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Thursday, December 8, 2016

It is irreversible now.

And there’s a word that should get everybody’s attention. Last month, two groups of scientists, publishing separately in the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters, issued reports that came to alarmingly similar conclusions: The melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet has reached a point of no return. If greenhouse gases stopped spewing forth tomorrow, we’d still face the grim prospect of steadily rising seas from this unstoppable melt.

So it would be a good idea to save what ice we still can. Or else condemn our grandchildren to vie for beachfront property in St. Louis on a planet of shrinking land, diminishing resources, and growing population.

This week, thankfully, the Obama administration — once noteworthy chiefly for its disinterested torpor where climate change is concerned — proposed politically risky new Environmental Protection Agency standards requiring deep cuts in carbon pollution levels at U.S. power plants by 2030. And the opposition party? Their attitude is summed up by the headline of a recent story on Politico: “Republicans on climate science: Don’t ask us.”

Writer Darren Goode reports that the GOP has adopted a new global warming “talking point.” Which is that they are not equipped to talk about it. As in Speaker John Boehner telling reporters, “Listen, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change.” And Florida governor Rick Scott demurring that, “I am not a scientist.” And a spokeswoman for the billionaire Koch brothers, the deep pockets of the right wing, saying, “We are not experts on climate change.”

The gutlessness, disingenuousness and sheer cynicism of this new tack are difficult to overstate.

For the record, most of us are not experts on climate science. But most of us have the good sense to listen to those who are.

The right, however, prefers to pretend there is some sort of “debate” in the scientific community over whether human activity is raising the temperature of our one and only planet. There isn’t. Indeed, that finding is accepted by 97 percent of climate scientists. This, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science that, with 121,000 members, is the world’s largest general science group.