Friday, June 10, 2011

New Low

Just when you might think our public intercourse couldn't get any more ridiculous, just when you think we've sunk to the lowest possible levels of sanity in our political discourse, word comes that the New York Times and the Washington Post are recruiting readers to help them pore through Sarah Palin's emails from her tenure as Governor of Alaska.

Apparently, these media titans can't wait to find something, anything, that'll make Palin look bad and they're willing to conscript hundreds of citizens to help them do it. The Washington Post is offering "micro-updates" as the revelations unfold. AOL offers viewers the chance to follow a "live email blog" as the damning documents become available. It's absolutely ludicrous, especially since the media has shown no interest whatsoever in learning anything at all about the man whom we have elected to the most powerful office in the world.

When some were asking for proof not so long ago that Mr. Obama was actually born in the U.S. the media was interested only to the extent they could deride those who were curious about the presidential provenience. When Mr. Obama refused to unseal his college transcripts the media said that that was just fine with them. When evidence mounted that Mr. Obama had in the past associated with some pretty unsavory characters the media just yawned and said "so what?", but when Sarah Palin's emails became available they're pushing and elbowing each other to be the first to discover some juicy tidbit they can hold up as proof that she's a whacko or a fraud.

Meanwhile, a complete unknown sits in the Oval Office with his hand on the tiller of the ship of state and the media couldn't care less. Is it a lack of common sense, a lack of intelligence, or a lack of maturity among American journalists that causes their priorities to be so absurdly inverted? Or is it that they're so psychologically blinkered by their emotional investment in the "first black president" that they've abandoned any pretense of journalistic objectivity and are simply unwilling to hold him to the same standards of scrutiny they apply to everyone else?

Give Us Better Arguments

Elizabeth Kolbert at The New Yorker frets, understandably, over the uncommon weather phenomena we've witnessed this spring - tornadoes, floods, drought - and wonders when we'll wake up and realize something's going haywire in our atmosphere. She writes:
For decades, climate scientists have predicted that, as global temperatures rose, the side effects would include deeper droughts, more intense flooding, and more ferocious storms. The details of these forecasts are immensely complicated, but the underlying science is pretty simple. Warm air can hold more moisture. This means that there is greater evaporation. It also means that there is more water, and hence more energy, available to the system.

What we are seeing now is these predictions being borne out. If no particular flood or drought or storm can be directly attributed to climate change—there’s always the possibility that any single event was just a random occurrence—the over-all trend toward more extreme weather follows from the heating of the earth.
Except that Ms Kolbert is operating under a false premise. The planet is not currently warming, it's cooling, at least if this chart that we posted last week is accurate. Nor is the current mean global temperature at some record high. It's actually just a smidgeon above normal.

Ms Kolbert goes on to plead for a reduction of our CO2 emissions, but some scientists have argued, as David Evans did in an article in The Financial Post that we wrote about a couple of weeks ago, that:
[E]ven if we stopped emitting all carbon dioxide tomorrow, completely shut up shop and went back to the Stone Age, according to the official government climate models it would be cooler in 2050 by about 0.015 degrees. But their models exaggerate 10-fold — in fact our sacrifices would make the planet in 2050 a mere 0.0015 degrees cooler!
If this is true what's the point of driving our economy off a cliff just to reduce the mean temperature a fraction of a degree?

Moreover, most of the global man-generated CO2 is produced by the Chinese, the Indians, etc. Much of the rest results from volcanic activity. Any measures we take as a nation will be but a fraction of what's needed to achieve that .015 degree difference.

Of course, if the situation truly is dire then we should do whatever we can to prevent catastrophe, but without more convincing evidence than an aberrant springtime weather pattern it hardly seems wise to embark upon a total transformation, and probable collapse, of an economy that's based on fossil fuels.

Indeed, we may be facing a global climate shift that may be devastating. Maybe. We really don't know, but it's almost a certainty that abandoning or taxing fossil fuels at this juncture would cause seismic dislocations in our economy and throw millions of people out of work.

Ms Kolbert finishes with this thought:
Taking the steps that would reduce the risks of climate change is not going to be politically popular, which is why it is the President’s obligation to press for them. It may be beyond our power to control the climate, but we can determine it. This is precisely what we’re doing right now, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.
Perhaps, but given that we have very little influence with the rest of the world and even less with volcanoes, and given that most other industrialized nations will be loath to reverse their economic growth, I don't see how we can either control or determine (whatever the distinction is) the global climate.

I confess that I don't know what to think about climate change, but until those who believe we're headed for environmental disaster stop making bogus arguments and silly claims, and stop acting as if they have something to hide, it's going to be really hard to take them seriously.