Friday, January 16

Climate debate (or something like it)

Have a look at this debate over climate change, hosted and posted by Channel 4 in the UK. (You have to click on "watch the report" within the first lines of the write-up.) This shows what any such debate should really look like, as long as it's not manipulated from the get-go by corporate news handlers. In short, the side without evidence should be exposed as such and summarily trounced.

I am not an expert on US media by any means, and in recent years my exposure to it has been minimal; but I do not recall ever having seen such a debate as this one. Partly this is due to the preparedness and sharpness of George Monbiot, the Guardian journalist who faces off against David Bellamy, the botanist, prolific author and, more recently, freewheeling denier of anthropogenic global warming. Monbiot makes the easy task look easy. I have seen other such debates in US media where global warming deniers are given equal credence -- such stand-offs seem to be the rule, not the exception -- but none in which they were trounced by competent spokespersons for the scientific community, as they should be in every case. In the States, one is exposed to much louder and more arrogant versions of Bellamy's line, notably from that great source of intellectual darkness, Rush Limbaugh; but Limbaugh and his ilk are never seriously challenged on air.

What this debate really shows is that people like Bellamy have had their little moment of noise-making and that such false debates -- false because based on the moronic assumption that whether global warming exists and is caused by fossil fuel consumption is still in doubt -- need to be replaced with the truly pressing question: what to do to reverse course and slow the destruction of the biosphere even as it may already be too late?

The only recourse the denier, Bellamy, has, is to repeat: "show me the evidence." It is not enough for him that thousands of peer-reviewed articles present that evidence. (Does he dislike reading to that degree?) Apparently, for Bellamy to take notice, one would have to raise a glacier above him and have it commence melting into his lap in voluminous waves of bone-chilling water, with a convoy of SUVs rolling noisily by.

This was a debate that concluded as it should have, with the humiliation of the professional denier, but it should also be the last of its kind. It's time to stop asking the brain-dead question of whether glaciers are melting and whether global climate change is real. It's time to stop denying that the burning of fossil fuels is at the root of the problem. And it's time for radical policy shifts across the globe and especially in the United States.