade—is far beyond the range of climate variability experienced during the past thousand years and poses global problems in planning for and adapting to it. Warming greater than 2°C above 19th century levels is projected to be disruptive, reducing global agricultural productivity, causing widespread loss of biodiversity, and—if sustained over centuries—melting much of the Greenland ice sheet with ensuing rise in sea level of several meters. If this 2°C warming is to be avoided, then our net annual emissions of CO2 must be reduced by more than 50 percent within this century. With such projections, there are many sources of scientific uncertainty, but none are known that could make the impact of climate change inconsequential. Given the uncertainty in climate projections, there can be surprises that may cause more dramatic disruptions than anticipated from the most probable model projections.



From → Climate, Politics

  1. There is considerable slippage between the concern in the quote (misuse of anecdotal information) and your own (disagreement with extreme claims).

    • Michael permalink

      To me, the concern Hayward expressed was that reckless, irresponsible activists need to be marginalized.

      • Your preference is for the highest level of generalization possible. A lot gets lost in the translation.

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