Eugene Robinson: “The climate science? Don’t sweat it.”

It’s odd how little we’ve heard lately from the skeptics who deny that climate change is real. What’s the matter, people? Heat stroke?

So begins an op-ed piece by Eugene Robinson titled, “On climate change, let cool heads prevail.”

It’s hardly the best opinion piece ever written on human-caused warming, but the Washington Post op-ed page has been so dreadful on the subject (see “The Washington Post goes tabloid, publishes second falsehood-filled op-ed by Sarah Palin in five months “” on climate science and the hacked emails! and “And the 2009 Citizen Kane award for non-excellence in climate journalism goes to “¦“).  So they deserve a shout out whatever they published something reasonable.

Here are some more excerpts:

We also know, thanks to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that “the combined global land and ocean surface temperature” in May was the warmest on record. In fact, NOAA reported, the whole period from January through May, on average, was the warmest since recordkeeping began in 1880….

Is human activity to blame? It almost surely is, unless there’s some fundamental flaw in our understanding of chemistry and physics. Scientists understand how molecules of carbon dioxide act to trap heat. They know — not through inference but from direct measurement of air bubbles trapped long ago in Arctic and Antarctic ice — that there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any time in the last half-million years, perhaps the last million years. The simplest and most logical explanation of why there’s suddenly so much carbon in the air is that humans have put it there by burning fossil fuels. This is what has changed….

It’s time to end the silly “argument” over whether climate change is real….

The climate science? Don’t sweat it.

11 Responses to Eugene Robinson: “The climate science? Don’t sweat it.”

  1. Esop says:

    Good stuff, and about time they wised up.

  2. Peter Mizla says:

    For the Post, its a tiny step forward.

    The NYT had on the Blog by A. Rivken- a similar grudging semi mea culpa essay that -‘maybe something is wrong’

    However the Idea as per Rivken that ‘future generations will adapt’ so we should not worry seems like the same minimal opinion of the NYT that climate change is still rreally no threat to humanity.

    In both cases, they are dragging their feet- and what they have said is too Little too late.

  3. Each news media outlet has to decide whether to follow or to lead.

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    Bravo — Mostly — But A Couple Things

    First of all, let’s give a big “bravo!” to a piece that is excellent (in most parts) and only has one or two shortcomings. I applaud Eugene. Bravo! We need more pieces like this.

    I’d only say two things . . .

    I’ve met a number of the most prominent climate scientists, and some more than once. To me, they all seem very sincere, and caring, and none of them seem plagued by the problem that Eugene discusses in his opinion piece. They aren’t Shakespeare, and don’t claim to be, and their urgent and deep concern can be misinterpreted as “ego”, I suppose, but it shouldn’t be. I don’t know who Eugene is talking about when he talks about some of the most prominent climate scientists as if they are self-centered egoistic narcissists.

    Also, and more importantly, I think that Eugene could pose the economics question — or rather the question, which is larger than economics but includes it — in a much better and more accurate way. Near or at the end of his piece, he frames up an illustrative tradeoff of spending a trillion dollars today to save people in the distant future, versus spending a trillion dollars today to save people now. Really, that’s the wrong question, and it’s a grossly incomplete comparison, and it embeds assumptions that aren’t necessarily correct, and so forth. So, I think that he’s made a mistake on that one.

    But, overall, it’s a great piece. Bravo to Eugene.



  5. Jim Groom says:

    Gene Robinson is a breath of fresh air. He is a prize winner and his reports are must reading. I’m not surprised by his column in the least. He takes pride in being in the forefront of journalism and fine reporting. A rare gem these days in the MSM. We need more like him.

  6. Andy says:

    Hey, those excerpts sound pretty good. Especially for the MSM!

  7. A Siegel says:

    The problem with Robinson’s OPED:

    “It’s time to end the silly “argument” over whether climate change is real. Here’s a better question: Would it be more appropriate for humanity to spend, say, $1 trillion reducing carbon emissions, and thus save thousands or millions of lives that could be lost to drought or sea-level rise or whatever at the end of this century or the next, or to spend that money providing clean water in places such as Congo or Bangladesh, saving thousands or millions of lives right now? Maybe the answer is that we have to try to do both. But this, at least, is something worth arguing about.”

    Seems to me that he’s spent too much time listening to Lomborg.

  8. Richard Miller says:

    The attacks on climate scientists as bad dinner guests or as alarmists was ridiculous. How many climate scientists has he had dinner with with? Also, calling them alarmists when on every major indicator they have underestimated the problem is also ridiculous. In the end, though it is better than most MSM pieces on climate, which shows how desperate we are for half way competent reporting on perhaps the greatest problem humanity has ever faced.

  9. Michael Tucker says:

    Although I have tremendous respect for Eugene Robinson I think this article was prompted by the heat wave and not because he thinks we should pass any of the energy bills before congress. He made no mention of them and, as pointed out by A Siegel, he presents a false either/or argument: we can reduce CO2 emissions OR provide water to the world’s poor. We can do both. The UN is in the business of sending assistance to the worlds poor and the US is a very large contributor to the UN. However, WE ARE DOING NOTHING TO REDUCE CO2 EMISSIONS!

    It is a snappy article though.

  10. Mark Shapiro says:

    Peter Mizla @ 2, and A. Siegel @ 7:

    That’s why I call them “burners”.

    It doesn’t matter how much climate science they accept — 60%, 90%, or 99.999% — these guys leave themselves an out, a get-out-of-jail-free card that says: “It’s okay, we can keep burning fossil fuels!”


  11. Leland Palmer says:

    Well, he’ll get his pound of flesh one way or the other, won’t he?

    The experts who best understand these phenomena are sometimes guilty of overstatement — indeed, they seem never to have met a worst-case scenario they didn’t like. They often come off sounding arrogant, self-righteous, even borderline hysterical. Some of them, when challenged to defend their data or conclusions, seem to regard such scrutiny not as a normal and necessary part of the scientific process but as a threat to human civilization and all that is good and true.

    So, yes, there are a few puffed-up jerks on the front lines of the climate-change battle. You know who you are. But the fact that some climate scientists would make lousy dinner companions doesn’t change the ways in which matter and energy interact on the molecular level — and doesn’t alter those rising temperature readings.

    As our Madison Avenue sales experts know, appealing to the illogical reptile brain is more effective than appealing to logic or reason, in changing behavior.

    So, the grudging acceptance of the author of the logical points of the climate debate will have less effect on behavior than his attempt to paint scientists as unattractive and “lousy dinner companions”, I think.

    I prefer not to accept any information at all from the Washington Post. As with the New York Times, Fox News, Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times, and Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, everything in those publications is slanted, subtly or obviously, IMO.

    Is this progress in MSM reporting on climate change, to grudgingly at long last accept the obvious, having been drug kicking and screaming into that position, while portraying the people who have been factually correct all the time as unattractive and loutish?

    I’m not sure this is progress, Joe. The strategy of the opposition is to dilute, delay, and confuse the issue. Part of that strategy is to make use of the huge propaganda experience of our financial elites to blunt enthusiasm and delay effective action, using these sorts of smarmy psychological tricks.

    Another part of that strategy appears to be to shift money from prevention or cure to adaptation – another way of slowing effective action.

    Screw the WAPO, IMO. I accept no information from this source.