To paraphrase the conservative columnist's favorite president, "There you go again, George."
George Will has been one of my favorite intellectual sparring partners for a long time, a favorite more recently because he had the guts to publicly recognize the disaster that was George W. Bush's presidency.
But in his latest Washington Post column, George and I have a pretty big loud disagreement.
Don't get me wrong. I'm happy to see Will embracing the idea of recycling, but I'm very troubled that he is recycling errors of fact to challenge the science on global warming.
I'm even more troubled that Will used his February 15th column not only to cast doubt on sound science, but also to denigrate the work of two fine scientists.
Let's be very clear: Stephen Chu does not make predictions to further an agenda. He does so to inform the public. He is no Cassandra. If his predictions about the effects of our climate crisis are scary, it's because our climate is scary.
Likewise, John Holdren is a friend of mine and one of the best scientific minds we have in our country. Pulling out one minor prediction that he had some unknown role in formulating nearly three decades ago, as Will did in his February 15th column, and then using that to try to undo his credibility as a scientist may be a fancy debating trick, but it's just plain wrong when it comes to a debate we can't afford to see dissolve into reductio ad absurdum hijinx. (A side note: The incident in question occurred in 1980, which, as I recall, was just about the time Ronald Reagan made the claim that approximately 80 percent of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation and that, consequently, we should "not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emissions standards from man-made sources.")
Dragging up long-discredited myths about some non-existent scientific consensus about global cooling from the 1970s does no one any good. Except perhaps a bankrupt flat earth crowd. I hate to review the record and see that someone as smart as George Will has been doing exactly that as far back as 1992. And it's especially troubling when the very sources that Will cites in his February 15th column draw the exact opposite conclusions and paint very different pictures than Will provides, as the good folks at ThinkProgress and Media Matters for America have demonstrated so thoroughly.
This has to stop. A highly organized, well-funded movement to deny the reality of global climate change has been up and running for a long time, but it doesn't change the verdict: the problem is real, it's accelerating, and we have to act. Now. Not years from now.
No matter how the evidence has mounted over two decades -- the melting of the arctic ice cap, rising sea levels, extreme weather -- the flat earth caucus can't even see what is on the horizon. In the old Republican Congress they even trotted out the author of Jurassic Park as an expert witness to argue that climate change is fiction. This is Stone Age science, and now that we have the White House and the Congress real science must prevail. It is time to stop debating fiction writers, oil executives and flat-earth politicians, and actually find the way forward on climate change.
This is a fight we can win, a problem we can overcome, but time is not on our side. We can't waste another second arguing about whether the problem exists when we need to be debating everything from how to deal with the dirtiest forms of coal as the major provider of power in China to how to vastly increase green energy right here at home.
"Facts are stupid things," Ronald Reagan once said. He was, of course, paraphrasing John Adams, who could have been talking about the science on global change when he said, "Facts are stubborn things."
Stubborn or stupid -- lets have a real debate and lets have it now.
I know George Will well, I respect his intellect and his powers of persuasion -- but I'd happily debate him any day on this question so critical to our survival.
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