Global Warming Simplicities

15 08 2007

Robert J. Samuelson in The Washington Post

We in the news business often enlist in moral crusades. Global warming is among the latest. Unfortunately, self-righteous indignation can undermine good journalism. A recent Newsweek cover story on global warming is a sobering reminder. It’s an object lesson on how viewing the world as “good guys vs. bad guys” can lead to a vast oversimplification of a messy story. Global warming has clearly occurred; the hard question is what to do about it.

If you missed Newsweek’s story, here’s the gist. A “well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change.” This “denial machine” has obstructed action against global warming and is still “running at full throttle.” The story’s thrust: Discredit the “denial machine,” and the country can start the serious business of fighting global warming. The story was a wonderful read, marred only by its being fundamentally misleading.

The global-warming debate’s great unmentionable is this: We lack the technology to get from here to there. Just because Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to cut emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 doesn’t mean it can happen. At best, we might curb the growth of emissions.

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