Monday, November 8, 2010

The earth is round and global warming is real (a.k.a. one day you'll believe)

Andrew Schenkel is my kind of pundit. His blog on the somewhat regrettably named Mother Nature Network, or MNN, is called Earth Matters, and covers the effect of U.S. policies and political actors on an array of energy issues. The simple fact that there is enough happening in American politics to fuel a daily blog on the subject is encouraging in itself. Add to that the facts that Schenkel  a) comes across as a concise, well-read advocate of increased government attention to energy and climate issues with a good sense of perspective, and  b) covers a broad range of topics at the national and state levels, and I think the odds are good that even the most hesitant blog reader will probably make it through the week (and may even gain some perspective herself).

His topic today, the announcement in the Los Angeles Times that 700 climate change scientists will deliver a public statement regarding global warming as a man-made phenomenon, was long on news and short on analysis. Schenkel barely nods at the positive contribution this announcement could have on the public debate about climate change. Even his comment at the end of his post that this type of climate team “will serve as a useful tool for educating the public about the facts and the opposition’s misinformation campaign,” was made in the context of statements that forming these teams “after midterm elections pummeled environmental causes and a year after the devastating Climategate scandal” is likely “too little, too late.” Schenkel is not getting his hopes up, and he doesn't want you to get your hopes up either.

His post directs his readers to recent stories regarding a Minnesota college professor’s public refutation of a global warming denier, last year’s “Climategate” scandal, which, he argues, has caused a significant number of Americans to believe that climate change is a government conspiracy, and the election of a number of “anti-climate change” Republicans to office in this month’s midterm election. It’s certainly grim for anyone who believes that the appropriate and urgent question is, “Quick! What are we going to do about this?!” to see that we are stuck back at, “Wait. How can they prove that it’s our fault?”

Schenkel’s pessimism is totally understandable, and maybe people who will constantly say, “This isn’t enough,” are a requisite for all progressive movements. I wonder, though, if he wasn’t at least a little bit excited about the news before he came back to reality and settled on the somber tone of his post. A look back at the socially progressive movements of America’s past reminds us that progress is made at an agonizingly slow pace, sometimes allowing devastating consequences to occur in the meantime (remember when scientists sang the praises of shock therapy, or when “separate, but equal” was seen as progress?). Public opinion can change, though, and often does so person-by-person, over many years, after numerous setbacks, as a result of one small step forward at a time.

I appreciate Schenkel’s cynicism (and his first few comments are less than encouraging), but, no, it is not too late. When better than today’s “difficult times” to fight back?

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