Climate scientists grow more concerned as Rome burns, Nero fiddles

In most fields of science, lay opinion tends to be more alarmist than scientific opinion, says Carbon Mitigation Initiative codirector Robert Socolow. “But, in the climate case, the experts — the people who work with the climate models every day, the people who do ice cores — they are more concerned. They’re going out of their way to say, ‘Wake up!’” In part three of her magisterial New Yorker series on climate change, Elizabeth Kolbert says those calls are finding a mixed reception. In the Netherlands, a quarter of which is already below sea level, the government is funneling millions into projects to widen rivers, raise dikes, and alert the public. However, in the U.S. — which is responsible for more than 20 percent of planet-warming carbon-dioxide emissions — public debate is woefully confused and action woefully inadequate. “It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself,” concludes Kolbert, “but that is what we are now in the process of doing.”