Photo via Flickr / CC.
Someone leaked a draft of a big forthcoming international climate change report, and over the course of the week, the headlines trickled out. Each one made me more depressed than the last.
"Climate change: forecast for 2100 is floods and heat ... and it’s man’s fault," went The Telegraph.
"Experts surer of manmade warming, but local predictions remain elusive," wrote Reuters, which broke the story.
"Scientists ‘95 per cent certain’ that climate change is man-made." That was The Independent, in another popular refrain. You're getting the point.
There are primarily two reasons why this is mind-numbingly depressing. First, the news itself is, obviously, an epic bummer. Floods, heat, near-certainty that humans are remorselessly cranking up the globe's thermostat, and on and on. Huge bummers.
But what's almost worse is the fact that the above headlines are considered newsworthy at all. Climate scientists have been in overwhelming agreement that human-produced carbon emissions are trapping an increasing amount of heat for a decade now. Study after study after study confirms the scientific consensus that this phenomenon is occurring. The first was completed nearly 10 years ago, in 2004.
So scientists have known for years now that climate change is happening. An unparalleled 97 percent of them agrre agree that it's humans fault. But somehow, we're not getting the message. It's 2013 and "Scientists Are Pretty Damn Certain We're Frying This Place" is still a headline. That is depressing.
The reason, of course, is that American conservatives, sympathetic to (and receivers of financial support from) fossil fuel companies have stridently pushed back against science, finding its findings inconvenient with their political ideologies. The army of hack scientists and oil company-backed energy "experts" they've rolled out have been going on talk shows and proclaiming the whole thing to be a liberal sham. This, too, is depressing.
And yet here we are. Nearly two-and-a-half decades have passed since NASA's Dr. James Hansen testified before Congress that global warming was real, backed by hard evidence and good science, and our headlines continue to communicate the most basic facts of the phenomenon's existence.
Obviously climate change is real. Obviously scientists agree it's happening—they have for years. Obviously there will be sea level rise, floods, and droughts fueled by higher temperatures. That we haven't moved past these basic points and have instead succumbed to what amounts to well-financed conservative trolling isn't just a shame. It's depressing as hell.