Just when you thought it was safe to acknowledge the unequivocal reality of global warming…..
Just when you thought the U.S. government was ready to admit that it has a serious emissions problem, and do something about it….
Just when you thought the skeptic party was over…
No way: There has been a strong run of nonsense from global warming "skeptics" and deniers lately. They are not ashamed, and they are not changing their tune. In fact, it sounds like they are gearing up for the next battle.
The George C. Marshall Institute is planning an event with Roy Spencer, of the University of Alabama-Huntsville, postulating that global warming isn't human caused after all--it's the "Pacific Decadal Oscillation." Never mind the IPCC, which is beyond confident at this point that what we're seeing has human, and not natural causes.
The Heritage Foundation is convening an event  to draw attention to Christopher Horner's next book, Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and Deception to Keep You Misinformed. It's the same tune they've always been singing, and they don't know any other.
And of course, Marc Morano keeps it up endlessly. Consider the stark contrast between the current majority and minority headlines at the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works’ webpage . The Majority announces Senator Barbara Boxer’s Action Plan on global warming while the minority reads, “UN Data shows ‘Warming has Stopped!’” It’s one of many last ditch attempts to infuse doubt by the losing side.
What's going on here? One hypothesis would be that while the climate change denial camp has been on a high for eight long sordid years under the Bush administration, now they feel the winds of change just like anyone else.
Barack Obama has promised to lead the nation in a massive climate intervention and reengage with the international community on climate change. The past weeks have also seen progressive environmentalist Rep. Henry Waxman take over as chairman of the House Energy and Environment Committee and Senator Barbara Boxer announce plans to introduce two major climate bills early next year. The first hearing that she will hold in January will be titled, "How Fighting Global Warming is Good for the Economy and Will Create Jobs."
In other words, the deniers are gearing up for yet another fight against reality--this time, political reality as much as scientific reality. Unlike President George W. Bush, who at best played the role of apathetic substitute teacher to the United States, President-elect Obama is preparing to lay down the law. He’s made it clear that our planetary fever will be taken seriously under his watch.
Now obviously, skeptic articles and online commentary do not hold much of a candle to the Nobel Prize winning Fourth Assessment by the International Panel on Climate Change; a report from more than 2500 scientific expert reviewers and 800 contributing authors (some of whom are my friends here at Duke), and over 450 lead authors. Still, we have to remain wary. We know from experience that climate change denial groups can put up a nasty fight, and know how to curry interest.
Groups like the George Marshall Institute continue to regularly make the rounds on Capitol Hill wooing staffers to briefings with tasty luncheons, free copies of their book “Shattered Consensus,” and charismatic speakers who notoriously overuse the words “uncertainty,” “debate,” and like to allude to the storytelling of Michael Crichton. Having been “educated” at one of such events, I can assure readers that, while they are well organized, these tiresome exercises become more of an antiquated dog and pony show with each passing day. And in general, congressional staffers are smart enough to know when they're being taken for a ride. Often it’s interns and staff assistants who occupy the seats, more interested in the free food than the subject.
So on the one hand, you might think of the flurry of denialist rhetoric as the result of a realization that they are now fighting a losing battle--a last-ditch effort to seem relevant that only serves to exhibit desperation. But on the other, it's worth remembering how effective they have been in the past, that they can still gum up the works, and that the fight is by no means over.
In the final months of 2008, the deniers are restless.