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wente & murphy getting hot?

Splitting my previous climate post into 3 (since it was 3 separate ideas):

Interesting shift in the Globe and Mail this weekend. Rex Murphy is the Globe’s shrillest climate alarmist-alarmist (he worries endlessly about the climate change propogandists and doomsdayers that run the National Academies of Sciences in all the biggest countries and economies of the world). He has spent the last 5 or 6 thousand years scoffing at, sneering about, and dismissing climate change, with few updates in his rhetoric for annoying things like the scientific advances. But even Rex seemed to back off in his weekly column yesterday. Well, almost. He presents a couple of examples of climate research gone wild (an Italian study linking suicide with climate change, and Al-Qaeda’s insistence that the US sign the Kyoto Agreement) as evidence that the rest of the scientists are single-minded fools. Yet he after all that silliness, he finally says:

“If we believe global warming is as big a problem as the world’s experts are telling us, we also have to believe the world’s politicians are capable of fixing it.”

And concludes that their inability to fix potholes suggests they won’t be much good at fixing climate change. He might have a point there, who knows? But there was a subtle, grudging, shift, almost imperceptible, but present. A back-handed acknowledgment that maybe, perhaps, it’s possible that all those damned scientists might be worried about something worth worrying about. Even if he does not trust politicians to do anything useful about it.

Margaret Wente is another of the Globe’s usual “climate change is bullshit” columnists. A sample of her headlines from the last few years (the Globe is subscription only, so you can’t read the articles): “Ice the ‘polar bears are drowning’ theory,” “Will we freeze or will we fry?” “Kyoto always was a fantasy,” “The collapse of climate ‘consensus'” “The Kyoto-speak brainwashers” … etc.

Wente finally, finally, actually talks to some mainstream climate scientists, instead of the odd-ball guys she fished up in previous articles (it’s all good and well to say there are scientists who don’t agree with the consensus, but they are a small minority, and often not active scientists, and more often not regarded as very serious in their research).

In any case, her article in Saturday’s Focus section of the Globe, is titled “A Questionable Truth.” She has spun her argument something like this: Al Gore’s movie an Inconvenient Truth exaggerates the likelihood of bad effects from climate change. And mainstream scientists think the probability of catastrophic climate change is … uncertain. In fact, much of climate science is uncertain. So …

And here is the interesting thing. In the past Wente’s “So…” used to be followed by, “So the climate alarmists are a bunch of propagandists, and we should ignore them…”. But this time she ended (almost, as well as a swipe at Gore) with: “So what can a worried citizen do?” To answer, she quotes Mark Jaccard of Simon Fraser University, who answers: “Lobby the politicians to put policies in place immediately that put a value on the environment … Drive your car to Ottawa if you have to. The most important thing is to get policies in place that are intelligent.” Translation (I think): we have a problem here, and something should be done.

Not content to leave it at that, however, Wente finishes with a swipe at Al Gore, “even though much of what he says is dubious or just plain wrong, he’s going to win that Oscar anyway.”

But when you read the text of her article, and what the actual scientists say (rather, what she decided to quote them as saying), it’s a funny thing. There is not one scientists there arguing that climate change is not a major problem worth addressing. Not one person saying: climate change is not happening. Not one person saying: humans have no impact on the climate. Not one person saying: there is nothing to worry about. Not one person saying: we should do nothing. The scientists she interviews, instead, are cautious, level-headed, and, like most scientists, uncomfortable with sensational headlines. Says one, “The probability of another metre of or sea-level rise in the next 50 years isn’t zero, but it isn’t 90 per cent either. And if you pinned me down to tell you what it really is, I couldn’t do that.” That is, there is a risk of serious problems, and scientists can’t pin down just what that risk is. Which hardly suggests: a) that there is no risk, or b) that we should do nothing.

Another interesting thing: Wente and her pals at the Globe (the columnists are probably 50-50 split on climate) have spent the last ten years pillorying the Kyoto Protocol. Yet when discussing how to address climate change in this article, she writes: “But climate economists generally agree that the first and most important thing to do is to put a value on the atmosphere. You do this with carbon taxes and emissions caps. If emitting carbon costs money, then people will have a big incentive to cut down on it.” The Kyoto Protocol was a loose international framework whose objective was to a) get nations to agree to emissions caps on their national emissions, b) provide a timetable to try to meet those targets, c) provide some loose mechanisms to meet them. The Kyoto Protocol does not say ANYTHING about how any one country should meet their targets; that is left to countries figure out for themselves. (Which is why the “Made in Canada” solution trumpeted by Harper is hogwash: Kyoto’s objective is to get every country to come up with their own solution). Wente’s main expert’s opinion about how to address climate change suggests, essentially, that we should have started working within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol years ago. Wente manages make it sound as if she had just uncovered a sensible and innovative answer to this climate problem, a solution ignored by the hordes of rabid alarmists with Kyoto as their bible as they made their joyful march to climate apocalypse. That’s pretty disingenuous. The whole point of Kyoto was to do exactly what she seems to agree with here. And she has spent 10 years mocking Kyoto. At least, Ms. Wente, have the decency to utter a quiet little mea culpa. There is more dishonesty (intentional or accidental, I don’t know) in that article, but Rome was not built in a day. Ms. Wente has written her pivotal article on climate change, hovering on both sides of the argument, but she won’t go back to her old ways. She will continue to be distrustful of the enviros (which is fine), but I’d wager that she’s now convinced that things must be done.