Don’t Worry, Be Happy As The Temperature Rises

Denialists say the darndest things. We already saw Sam Brownback dance around denial of evolutionary science today. Denialists typically have an agenda beyond the established facts that they are denying, which leads to many variations and limited consistency. In the case of global warming denialists, most argue that the scientific principles held by virtually everybody in the field are false. However, global warming denialists are more motivated by an aversion to doing anything to change their energy use than by a true belief that the science isn’t correct. Some global warming denialists have even given up the claims that the science isn’t correct and have come up with different claims to justify inaction.

I recall hearing one conservative on the radio (I believe it was Jonah Goldberg, but I could be wrong on this) come up with one way to both accept the science and argue that we don’t need to take action. The argument was that we are much more affluent than in the past, and therefore able to accomplish so much more than in the past. Therefore we are bound to be even more affluent in fifty years, and by then the cost of correcting the problems from global warming will be trivial compared to what they are now. Maybe, but that’s a dangerous gamble.

While I don’t have a link to that interview, there was an interview today which I can link to. NPR interviewed NASA administrator Michael Griffin. We’ve known for some time that the political appointees at NASA, and elsewhere in the Bush administration, weren’t appointed for their expertise in science. Maybe Griffin has worked with enough real scientists at NASA to understand the absurdity of arguing with the science in a consensus statement as strong as the one on climate change. He breaks with many conservatives in accepting global warming as fact, but has come up with a unique way to avoid responding to the problem:

It has been mentioned that NASA is not spending as much money as it could to study climate change — global warming — from space. Are you concerned about global warming?

I’m aware that global warming exists. I understand that the bulk of scientific evidence accumulated supports the claim that we’ve had about a one degree centigrade rise in temperature over the last century to within an accuracy of 20 percent. I’m also aware of recent findings that appear to have nailed down — pretty well nailed down the conclusion that much of that is manmade. Whether that is a longterm concern or not, I can’t say.

Do you have any doubt that this is a problem that mankind has to wrestle with?

I have no doubt that … a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change. First of all, I don’t think it’s within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown. And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.

In other words, just because Manhattan might be under water, what right do we have to day that Buffalo shouldn’t be able to enjoy warmer weather? Forget all the economic hardships which such a change to our climate would bring. We must not be arrogant.

Needless to say, not everyone working at NASA agrees. ABC News reports that NASA’s top climate scientist has responded:

Griffin’s comments immediately drew stunned reaction from James Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

“It’s an incredibly arrogant and ignorant statement,” Hansen told ABC News. “It indicates a complete ignorance of understanding the implications of climate change.”

Hansen believes Griffin’s comments fly in the face of well-established scientific knowledge that hundreds of NASA scientists have contributed to.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Hansen. “I thought he had been misquoted. It’s so unbelievable.”

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