The cover of The Washington Post "Book World" section Sunday preached environmental alarmism, with the headine: "Global Warning: Three New Books Argue That We Are Smothering Our Home." Inside, freelance journalist Thomas Hayden (no, not Jane-Fonda-marryin' Tom Hayden, a different one) touted three books, two of them featuring "objective" media authors: Elizabeth Kolbert, a former reporter for the New York Times, and Eugene Linden, a longtime global-warming soothsayer for Time magazine.
Hayden summarizes that the most discouraging problem is dealing with incredibly cautious media outlets, who have not been passionate enough in their exclusion of annoying and worthless conservatives and skeptical scientists:
Kolbert and Linden both end their books calling for action to curtail carbon dioxide emissions before our current global civilization succumbs to a dramatic climate shift of its own making, and both decry the apparent paralysis gripping the official global efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The degree of scientific certainty is now more than adequate to justify immediate action, says Linden, who attributes the ongoing state of inaction to a synergy between "cautious scientists interacting with cautious policymakers, all to the delight of naysayers who hold that no action is necessary." Unfortunately, that interaction is often mediated by journalists, who, when it comes to global warming, might just be the most cautious party of all.
Kolbert and Linden are good journalists and far too experienced to fall for the equal-time canard, whereby the voices of the tiny fringe of scientists who dispute that humans are affecting climate are amplified out of all proportion to their relevance. But both display signs of lacking confidence -- a tendency to soft-pedal a little here, to get bogged down in technical details there -- as if, in bending over backward to appear thorough and fair-minded, the journalists have fallen victim to the softer bias of insecurity.
Hayden concludes by comparing global-warming doubters to critics of Darwinian evolution theory, and the arrogance is strong:
It has become fashionable in certain circles -- most prominently the White House -- to say that global warming is an important issue and thus worthy of more study. More knowledge is always good, and real gains can come from an intensified effort to monitor the globe's changing climate and ecosystems -- to parse out the climate roles of cloud formation and open-ocean ecology, for example. But in this sense, global warming is not much different from evolution -- the much-publicized controversies have very little to do with the science.