Gerson: Climate and the Culture War

Katharine Hayhoe is a “moderate voice of climate disruption”?

Joan of Arc-wannabe Katharine Hayhoe is a cross between Al Gore and Elmer Gantry. And what would a “moderate” on climate be: you only belief half of what Al Gore says?

Former George W. Bush speechwriter and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson writes,

The attempt by Newt Gingrich to cover his tracks on climate change has been one of the shabbier little episodes of the 2012 presidential campaign. His forthcoming sequel to “A Contract with the Earth” was to feature a chapter by Katharine Hayhoe, a young professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas Tech University. Hayhoe is a scientist, an evangelical Christian and a moderate voice warning of climate disruption.

Then conservative media got wind. Rush Limbaugh dismissed Hayhoe as a “climate babe.” An Iowa voter pressed Gingrich on the topic. “That’s not going to be in the book,” he responded. “We told them to kill it.” Hayhoe learned this news just as she was passing under the bus…

Since the 1950s, global temperatures have increased about nine-tenths of a degree Celsius — the recent conclusion of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project — which coincides with a large increase in greenhouse gasses produced by humans. This explanation is most consistent with the location of warming in the atmosphere. It best accounts for changing crop zones, declining species, thinning sea ice and rising sea levels. Scientists are not certain about the pace of future warming — estimates range from 2 degrees C to 5 degrees C over the next century. But warming is already proceeding faster than many plants and animals can adapt to.

These facts do not dictate a specific political response. With Japan, Canada and Russia withdrawing from the Kyoto process, the construction of a global regulatory regime for carbon emissions seems unlikely and may have never been possible. The broader use of nuclear power, the preservation of carbon-consuming rain forests and the encouragement of new energy technologies are more promising.

But any rational approach requires some distance between science and ideology. The extraction and burning of dead plant matter is not a moral good — or the proper cause for a culture war.

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