New York Times reporter Justin Gillis is a man on a mission to save the planet from the depredations of global warming (rebranded as “climate change”). The activist environmental reporter was at it again in the paper’s Tuesday Science section, “Cooling Language About a Warming Earth" (too ideological even for the news pages?).
Gillis, who under the guise of a journalist regularly pushes the idea of a looming environmental apocalypse in the Times’ news pages, has a bad habit of taking the front page to declare warming “records” which may not or do not actually exist, and then not deigning to explain the discrepancies. They apparently don’t matter to the “ordinary reader” anyway.
His editors even plucked out a professor's quote for the article's text box that warned Republicans not to “look too crazy” on the issue.
Gillis's contempt was obvious from his muted mockery:
Not long ago, many Republican officeholders had a simple answer when asked about the changing climate: What changing climate?
But the public began to notice the heat waves and the torrential rains and the tidal flooding. So then we had the “I am not a scientist” phase, with one lawmaker after another fending off climate questions with that formula.
That drew such ridicule that Republicans critical of climate science had to come up with a more nuanced answer. Several variations on the new approach were on display recently during confirmation hearings for some of President Trump’s cabinet nominees.
“Science tells us that the climate is changing and human activity in some manner impacts that change,” Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency, told a Senate committee. “The human ability to measure with precision the extent of that impact is subject to continuing debate and dialogue, as well they should be.”
Let us ponder the craftsmanship of that second sentence.
“With precision” is the key phrase, of course, and it renders the statement almost axiomatically true. Do we have trouble taking the precise temperature of an entire planet and then divining, for a given period, exactly how much of the change in that temperature is caused by human activities?
Anybody who did not know better might come away thinking there is room to doubt whether humans are the main cause of global warming. Mr. Pruitt did not actually say that, of course -- nowadays, hard-core climate denial provokes a furious response from Democrats in Congress and mild protest even from a few Republicans.
Here’s the actual “crazy” quote, unchallenged by anything else in the piece:
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“They’re just trying not to look crazy, because if they look too crazy, then Susan Collins” -- a Republican senator from Maine -- “and a few of the moderate Republicans might jump ship,” said Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, an American climate scientist who holds a chair at Oxford University, in Britain.
Emissions have soared in the modern era, and as predicted, the Earth is heating up. That would be obvious just from all the land ice that is melting, but of course, we have had thermometers for centuries now. They show that the Earth has warmed roughly 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century, a large number for the surface of a planet.
With just those facts, you have a powerful circumstantial case that human activities are the cause of global warming. But we have more: Sophisticated computer analyses of the climate confirm it, finding that no factor other than the human release of greenhouse gases is large enough to explain the recent warming.
After dismissing “soft spots in the theory” as unconvincing, Gillis came to the radical conclusion that we must stop all carbon emissions – no more use of fossil fuels like petroleum, coal, and natural gas.
....if the Earth turns out to be especially sensitive to the gases and if we permit runaway emissions growth, some research suggests that huge parts of the world could eventually get so hot as to be uninhabitable by large mammals.
How bad will it get? Worse than nukes.
Recall that the large mammals include human beings. “People tend to think of climate change as not being of the same magnitude as nuclear warfare, but at the high end, it’s arguably worse,” Dr. Pierrehumbert said.
Gillis sounded nothing at all like a reporter:
So, despite some genuine uncertainties, the risks are extraordinary, and the moral case for action is pretty clear: We have to get to zero emissions, the sooner the better. Mr. Trump’s nominees have so far displayed scant willingness to come to grips with that.