The tragic hubris of the climate action delayers
Let’s assume we keep listening to the siren song of the deniers and the climate action delayers who insist human-caused global warming is not a dire problem requiring deep reductions in greenhouse gases as soon as possible. So we ruin our livable climate for our children and grandchildren and countless generations after that.
When they are done cursing our name, our descendents will try to understand how “a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself,” as Elizabeth Kolbert put it. They’ll have a long time to do this since, as a major NOAA-led study concluded this year, climate change is “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in the Southwest and around the globe — irreversible, that is, if we don’t stop it in the first place.
The typical reasons why people and societies have historically made such tragically catastrophic blunders don’t apply to a great many opinion makers today. Sure, some are malicious or ignorant, and some, like David Broder, sultan of the status quo, are fatally uninformed about global warming.
But how do you explain people who have a fair amount of familiarity with the issue and actually write regularly on the subject — but just get it so wrong again and again? Many of these are people I’ve called the climate action delayers (CADs) — the folks who claim to believe in the science of global warming but obviously don’t, the folks who substitute their own opinion for an understanding of the actual science.
Their tragic flaw is hubris, which, as Wikipedia notes is:
a term used in modern English to indicate overweening pride, superciliousness, or arrogance, often resulting in fatal retribution or Nemesis.
A perfect example of modern-day hubris can be seen in the work of one Thomas Fuller, a delayer who writes as an “environmental policy examiner” for the examiner.com. He has his own label, as he wrote August 1:
That, of course, doesn’t make him a lukewarmer. It just makes him someone who doesn’t understand or care about what science actually says. On our current emissions path, we’re going to double CO2 concentrations not “during the course of the century” but almost certainly halfway through it — and we’re going to warm more than 4°C by century’s end:
- U.S. media largely ignores latest warning from climate scientists: “Recent observations confirm … the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised” – 1000 ppm
- M.I.T. joins climate realists, doubles its projection of global warming by 2100 to 5.1°C
- Hadley Center: “Catastrophic” 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path.
- Study: Water-vapor feedback is “strong and positive,” so we face “warming of several degrees Celsius”
It is hubris to blithely assert that one’s beliefs supersede the work of thousands of scientists, including hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers on which we base our current understanding of the danger posed by unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases.
But that isn’t the most hubristic thing Fuller has written. On August 5, he wrote a column, “The best of times for global warming skeptics“:
It seems as if almost every day brings news of information and discoveries that bolster the skeptical opposition to the theory that global warming is dangerous and due to human emissions of CO2.
Now that sentence would be quite accurate if we replaced “bolster” with, say, “fatally undermine,” but as written it might as well be a manifesto for the deniers themselves. Scratch climate action delayer, and you usually get a climate science denier.
Again, it is hubris, plain and simple, to utterly ignore the information and discoveries that have been occurring almost every day for several years now, which make clear global warming is far more dire than we thought just a short time ago and that human emissions of CO2 are the predominant cause of recent warming (and obviously will become the overwhelming cause of climate change as we continue to pour greenhouse gases into the atmosphere). You can find summaries of the peer-reviewed literature and observations and discoveries in the 2007 IPCC report — which every member government of the IPCC signed off on word-for-word — and in the recent NOAA-led 13-agency report on US climate impacts (see “Our hellish future: Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year – and that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual!“). You can also find many of the best recent studies here.
Fuller’s post claims “our obsession with CO2 has caused us to overlook the other things humans do to affect climate on this planet, such as deforestation….” Yes, to Fuller, it’s those foolish, arrogant, hubristic climate scientists who are so obsessed with CO2 that they totally overlook deforestation — except of course for their urgent warnings to stop said deforestation because as they have told us repeatedly it is responsible for some 20 percent or more of all human emissions of CO2. And except for the current desperate efforts by the overwhelming majority of nations in the world to develop a workable strategy to stop deforestation.
I hadn’t heard about this guy at all until I got pinged by Google for his latest piece, which attacks me with this astounding statement:
Romm says he wants to spend about 30 minutes on his posts, and it shows.
How can something I say I want to do in the future [for maybe 1 or 2 of my 4 to 6 posts a day] “show” anything already — especially to a CAD like Fuller who spends at most 30 minutes on every single one of his once-every-day-or-two opinion pieces?
It just goes to show you that even the most innocuous statement I write can be misrepresented by the CADs. In fact, as readers know, what I wrote was:
Normally, about 2/3 of my posts take me some 60 to 90 minutes to write and about 1/3 take 90 to 180 minutes. I’ve been trying to do more 30-minute posts in the last few days, in case you hadn’t noticed, and I expect to continue that for another month. If it proves successful, I’ll keep doing it.
Fact-free Fuller, it won’t surprise you, is an acolyte of Roger Pielke, Jr. and The Breakthrough Institute, which is an an organization that is dedicating all of its resources to killing any chance of either a national or international effort to avert catastrophic global warming and to spreading disinformation about Obama, Gore, Congressional Democrats, and the environmental movement.
Then again, Fuller writes of “the alarmist website Real Climate.” I mean, if you think Real Climate is an alarmist website, then you really aren’t paying any attention whatsoever to what they or anyone else is actually writing on climate science.
I think it pure hubris — and utterly immoral — to regularly write on climate science and policy without having interviewed and/or seen the talks of a few dozen of the leading climate scientists in the world and without having read at least a hundred major climate studies in the past decade.
Since global warming isn’t a 3-hour Greek tragedy, this modern day hubris won’t result in fatal retribution for the CADs, only for their descendants and ours. The best we can do today is hold their hubris out for all to see. Small comfort that will be for those living through Hell and High Water.