Jeffrey Kluger showed up on Saturday’s CBS This Morning to do what he does best: clang the alarm bells over global warming. The TIME magazine senior editor even went so far as to warn that Manhattan may soon be underwater.
Kluger was brought on to discuss a recent reading -- atop an observation station on a dormant volcano -- finding that atmospheric carbon dioxide is at its highest level in 2 million years. Back then, he informed us, sea levels were 66 feet higher than they are now. He then struck an ominous tone: “What this means is we are on the west side of Manhattan at this moment. If this keeps up to what it was back then, we would be swimming at this address.” [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
Scary stuff. Co-anchor Anthony Mason inquired, “Who's responsible for this? Us ultimately, right?” Kluger agreed: “Us ultimately.” But that doesn’t make sense. Human beings were not around 2 million years ago, the last time there was this much CO2 in the atmosphere. And there were certainly no power plants or automobiles to pollute the skies. How can Kluger blame humans for this current rise in CO2 levels?
Regarding plants and animals, Kluger said, “Plants and animals do adjust, they acclimate very easily to this, but it takes centuries and even millennia for this to happen. If we’re at 400 [ppm] now, we were at 315 back in 1958. That is way too fast for anything, humans, plants, any kind of ecosystem to adapt to this.”
Neither anchor followed up by asking for an example of a species that has failed to adapt to the increased CO2 levels thus far. As a journalist, I would be curious to know, because there are no obvious examples that come to mind. But global warming is so widely accepted that both CBS anchors let that particular claim sail by without question.
Kluger had said that the increase in CO2 is “way too fast” for humans to adapt to it. Yet later in the conversation, he contradicted himself: “Well, people are -- I mean, we are going to survive in terms of just our bodies because, you know, most of the world has developed sufficiently so we can accommodate this.” That reassurance ought to blunt some of the alarmism that Kluger had been spewing.
It’s important to remember that Jeffrey Kluger is not a scientist. He is a career journalist, as well as an attorney, who has taught science journalism courses at New York University. CBS should have brought in a real climatologist to discuss this CO2 phenomenon. Such a person would have had more credibility than Kluger. In fact, they should have balanced the first climatologist with another scientist who disagrees with manmade climate change, as many still do. That would have been the most responsible thing to do. But instead, they turned to the same old science journalist/alarmist as always.
CBS would do well to stop spewing hot CO2, cool down and present viewers with a reasoned debate.
Below is a full transcript of the Kluger segment:
ANTHONY MASON: It's not often you set a 2 million-year-old record, but planet Earth just did it. Scientists who keep tabs on our atmosphere report that the level of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that accounts for most global warming and climate change, is higher now than it's been since long before humans evolved. Let's learn more now from Jeffrey Kluger. He's a senior writer for Time magazine. Jeffrey, good morning.
JEFFREY KLUGER: Good morning.
MASON: So how serious is this and how concerned should we be?
KLUGER: It is serious and we should be concerned. The last time the parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, the currently 400 ppm, were this high was 2 million years ago during the Pleistocene era. There were forests in Greenland and sea levels were 66 feet higher than they are right now. What this means is we are on the west side of Manhattan at this moment. If this keeps up to what it was back then, we would be swimming at this address.
NANCY CORDES: And my understanding is that plants and animals can adjust when CO2 levels rise, but just not when it rises this quickly.
KLUGER: Well that's exactly right. Plants and animals do adjust, they acclimate very easily to this but it takes centuries and even millennia for this to happen. If we’re at 400 now, we were at 315 back in 1958. That is way too fast for anything, humans, plants, any kind of ecosystem to adapt to this.
MASON: Who's responsible for this? Us ultimately, right?
KLUGER: Us ultimately. The world puts out 2.4 million pounds of CO2 per second. The number one contributor right now is China at 10 point – at 10 billion tons per year. We're number two at 5.9 billion tons. You can watch this happening – on Time.com we currently have a series of time-lapsed photos from space. You can see Columbia glacier in Alaska retreating at a rate of 98 feet per day.
CORDES: So what are the most realistic ways to turn this around? I thought the international community was working on this at least a little bit.
KLUGER: A little bit is the key word here. The goal right now you would think would be ambitious; it’s not. It’s just to allow the increase to continue until it reaches about 450 and then have everybody settle in at that. Well that means greater warming, greater CO2 increase in the atmosphere is baked into our plans now, and those are our ambitious plans. We have to tackle this aggressively. It's a little bit like saying you're very overweight and I'm willing to put on 50 more pounds before I begin losing.
MASON: So what do we have to do, Jeffrey?
KLUGER: We have to curb the use of fossil fuels. The most egregious one is coal. We are one of the world’s leading coal producers; China is one of the world’s leading coal consumers, as are we. We are sort of feeding their habit. We have to dial back fast to renewables, to wind, to solar, to hydroelectric, to anything that is renewable and doesn't produce CO2. That's the biggest thing we have to do right now. We're making a good conversion to hybrid vehicles, to electric vehicles but it's this output into the atmosphere, particularly of coal exhaust, that is the biggest contributor.
CORDES: And you talked about what it does to the oceans. What does it do to people?
KLUGER: Well, people are -- I mean, we are going to survive in terms of just our bodies because, you know, most of the world has developed sufficiently so we can accommodate this. But we were looking just this morning at a massive hailstorm. I think it was in San Antonio, Texas. We have – a lot of people say the term global warming is a wrong term. It's global weirding. We're going to see increased volatility in weather, increased extreme events, and people lose their lives when these kinds of things happen.
MASON: All right, Jeffrey Kluger. The headline here is Manhattan will not exist if this keeps up. Thanks for being with us this morning.