Shakespeare, Global Warming, Sunset and You: ABC News’ Blakemore Launches Nature’s Edge Notebook

Nature's Edge with Bill BlakemoreJR:  ABC News is starting to build out their climate website, which was started by Bill Blakemore 4 years ago.  He just launched “Nature’s Edge Notebook,” a weekly column on climate change.  ABC News has given me permission to repost the whole piece.  So be sure to bookmark the site or like the new Facebook page.  Also, there is a great video interview of climatologist Richard Somerville below.

by Bill Blakemore, in an ABC News cross-post

Imagine you’re reading Shakespeare on an unseasonably warm evening while sitting on a dune looking west across the sea at sunset.

Who really wrote that poetry, what caused that extra heat, and what’s really happening out on the horizon?

You’ll need experts for all that.

On sunset, scientists now have news this reporter finds it hard to keep a grip on.

You watch the reddening sun move down toward the horizon until the bottom edge of the bright disc drops behind the rim of the sea. The still visible portion of the sun morphs into various shapes as it moves inexorably down until it’s just a tiny point of light. Then, as you can plainly see, it is suddenly gone as the sun travels even further below the horizon.

Experts now tell us none of that is true. The sun isn’t moving down at all!

Instead, the earth beneath you is rolling backwards so that its rounded bulk is slowly rising up between you and the sun.

Incredible. You don’t sense this motion. The earth seems to be the steady one.

Of course, experts have long told us this — ever since Galileo’s trial in 1633 for concurring with astronomer Copernicus on the matter. And we believe them.

And yet, I still need to remind myself each time (if I think of it at all) when watching the sun set that it doesn’t.

You too?

We and our school teachers believe this counterintuitive news from scientists (and now from some rocket engineers and astronauts) because they’re clearly the best experts on this question.

They are open about it, willing to explain to us non-scientists until it makes sense to us, continually risk being tested by their peers, and have a record — which anyone can check — of changing their assertions when new evidence seems to require it.

But how do you decide which experts to credit in the so-called “Shakespeare Authorship Question,” now given new life by the film “Anonymous,” which depicts the Earl of Oxford as the real author.

Why not take the word of Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud and two living U.S. Supreme Court justices (conservative Antonin Scalia and liberal John Paul Stevens) that the commoner Shakespeare was a fraud?

Accomplished as they are, their CVs show little to suggest they’re the best experts on the voluminous and ever-increasing 400-year-old hard documentary evidence.

It’s painful to think that famous and “otherwise intelligent people say dumb things,” as professional Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro of Columbia University puts it. Yet many have.

In more than 35 years observing this authorship “debate”, this reporter has never found a credible professional scholar who says there’s anything to it.  (See my ABC piece, and our TV report on “World News.”)

Some people appear to let themselves run with Shakespeare authorship fantasies, not asking which experts may be more qualified, because they feel it doesn’t really matter (many professionals disagree) — and anyway, it was all in the past.

Manmade global warming isn’t.

According to all the apparently competent experts this reporter has found on the matter after more than seven years following the story across the United States and around the world, manmade global warming is well under way, already extremely destructive, and on track to grow steadily worse for at least the next three decades, even if humanity does manage to drastically cut carbon emissions.  (This is due partly to lag-time factors such as new heat working its way through deep ocean currents before surfacing.)

Clearly, on this subject, it matters greatly which experts we listen to.

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Virtually all the world’s roughly 3,000 professional climate scientists paint a psychologically daunting picture of the world in which today’s toddlers are growing up.

Estimates of people now dying who would not if there were no manmade warming are in the hundreds of thousands. The United Nations now estimates hundreds of millions of disruptive “climate refugees” in less than 40 years. Across the U.S., more frequent drought in southern regions and intensifying downpours and floods in the Midwest and Northeast fit patterns projected by climate experts 40 years ago. In the United States and worldwide, increasing food prices and insurance rates, and expanding species extinctions and ecological disruptions, are directly linked to the warming by climate scientists and other professionals who work closely with them.

Please note, that’s “climate scientists.” This and other reporters following the story have been surprised to see a few great scientists in other fields, including Nobel Prize winners, publish contrarian views that — by all appearances — climate scientists easily show to be simply wrong.

But which journalists should you believe on the experts?

That’s up to you, of course.

Constant skeptical assessment of the credibility, pertinence and intellectual independence of experts is at the core or our professional promise.

In the climate story, this currently includes assessing reports that describe confusion and intimidation campaigns funded by fossil fuel and ideological groups trying to delay regulation of greenhouse emissions.

Any restrictions on your freedom to choose which journalists — and climate experts — to listen to are obviously bad.

Of course, surprising new evidence about the climate — or the journalism — could always turn up.

So you need an open mind. It’s just important to keep it that way.

Bill Blakemore is a reporter for ABC News who has spearheaded the organization’s climate change reporting. This piece was originally published at ABC and was re-printed with permission.

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7 Responses to Shakespeare, Global Warming, Sunset and You: ABC News’ Blakemore Launches Nature’s Edge Notebook

  1. Merrelyn Emery says:

    This on top of the recent posting about the NBC starts to sound like the beginning of a revolution. The tide had to turn sooner or later, ME

  2. M Tucker says:

    “…manmade global warming is well under way, already extremely destructive, and on track to grow steadily worse for at least the next three decades, even if humanity does manage to drastically cut carbon emissions.”

    Simply cutting emissions or even drastically reducing emissions will have no, repeat no, impact on warming. The warming will continue to increase until emissions are eliminated. Then we will continue to suffer as explained here:

    “The warming you get when you stop emitting carbon is what you are stuck with for the next thousand years.

    The climate recovers only slightly over the next ten thousand years.”

    Let me know when they stop emitting carbon so I can figure out what my progeny’s prognosis is.

  3. Celia Schorr says:

    Great article, and Somerville’s messaging in the video is spot-on. The graph of our three “ski slope” options is especially effective – – a great way to start the “what now?” part of the conversation. I was also pleased that he made a point of the fact that not making a decision is, in itself, a decision.

  4. Oh dear.

    I confess that I am an Oxfordian denier.

    And I so enjoy a civil debate on the issue – secure in the knowledge that either way – the dramas are great and the posters for them need not change. And beyond lively discussion, little else will happen.

    However, delay and denial is very harmful. The deliberate pandering ignorance promoted by both carbon fuel and the Bush administration has lead to 8 years of delay and denial… and may actually have pushed an unwilling world past tipping points into zones of horrible recovery – just to survive.

    Quite a difference than debating Shakespeare. Missing is Blakemore’s discussion of risk.

    And what percentage of ABC advertising is derived from oil, coal and automotive advertising?

  5. The Wonderer says:

    Drastically reducing emissions will of course have a tremendous impact on warming and buy us time to continue to transition to renewable energy, and otherwise mitigate the impacts. Similarly, I choose to turn off the bathtub faucet when I enter the room, even though it has already overflowed.

  6. Shakespeare denial. For the love of sanity, why?

    Who wrote Chaucer, Donne, or Marlowe? Less is known about them than Shakespeare. Nothing but tradition links any of them to the works attributed to them. (BTW, Donne is a better poet of non-dramatic verse than Shakespeare so it isn’t simply a question of pre-eminence.) If ever there was a “brain-spiders” issue, it’s the Shakespeare authorship question. As my mother used to say, “Some people just don’t have enough to think about.”

  7. M Tucker says:

    “The warming you get when you stop emitting carbon is what you are stuck with for the next thousand years.”

    Simple, informative, and extraordinarily straightforward…”…when you stop emitting carbon…” You have to stop first. Even a drastic reduction in emissions will still result in emissions. Atmospheric concentrations will continue to rise until you actually end emissions. I know many want to hold onto the hope that reducing emissions will result in some kind of reprieve. Like, since we are trying to do the right thing, we should get some sort of benefit. But the science is clear. Follow the link. Here is the complete list included in the CP post (it was also recently posted on RealClimate):

    “Here’s all you ever really need to know about CO2 emissions and climate:

    The peak warming is linearly proportional to the cumulative carbon emitted
    It doesn’t matter much how rapidly the carbon is emitted
    The warming you get when you stop emitting carbon is what you are stuck with for the next thousand years
    The climate recovers only slightly over the next ten thousand years
    At the mid-range of IPCC climate sensitivity, a trillion tonnes cumulative carbon gives you about 2C global mean warming above the pre-industrial temperature.”

    So the second sentence seems to cover the notion that reducing emissions, drastic or not, will have no effect on the final warming Earth suffers. I do understand the impulse to be skeptical of the science but the sad truth is we must first end emissions before we will be able to halt the rise in temperature.