Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Friday, June 23, 2006

CROSSROADS COMMENT -- Global Warming Heats Up Nuance, and That's a Good Thing


Jim Hansen is Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Adjunct Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University's Earth Institute.

I quote Hansen at length. His comments indicate why so many people are in denial when it comes to global warming science . His complete essay is at: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19131

“Why are the same scientists and political forces that succeeded in controlling the threat to the ozone layer now failing miserably to deal with the global warming crisis? . . . The Government appears to be strongly influenced by special interests, or otherwise confused and distracted, and it has failed to provide leadership. The public is understandably confused or uninterested.”

And there is little or no help coming from fourth estate. Just tonight on CNN, Wolf Blitzer, following the well worn path of all TV news-as-entertainment production practices [see Neil Postman’s Entertaining Ourselves to Death], presents a story on global warming and ends it with a bland, unsupported, statement about these findings “being part of a debate that will probably be going on for a long time.”

Here’s Hansen on this kind irresponsible mindlessness:

“I used to spread the blame uniformly until, when I was about to appear on public television, the producer informed me that the program "must" also include a "contrarian" who would take issue with claims of global warming. Presenting such a view, he told me, was a common practice in commercial television as well as radio and newspapers. Supporters of public TV or advertisers, with their own special interests, require "balance" as a price for their continued financial support. Gore's book reveals that while more than half of the recent newspaper articles on climate change have given equal weight to such contrarian views, virtually none of the scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals have questioned the consensus that emissions from human activities cause global warming. As a result, even when the scientific evidence is clear, technical nit-picking by contrarians leaves the public with the false impression that there is still great scientific uncertainty about the reality and causes of climate change.”

I pile this onto the mountain of scientific facts every informed citizen on global warming should be aware of and is not. Bush’s resistance to the science of global warming is representative of how Bush has governed for six years. When the science does not fit the ideological, conservatives are quick to support their ideology with contrarian half-truths, specious exaggerations, and personal attacks. And then walk away from the fray with a haughty, “Case closed.”

Bush has set this style of public discourse as a template for his supporters to follow on issues ranging from consevation practices to tax cuts for the rich. Any and all opposition is dismissed because, as the Kings of Spin disparagingly say of them: Bush is direct, a leader (sic) who is ready to make the hard choices. His critics, those who study the issues and demonstrate that there are hard choices to be made, are characterized as being bogged down in nuance. It sounds good, but “direct” turns out to be narrow tunnel vision and “nuance,” the constructive recognition of complexity in this world of fallible human beings, is, to the nation’s detriment, deserted.

If there is one thing that is common to all narrow ideologues, left as well as right, it is in the phrase of the day: Staying on message. Karl Rove has made a career out of this simplistic tactic, Fox News has vaulted in the ratings using a slick version of it, and the Republican party plans to hold their majorities in Congress with the monotonous drumbeat of their echo chamber slogans: “Stay the course.” “When Iraq steps up, we will step down.” “Tax cuts.” “Save the flag.” "Protect marriage and the family."

But it may be that the American people are about to distinguish between style and substance. Unfortunately, six years of incompetence and arrogance have taken a toll that we as a nation will be paying for far into the future.

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