Year 4, Month 2, Day 9: The Paranoid Style

The Detroit News has a pair of columnists, Donald Scavia and Knute Nadelhoffer. They reiterate the danger we’re in:

In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama said, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” It was gratifying to hear the president finally making climate change a priority. The evidence is overwhelming and the time to act has long been upon us.

Make no mistake: The fact that our climate is changing beyond the bounds of natural variation comes from many indisputable scientific sources, including advanced satellite sensing systems, the chemistry of Greenland and Antarctic ice cores, ancient tree rings, shrinking Arctic ice caps and literally millions of ground- and sea-based measurements. The recently released National Climate Assessment draft report and the peer-reviewed science upon which it is built confirm that our planet is warming, droughts and storms are more severe, air quality is worse and the negative effects of these changes are damaging our health and economy. If we continue the unabated release of climate-warming gases, temperatures will continue to climb and extreme weather events will increasingly disrupt our lives and livelihoods.

Historical global warming is incontrovertible and the rate of warming in the Midwest has, in fact, accelerated in recent decades. Between 1900 and 2010, the average Midwest air temperature increased by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit. But it increased twice as fast between 1950 and 2010 and three times as fast between 1980 and 2010. The length of time that ice covers our lakes is decreasing. Winter snow-cover seasons are shorter and interrupted by thaw events.

And predictably they get a storm of denialist conspiracy theorists in the comments. Sheesh. Sent Feb. 1:

The evidence of planetary climate change is not just supported by an overwhelming consensus of climate scientists, but is now visible to the eye, all over America and the world. But this won’t be enough to convince the denialist contingent that the greenhouse effect isn’t a liberal plot hatched in secret meetings between Al Gore, the United Nations, and a non-specified group of socialist scientists.

While these half-baked conspiracy theories laughably fail any sort of inspection, the lack of evidence feeds rather than starves the paranoid mindset. If temperatures are climbing, it’s because of collusion among scientists, or cosmic rays; if droughts are killing off our amber waves of grain, it’s because of sunspots, or environmentalists cutting the water lines — or something, anything, other than what it is — the consequences of drastically increased atmospheric CO2.

While there has long been a vibrant streak of anti-science faux populism at work in American conservatism, the accelerating climate crisis offers these willfully ignorant citizens and their representatives an unparalleled opportunity to damage our nation and our planet irreparably — simply by obstructing reality-based energy and environmental policies. History will not treat them kindly.

Warren Senders

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