Sunday, February 19, 2012

Climate Change and Culture Wars

To develop a better appreciation of why international cooperation to limit greenhouse gases is so important, take three minutes to watch this animated graphic presentation of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels over time.  The graphs were produced and animated by the Earth System Research Laboratory (Global Monitoring Division) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

(Go here to see the full-resolution version.)

Now consider that documents leaked earlier this week from a libertarian organization called the Heartland Institute describe plans to develop a curriculum for public school science classes questioning the reality of human-induced climate change.  Although the Heartland Institute says that one of the documents is a fake--a claim bolstered by Megan McArdle here--the organization concedes that others were sent unwittingly by an employee to a person posing as a board member with a new email address. (In 2009, the Heartland Institute was among the organizations that publicized emails stolen from the accounts of scientists in an effort to discredit their work.  Some of those scientists responded to the new leaks with an open letter to the Heartland Institute.)

As the scientists' letter points out, it's one thing to disagree on policy responses to a problem such as climate change, but it's something else entirely to distort the facts.