>But the overriding reality seems almost un-American: We simply don’t have a solution for this problem. As we debate it, journalists should resist the temptation to portray global warming as a morality tale — as Newsweek did — in which anyone who questions its gravity or proposed solutions may be ridiculed as a fool, a crank or an industry stooge. Dissent is, or should be, the lifeblood of a free society.
A little context. Newsweek featured a story about industry-funded global warming deniers–the oil and auto-industry types that claim the global warming “consensus” isn’t all that, or that “consensus” shouldn’t be the basis of such judgments, or worse, that the whole thing is a hoax dreamed up by Al Gore for the purposes of self-aggrandizement.:
>Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change. Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters (they hate being called deniers) argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said. Then they claimed that any warming is natural, not caused by human activities. Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless. “They patterned what they did after the tobacco industry,” says former senator Tim Wirth, who spearheaded environmental issues as an under secretary of State in the Clinton administration. “Both figured, sow enough doubt, call the science uncertain and in dispute. That’s had a huge impact on both the public and Congress.”
The article concerns the ridiculous amount of coverage the naysayers have gotten–especially in light of the strength of their view. But Samuelson seems to think this amounts to squelching dissent. Worse than this, he thinks global warming is an undeniable scientific fact. But he also seems to think that people who deny undeniable scientific facts ought to have equal time or consideration when it comes to public discourse–for every global warming story, perhaps, we ought to have a global warming denier present the “con” position. For every story about DNA, then, perhaps we ought to have someone represent the homuncular theory of human reproduction–dissent is the lifeblood of a democracy after all.
Few scientists would want to squelch dissent about any topic. But many would rather the media played things differently, that it represented scientific authorities (and cranks) in their proper context. Dissenters–such as science fiction novelists–perhaps ought not to get any coverage in a story about a scientific fact. But unfortunately that’s not the case. And the net result of the controversy style of press coverage is the confused mind of Robert Samuelson. While he thinks global warming is a reality we should do something about, he doubts whether anything can be done to stop it. Even he ought to realize that that is a separate question from whether it occurs.
Besides, this–like any other scientific question–is a fundamentally moral question. Do I believe things that have basis in reality, or do I deny them in the face of all evidence?