[ExI] why anger?

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Fri Feb 26 00:46:42 UTC 2010

On 2/25/2010 5:42 PM, BillK wrote:
> On Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 10:49 PM, spike wrote:
>>> ...On Behalf Of Keith Henson
>>> I don't have any good ideas about why people get so angry
>>> over global warming arguments... Keith

     a clue:

	* NEW SCIENTIST issue 2749.
	* 24 February 2010

Honesty is the best policy for climate scientists

FOR many environmentalists, all human influence on the planet is bad. 
Many natural scientists implicitly share this outlook. This is not 
unscientific, but it can create the impression that greens and 
environmental scientists are authoritarian tree-huggers who value nature 
above people. That doesn't play well with mainstream society, as the 
apparent backlash against climate science reveals.

Environmentalists need to find a new story to tell. Like it or not, we 
now live in the anthropocene - an age in which humans are perturbing 
many of the planet's natural systems, from the water cycle to the 
acidity of the oceans. We cannot wish that away; we must recognise it 
and manage our impacts.

That is central to our cover story. Johan Rockström, head of the 
Stockholm Environment Institute in Sweden, and colleagues have distilled 
recent research on how Earth systems work into a list of nine "planetary 
boundaries" that we must stay within to live sustainably (see "From 
ocean to ozone: Earth's nine life-support systems"). It is preliminary 
work, and many will disagree with where the boundaries are set. But the 
point is to offer a new way of thinking about our relationship with the 
environment - a science-based picture that accepts a certain level of 
human impact and even allows us some room to expand. The result is a 
breath of fresh air: though we are already well past three of the 
boundaries, we haven't trashed the place yet.

It is in the same spirit that we also probe the basis for key claims in 
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report on climate 
impacts (see "Can we trust the IPCC on the big stuff?"). This report has 
been much discussed since our revelations about its unsubstantiated 
statement on melting Himalayan glaciers. Why return to the topic? 
Because there is a sense that the IPCC shares the same anti-human agenda 
and, as a result, is too credulous of unverified numbers. While the 
majority of the report is assuredly rigorous, there is no escaping the 
fact that parts of it make claims that go beyond the science.

For example, the chapter on Africa exaggerates a claim about crashes in 
farm yields, and also highlights projections of increased water stress 
in some regions while ignoring projections in the same study that point 
to reduced water stress in other regions. These errors are not trifling. 
They are among the report's headline conclusions.

Some will see our investigation as an unwelcome distraction in a 
propaganda battle to get action on climate change. But if we are to 
manage the anthropocene successfully, we need cooler heads and clearer 

Above all, we need a dispassionate view of the state of the planet and 
our likely future impact on it. There's no room for complacency: 
Rockström's analysis shows us that we face real dangers, but 
exaggerating our problems is not the way to solve them.

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