Politics of Fear OK When It Comes to Global Warming
On Tuesday, Andrew Revkin and Tom Zeller filed from the "climate change" talks in Copenhagen, "Violins and Hints of Hades: Delegates Tackle Climate," and presented the often-kooky alarmism at the conference in non-judgmental fashion.
Dante or Michelangelo might have sniffed at the text and the visuals. But evocations of Judgment Day were a consistent undercurrent in speeches and conference materials on the opening day of the meetings, where representatives of about 200 nations hope to hammer out the details of an international climate accord.
To help establish the mood, the choreographers of the meeting screened a short film. In one scene, a young girl awakens to a grim inheritance should negotiators leave the meeting empty-handed: a scorched earth, menacing storms and an all-swallowing sea. "Please," the girl says to the camera as violins rise to a crescendo, "help the world."
Would the Times have been so straightforward in presenting a conservative film featuring a young girl awakening in a post-terror wasteland? More likely there would have been accusations of Republicans stirring up "the politics of fear."
The story raises the ClimateGate emails, only for a State Department functionary to dismiss their import and defend the scientists involved.
Jonathan Pershing, the State Department's deputy special envoy on climate change, talked about emissions reductions at a news conference after the opening session, defending the targets promised by the United States - a reduction in the range of 17 percent over 2005 levels by 2020, 30 percent by 2025, etc.
But a British reporter wanted to know about the e-mail messages and documents that a British climate research center says were stolen from one of its servers: Would they undermine the talks?
The files - which include mentions of deleting potentially embarrassing e-mail messages, seeming attempts to block the publication of papers by competing scientists and adjustments to research data - have been seized upon by skeptics as evidence of corruption in climate science. But Mr. Pershing predicted that the e-mail flap would end up as "a small blip on the history of this process."
"I think they'll have virtually no effect," he said, adding that the e-mail messages had also "released a barrage of additional information which makes clear the robustness of the science, the multitude - the enormous multitude - of different strands of evidence that support the urgency and the severity of the problem."
Mr. Pershing said it was "unfortunate, and in fact shameful," that "some scientists who've devoted their lives are being pilloried in the press without due regard to process."
On Wednesday, Revkin and James Kanter followed up from Copenhagen with new research claiming "New Data Shows Warming Increased in Last Decade."
The Times doesn't note that the WMO's temperature readings go back just 160 years, to 1850, when temperatures began being recorded. That's a short snipped of geological time. Any alleged measurements that stretch earlier than that are now officially dubious, as ClimateGate revealed.
The decade of 2000 to 2009 appears to be the warmest one in the modern record, the World Meteorological Organization reported in a new analysis on Tuesday.
The announcement is likely to be viewed as a rejoinder to a renewed challenge from skeptics to the scientific evidence for global warming, as international negotiators here seek to devise a global response to climate change.
The period from 2000 through 2009 has been "warmer than the 1990s, which were warmer than the 1980s, and so on," Michel Jarraud, the secretary general of the international weather agency, said at a news conference here.
The unauthorized release last month of e-mail messages between climate scientists in Britain and the United States has provided new ammunition to global warming skeptics. Some of the messages seemed to suggest that some data be withheld from the public. Mr. Jarraud said the release of the climate analysis was moved up from year's end to coincide with the international conference on climate change.