How the debate has moved

The Columbia Journalism Review notes just how far the public discussion of climate change has moved in the last few months, observing that a debate in The Nation between pioneering climate scientist James Hansen and skeptic Alexander Cockburn is really boring:

It is not necessary to agree with either Hansen or Cockburn to recognize that their arguments are bland and weathered, respectively. It’s not that Hansen and Cockburn are naïve–even a year ago their essays would have seemed more novel and momentous contributions to the climate debate. But that was a year ago. Now their offerings are a reminder of how much the global warming discussion has changed in a short period of time. Together, Hansen and Cockburn’s work harkens back to the sort of no-more-coal/burn-it-all pugilism that existed on op-ed pages when most people were still trying to figure out whether or not the planet was actually warming, let alone what to do about it.

Eventually, readers will see fewer and fewer of these essays. Hansen’s side will refocus on the agonizing details of exactly what it will take to mitigate climate change. Cockburn’s side will attempt to controvert the more specific facets of climate science, such as hurricanes, Saharan dust, and cloud formation.

We can pretty much thank the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for this, I think. Its consensus conclusions, with reservations and uncertainties carefully noted, are very difficult for serious and honest people to refute.

Now the trick is get people to care about carbon taxes and cap-and-trade markets like they care about unemployment and crime.

(Incidentally, I’m experimenting with some new posting software, rather than using the WordPress interface that’s nifty but crashes Firefox quite a bit. Please excuse glitches or weird formatting.)

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2 responses to “How the debate has moved

  1. Thanks for an excellent post. The “debate” certainly has moved! Then delusionist forces are getting more desperate, while the public is awakening to the fact that this problem is real, it’s bad, and it’s not going to just “go away” by itself. Now we need to move on from “is it real?” to “what are we going to do?”

    I don’t happen to agree with you about nuclear power, but I can tell thay you’re not a knee-jerk ideologue, you have good reasons for your opinion (I think I do too). I look forward to hearing what you have to say on the subject.

  2. Oops! Sorry about the comment on nuclear power; I was thinking of another blog post.

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