Pat Sajak, longtime host of the game show Wheel of Fortune, recently tweeted, "I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends." He didn't elaborate on just how he thought that racism is a part of this conversation, and I have failed to even come up with a decent theory about what he might have meant, but the idea that climate scientists are using global warming alarmism as a means to feather their own nests is common among climate change denialists.
This view seems to be based on the idea that there is an immense amount of grant money available to scientists who perpetuate the "hoax," that this grant money makes these scientists rich, and that this incredibly corrupt and dishonest group of people has decided that this is a more lucrative path than, say, convincing the billionaire Koch brothers, who have spent a lot of money supporting climate change denialism, to put them on their payroll to take the opposite position.
This is an unlikely scenario. It isn't clear just what the financial interest would be in supporting this supposed hoax science. Perhaps Big Solar is behind it all, but it strains credulity to imagine that Big Solar has more sway -- and more financial resources -- than Big Oil in this policy debate. As author Scott Westerfeld quipped, "Plot idea: 97% of the world's scientists contrive an environmental crisis, but are exposed by a plucky band of billionaires & oil companies." I suppose it could be true.
That the scientists are likely honest and as correct as they can be about the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and its likely impact on global temperatures admittedly does not lead automatically to specific policy conclusions. Perhaps any realistic policies to reverse the warming trend, especially absent global coordination, will be too costly with little chance of success. Maybe it's just too late.
Even if that's true -- and I am not arguing that it is -- it doesn't change the fact that the high future costs of climate change are almost certainly real. It's true that even though climate models predict an increase an extreme weather events in some parts of the world because of climate change, not every adverse weather event can be attributed directly to it. But rising sea levels due to warming probably can be.
Even if we can't stop the warming, we need to start thinking about how to stop our coastal cities from flooding.
A recent disturbing report in The New York Times explained that Miami is already dealing with the consequences of rising sea levels. Given its location and geology, specifically that it's a coastal city situated on top of limestone, and the reality of a rising ocean, parts of the city that previously had no issues with flooding are experiencing regular water problems.
All of that climate alarmism hasn't done too much to change the laws in this country. There is no national carbon tax or cap-and-trade system, and there has been no radical change in our transportation and land use policies. Big Solar, or just whoever is supposedly behind this contrived crisis, hasn't been very successful. Maybe we won't stop global climate change, but we're still going have to pay to deal with its consequences.
Duncan Black writes the blog Eschaton under the pseudonym of Atrios and is a fellow at Media Matters for America.
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