GLOBAL WARNING: Andrew Revkin has been thinking too hard about the science of global warming: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, JANUARY 15, 2007
GLOBAL WARNING: Andrew Revkin has been thinking too hard about the science of global warming. In Sundays Times, he offered a ponderous metaphor about the state of knowledge RE warming. Stretching our beautiful minds to the limit, he explained how the science of warming would seem if thought of as a painting:
REVKIN (1/14/07): If thought of as a painting, the scientific picture of a growing and potentially calamitous human influence on the climate has moved from being abstract a century ago to impressionistic 30 years ago to pointillist today.The scientific picture has moved from abstract to impressionistic to pointillist, Revkin explained. He was thinking much too hard.
Ordinarily, wed just roll our eyes at such standard Sunday Times piffle. But then, consider the more troubling report which Revkin offered on New Years Day. In that piece, Revkin said that a sensible center is now emerging in the debate about global warming—a sensible center which he contrasted to all the shouting on the extremes. But Revkins picture of the current debate was quite startling. As he defined the new sensible center, he painted Al Gore as one of the shouters—and crackpot Jim Inhofe as another. Heres how the scribe began:
REVKIN (1/1/07): Amid the shouting lately about whether global warming is a human-caused catastrophe or a hoax, some usually staid climate scientists in the usually invisible middle are speaking up.Its the Silent Majority all over again! According to Revkin, many experts in the usually invisible middle are trying to counter all the shouting which has come from both poles of the debate. But, according to his remarkable construct, one pole in all this feverish shouting is represented by Inhofe, the Republican crackpot who has most famously said that warming is a hoax. And the other pole? Its represented by Gore, who gets dissed by name (while Inhofe doesnt)! Thats right—according to Revkin, An Inconvenient Truth represents one extreme in the current feverish shouting. Inhofes utterly crackpot rants represent the other.
What a remarkable bit of equivalence! Gore and Inhofe are the shouters! The shouters who many experts now challenge! Indeed, a number of people quickly questioned Revkins odd framing of the discussion (just click here, for example). Given this gruesome New Years performance, perhaps we should simply count our blessings when were told that the current knowledge of warming is much like a pointillist painting.
On the other hand, citizens should perhaps be concerned when the Times global warming reporter creates such an oddball framework. For ourselves, were even more concerned about Revkins work because of a Close-Up Foundation discussion in which he was recently featured. (The program aired on C-SPAN, as Close-Ups programs do each week.) Heres Close Ups synopsis of the oddly unbalanced program it foisted on high school students:
Reporting on Climate ChangeNow theres a fair-and-balanced panel! On the one hand, the high school kids got Patrick Michaels, one of those scientists with ties to energy companies cited in Revkins report. Providing the balance, of course, they got Revkin—who had just finished equating Gore to the crackpot Senator Inhofe.
We only saw a small part of this discussion, but no, we didnt get the impression that Revkin was balancing Michaels real well. (Theres no transcript or tape available on-line.) Of course, it isnt Revkins fault if the Close-Up Foundation produces an oddly un-balanced panel. But his participation—and the small bit of the discussion we saw—made us wonder even more about his recent work.
Gore and Inhofe are the feverish shouters? The feverish shouters on the poles, the ones who many experts oppose? We dont know whats going on with Revkins picture of global warming. But the Times may want to take a look at its overheated correspondent. Clearly, Revkin has been thinking too hard—or perhaps, not hard enough.
TOMORROW: Part 1! An incomparable series.