Three Obscure Novelists Use Sunday's Editorial Page to Expound on...Climate Change?

Sunday's op-ed page devoted itself almost entirely to global warming alarmism world-wide, apparently based on New York editors who first got warm, then cold: "Prompted by a New York winter that went from disturbing warmth to bone-chilling cold practically overnight, the Op-Ed page asked four writers from four different corners of the globe to report on the erratic weather they've been experiencing."

That was enough to inspire the four essays under the heading "Cloudy, With a Chance of Climate Change," though the Times also used Al Gore's Academy Award for the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" as a news hook: "It seemed a pretty sure sign that Hollywood believes that global climate change is taking place." That settles that, then.

The Times didn't even go to climatologists or even scientists for its big Sunday spread, but three novelists and a specialist in 18th-century European and British history. Novelists are best known for gripping anecdotes rather than solid scientific data, which is what their farrago of impressions of heat and cold adds up to.

The contributors were the less-than-renowned climate experts Kristin Steinsdottir in Iceland; Iain McCalman in Australia; Seth Kantner in Alaska; and Tahmima Anam in Bangladesh.

No matter where they are on the globe, whether the weather there is too hot or too cold (by their lights, anyway), they share a message of environmental apocalypse. Each essay is accompanied by a bar graph labeled "Annual Mean Temperature Anomalies" for that region, which lacks context or explanation and thus explains nothing, just a patina of science over an impressionist narrative about how these novelists and historian imagine the weather is changing.

Novelist Kantner, in Alaska, began: "The sun was finally back in late January, and I thought, when it shines again it might even be yellow. (When the sun returns to the Arctic, you stare at it like a lost love.) But the sky was still gray, the temperature was 5 below (what we call 'warm'), and the west wind was drifting snow off the sea ice. The ice was not as thick or plentiful as it should be at that time of year."

Kantner actually submitted the closet thing to a scientific analysis.

Australia's historianIain McCalman didn't address climate change until his last paragraph, and then only vaguely: "...we also suspect something larger is going on - we fear that Australia's soaring heat, vanishing water and rampant fires are connected to larger global patterns of climate change."

Kristin Steinsdottir, novelist of Iceland, fretted: "She furrowed her brow, looked over the garden and tried to answer herself: blocked roads, snowstorms and sudden snowfall in the city after many winters with hardly any snow at all...rainfall above average in the same unusual surging of rivers all over the country just before Christmas. These days she also felt more often as if the roof of her house might get blown off in passing storms. Rescue teams were constantly being sent out; air travel was interrupted more and more. People wondered. Were these interruptions the result of stepped-up safety measures? Was the roof just getting older? But what about the temperatures? Although January was cold, the last 10 years in Reykjavik were the warmest on record, at least since records have been kept."

Novelist Tahmima Anam of Bangladesh was the most extreme worrier: "You should worry that it will sink. For as the sea level rises, its waters will flow upward like fingers into a glove, turning the sweet river water into salt. The salt will destroy the crops and kill the fish and raze the forests. At the same time, the Himalayan peaks will melt, and they, too, will flow into the country. The rising sea and the melting mountains will meet on this tiny patch of the world, and the people who strain at its seams will drown with it, or be blown away to distant shores, casualties and refugees by the millions....A mere two-degree rise in the global climate will cause large tracts of the delta to disappear, and two degrees after that, the rivers will be wider than the plains, and two degrees after that, the water will have swallowed Bangladesh. Two degrees either way for this country is not two degrees: it is catastrophe itself, borne on the waves of our warming world."