News Flash: The World Is Flat

Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that global warming can be explained only by human malfeasance, naysayers continue to posit self-serving explanations for climate change. A provocative editorial entitled the “Copenhagen Climate Scam Conference” in the conservative Washington Examiner nakedly states that the “case for global warming is based on junk science.” Take Sarah Palin’s editorial in the Washington Post today that “But while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can’t say with assurance that man’s activities cause weather changes.”

The New York Times reported on the unequivocal findings of the World Meteorological Organization that this past decade was one of the warmest on record. As the secretary general of the organization was quoted as saying, this past decade was “warmer than the 1990s, which were warmer than the 1980s, and so on.” How much more evidence do we need? Does the lobster thrown into a pot of cold water on the stove need to commission yet another study before it is convinced that something is awry as the water temperature around it is getting uncomfortably hot?

Everyone is talking about the leaked e-mail messages from the University of East Anglia, which, to put it mildly, caused some damage to the environmental movement. The effort to raise public awareness of the danger of inaction to deal with global warming was dealt a serious blow. When you have see the words “trick” and  “hide the decline,” sure you can explain away that some of these messages are a decade old, or that they were taken out of context, but the damage was done, and for the last week, they have changed the agenda.

Last week, I attended the Solar Energy Focus Conference of the Solar Energy Industries Association for the Maryland, Virginia and DC region. The conference, once sparsely attended, is now a requisite stop for anyone in or getting into the solar industry in this region, from financiers to entrepreneurs, to contractors to government officials.  Professor John Byrne of the University of Delaware, known for his work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with former Vice-President Al Gore, gave the keynote address.  And guess what controversy he felt compelled to address during his keynote? At the same time that he was exhorting the conference attendees to do more because the “existing system is unsustainable . . . both environmentally and economically,” he still had to spend time talking about the email messages. He exasperatedly talked about the fact that these messages were taken way out of context and did not change the basic fact that the ice melts in Greenland, more than in 10,000 years, are not so easily explained away.

When the world believed that the Earth was flat and that the Earth revolved around the sun, there were also many naysayers, who fervently held to their views despite mounting evidence to the contrary.  Copernicus suggested the heliocentric theory of the universe in 1515 but, possibly afraid of the wrath of naysayers, did not publish his theory until 1543, shortly before his death. And even decades later in 1600, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for, among other things, teaching that, oh my goodness, that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

Reasonable minds can and will differ on the solution to the problem, but denying that the pot is getting hotter will not lead us to good solutions. Let us concede that the world is round, that the world is getting hotter, and let America show the leadership required to mold a solution.

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