When it comes to the press, the New York Times pretty much defines “mainstream.”
And Justin Gillis is the Times’ mainstream reporter on the global warming beat.
So it is somewhat telling, that his article on Tuesday, “A Change in Temperature,” was largely dedicated (although begrudgingly) to facing up to the possibility that mainstream estimates (i.e., those produced by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) of climate sensitivity are too large.
Readers of this blog are probably well aware of the reasons why.
Despite our illusions of grandeur, this blog isn’t the mainstream press –although we do seek to influence it. Maybe we are being successful.
Throughout Gillis’ article are sprinkled references to “climate contrarians,” and even the recognition of the effort by such contrarians to push the new science on low climate sensitivity to the forefront of the discussion to change the existing politics of climate change.
Still, the recent body of evidence — and the political use that climate contrarians are making of it to claim that everything is fine — sheds some light on where we are in our scientific and public understanding of the risks of climate change.
We at the Cato’s Center for the Study of Science are at the leading edge of efforts to present a more accurate representation of the scientific of climate change through our testimony to Congress, public comments and review of government documents and proposals, media appearances, op-eds, and serial posts on this blog, among other projects. We emphasize that current regulations and proposed legislation are based on outdated, and likely wrong, projections of future climate impacts from human carbon dioxide emissions from the use of fossil fuels to produce energy.
Gillis recognizes the positives of a low climate sensitivity value:
“…tantalizing possibility that climate change might be slow and limited enough that human society could adapt to it without major trauma.”
“It will certainly be good news if these recent papers stand up to critical scrutiny, something that will take at least a year or two to figure out.”
“So if the recent science stands up to critical examination, it could indeed turn into a ray of hope…”
But, the “mainstream” is slow to change. And so despite the good news about climate sensitivity, Gillis closes his article by pointing out that, in his opinion, the political response to climate change has been “weak” (contrary to our view), and that therefore:
Even if climate sensitivity turns out to be on the low end of the range, total emissions may wind up being so excessive as to drive the earth toward dangerous temperature increases.
Clearly we still have work to do, but there are signs of progress!