Brad DeLong and Matt McIrvin are annoyed by this Joel Achenbach piece on global warming sceptics. On the contrary, I think it’s a great instance of how the truth can be told while sticking to the much-criticised rules of journalistic objectivity (not the same thing as ‘balance’).
Achenbach reports the scientific evidence on global warming then investigates the “parallel Earth” (his words) of the soi-disant “sceptics”. As he says
It is a planet where global warming isn’t happening—or, if it is happening, isn’t happening because of human beings. Or, if it is happening because of human beings, isn’t going to be a big problem. And, even if it is a big problem, we can’t realistically do anything about it other than adapt.Achenbach then proceeds to interview the sceptics, lets them speak for themselves, and lets the readers draw their own conclusion.
If you read the piece with any attention it’s impossible to avoid the conclusions that
- Richard Lindzen, prominent MIT climate scientist, is an irresponsible contrarian, who’s prepared to defend an implausible position on the off chance of being right when everyone else is wrong
- The Competitive Enterprise Institute, well-known Washington thinktank, is a set of industry shills who will say whatever Exxon pays them to say
- William Gray, respected hurricane expert, is a raving loon who thinks climate change is a conspiracy to bring in world government and compares Al Gore to Hitler (as Achenbach notes, it’s almost impossible to keep the Nazis out of the discussion in GW-sceptic circles)
- All these guys know the score as regards the others
And Achenbach gets right to the nub of the problem with ‘balanced’ coverage.
The skeptics don’t have to win the argument, they just have to stay in the game, keep things stirred up and make sure the politicians don’t pass any laws that have dangerous climate change as a premise. They’re winning that battle. The Senate had hearings on climate change this spring but has put off action for now. The Bush administration is hoping for some kind of technological solution and won’t commit itself to cuts in emissions.A few more pieces like this, and I think the sceptics might find themselves out of the game.