Elizabeth Kolbert: It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.
Humanity’s Choice (via M.I.T.): Inaction (“No Policy” — the policy aggressively advanced by most professional disinformers and tacitly accepted by most in the intelligentsia and media — eliminates most of the uncertainty about whether or not future warming will be catastrophic. Aggressive emissions reductions dramatically improves humanity’s chances.
Humanity is putting its foot on the accelerator even though the world’s top scientists and governments have repeatedly explained we are headed over a cliff. The people who will suffer the most are people who have not contributed to this impending catastrophe — future generations and the poorest among us.
This is such a colossally immoral and unethical act — collectively and in many cases individually — that most people, including the overwhelming majority of the so-called intelligentsia, simply choose to ignore it on a daily basis. That won’t save a livable climate, however, nor it will stop future generations from cursing our names.
And so it is not surprising that many immoral and unethical acts that regularly occur on a far less grand scale are condoned or winked at or simply ignored.
Every day, countless organizations spread misinformation aimed at delaying the action needed to avoid destroying a livable climate, which will cause billions to suffer — and needlessly, since every major independent study makes clear that the cost of action is incredibly low. Many of the disinformers routinely attack and smear climate scientists. Some routinely publish their e-mails, encouraging their readers to cyber-bully scientists who are doing nothing more than trying to inform the world of the consequences of its untenable choices. But we have become inured to it — heck, there’s a whole TV network devoted to spreading lies — yawn, let’s change the channel to something we like.
The media continues to reduce coverage of the story of the century — “Silence of the Lambs 2: Media Herd’s Coverage of Climate Change Drops Sharply — Again. The three network news stations broadcast 14 climate change stories with a total air time of 32.5 minutes in 2011, down from 32 stories and 90.5 minutes last year and well below the 2007 peak of 147 segments totaling 386 minutes. This is a stunning collective lapse in judgment by editors and producers. But the media — in a classic act of circular benchmarking — sees everyone else in the media doing it, so the inconceivable becomes an accepted norm.
Many in the media who do cover the story continue to downplay the science or fail to connect the dots, even between extreme heat waves and global warming. Worse, many in the media, including some at New York Times, quote long-debunked disinformers and confusionists who routinely smear climate scientists — people who should have zero credibility. This is also a collective lapse in judgment that merits multiple apologies and retractions, but it has become the “norm” in journalism. Future generations will marvel at how the once lofty profession of journalism destroyed its own credibility and misreported the story of the century.
In this sewer of unethical and immoral activity, we all have tough choices, most especially climate scientists, the victims of many of the worst attacks. These modern day Cassandras have become increasingly blunt and outspoken for obvious reasons — they understand best what is likely to happen if we keep listening to the disinformers and their enablers in the media.
Even the formerly reticent Lonnie Thompson explained why he and other climatologists are speaking out: “Virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.” He continues:
That bold statement may seem like hyperbole, but there is now a very clear pattern in the scientific evidence documenting that the earth is warming, that warming is due largely to human activity, that warming is causing important changes in climate, and that rapid and potentially catastrophic changes in the near future are very possible. This pattern emerges not, as is so often suggested, simply from computer simulations, but from the weight and balance of the empirical evidence as well.
That is simply what the science says, as my review of 50 recent studies makes clear (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces“).
What is a scientist to do in such a casually self-destructive world? The prestigious journal Nature editorialized 2 years ago, “Scientists must now emphasize the science, while acknowledging that they are in a street fight.”
That is all prologue for the events of the last week or so.
As Climate Progress reported earlier this week, Heartland Institute documents revealed plans to dupe children and ruin their future. The AP worked to independently verify the documents and concluded, “The federal consultant working on the classroom curriculum, the former TV weatherman, a Chicago elected official who campaigns against hidden local debt and two corporate donors all confirmed to the AP that the sections in the document that pertained to them were accurate. No one the AP contacted said the budget or fundraising documents mentioning them were incorrect.”
Subsequently, several climate scientists who “had their emails stolen [in 2009], posted online and grossly misrepresented,” slammed Heartland for “spreading misinformation” and “personally attacking climate scientists to further its goals.” The scientists specifically noted:
In 2009, the Heartland Institute was among the groups that spread false allegations about what these stolen emails said. Despite multiple independent investigations, which demonstrated that allegations against scientists were false, the Heartland Institute continued to attack scientists based on the stolen emails. When more stolen emails were posted online in 2011, the Heartland Institute again pointed to their release and spread false claims about scientists.
You can read Heartland’s reply to similar charges here.
Last night I, and I imagine everyone else, was stunned to learned that Dr. Peter Gleick was the one who put these documents into the public domain. In a Huffington Post piece, he acknowledged “a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics,” an assessment I would not disagree with. He then apologized for his mistakes, a move that distinguishes him from Heartland or his critics in the media, like Andrew Revkin, whose too-rapid response to these events certainly crossed the line.
As an important aside, when considering whether the boundary between ethical violation and criminal act has been crossed, we should in all fairness use the Revkin rule. When someone posted on Climate Progress that the Climategate emails were stolen — the assertion made by the University of East Anglia and others — Revkin himself posted:
Just to be clear, no British law enforcement agency has yet said whether a crime has been committed. I have called the Norfolk Constabulary more than once and mum’s still the word.
Seriously! So we’ll just have to wait until some law enforcement agency makes its judgment — and I’m going to make a wild guess that we’ll have a long wait on that.
Here is Gleick’s statement: