Is This Humanity's First Planetary Emergency?

Yet the growing number of serious journalists looking into the scientific consensus on the dangers of global warming do not scoff. Too many scientists from many front-rank institutions in many countries have confirmed the reality of a man-caused global warming now presenting clear and present dangers.

For 40 years now, the world's climate scientists have been locked in urgent debate about this matter. At first, few wanted to countenance the possibility of this warming coming on so fast as to cause imminent disruption in the 21st century.

That has changed.

Last year the chairman of the International Panel on Climate Change said that man's carbon emissions were reaching such concentration that "immediate and very deep cuts in the pollution are needed if humanity is to survive."

If humanity is to survive?

Serious scientists do not much enjoy agreeing with each other. They make their names by making discoveries to which other scientists react -- at first -- with a startled "No way!" followed by a period of initial disbelief and retesting of the new hypothesis, which they try to disprove but keep failing to and then eventually accept as the most powerful and accurate tool of prediction yet available.

That is what has happened over 40 years with the declarations that planet-changing global warming from man-made greenhouse gas emissions is upon us.

In 1988, preeminent American climate scientist James Hansen of NASA told Congress that man-made global warming was real and, he said, "changing the climate now."

No way, said many. But that has changed.

Hansen spends most of his time crunching numbers in computer climate models whose complexity would intimidate any journalist suffering from an irrational science phobia -- as opposed to the proper and skeptical journalistic respect journalists often show politicians and business leaders.

Journalists not afraid to let scientists explain themselves in the testing grounds of common sense language have heard Hansen speculate lately -- just speculate -- on the probabilities that Earth's warming may have reached or be perilously close to some sort of tipping point beyond which the warming is a runaway process.

For the record, in his latest publications Hansen calculates that we have 10 years in which to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid major upheaval that could well occur within the lifetimes of today's kids.

Hansen says that lately he is beginning to feel that a rise of any more than 1 degree Celsius (roughly 2 degrees Fahrenheit) in the average global temperature will mean we're on "a different planet."

That's why it's unsettling to read today that Britain's chief scientist, David King, has just told the BBC that he now calculates that the world is likely to suffer a rise of more than not 1 but 3 degrees Celsius.

He apparently bases this estimate on the belief, like Lovelock's, that no international action on greenhouse gas emission cuts will happen anywhere near soon enough.

As we've noted before on, the word "alarmist" is defined in the dictionary as "alarming others needlessly."

Regarding the few remaining voices in the United States press corps calling the claims of so many preeminent scientists alarmist, I continue, from time to time, to check out the facts and logic behind these journalists' claims and arguments, and, I am sorry to report, continue to find them without substance or even, in many cases, any clear logic.

Global warming is not a politics story (though greatly politicized); it is an event, and as such needs not so much a political sort of "balance" as a rigorous perspective -- as did, for example, the sudden explosion of Mount St. Helens in 1980 or the tsunami in Indonesia, except that global warming is far bigger and more complex than these events.

I could wish there were some other authorities we could listen to about this, other than the thousands of credible scientists in the United States and around the world who, after decades of skeptical examination and debate, now bring us alarming news.

But everything I'm finding so far suggests that would be only wishful thinking.

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