Climate report warrants fact-based discussion (commentary)

Climate report warrants fact-based discussion (commentary)

HOW true goes the Bob Dylan lyric, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows"?

A government-funded climate report was just published that claims that we are in big trouble: The global temperature is rising, and the results will be catastrophic.

It struck me that we, as a nation, should start a serious and fact-driven discussion. No politics, please, just the hard, cold (or hot, in this case) facts.

The largest-ever report on climate change suggests that serious issues for the U.S. are coming, predicting severe storms and rising sea levels that will threaten coastal areas and places like Florida. Upon hearing of the research, Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) declared simply that President Barack Obama "is not a meteorologist."

Hey, Rubio, we know he isn't, but your response is remarkably simpleminded, especially for a man who has illusions of running for higher office.

Obama did not write the report. It was the work of hundreds of well-respected climatologists. It was a serious study that merits serious and thoughtful debate, not thoughtlessly dismissive comments.

Weather Channel co-founder John Coleman was also dismissive of the report, calling it a "600-page litany of doom" and a "total distortion of the data and agenda-driven, destructive episode of bad science gone berserk."

Coleman, who started speaking out against the concept of global warming in 2007, said it's a politically funded hoax driven by scientists who have built their careers on it and live high on the hog on $2.6 billion of federal grants.

Jumping off the high wire without a net, Coleman has called global warming "the greatest scam in history" and blamed the environmental lobby for rising gas and food prices. He also declared the scam "a threat to our economy and our civilization."

Coleman sincerely, if insanely, believes that thousands of scientists and politicians have joined hands and are complicit in fraudulent activity based on incomplete science and are politically motivated to help achieve a world government.

Hey, Coleman, your assumption of a carefully hidden but widespread conspiracy doesn't contribute to rational discussion, either. Even if that were possible, convincing a notoriously independent Mother Nature to join the conspirators in carrying out this devious plot is not. Call Rubio and see if you can help each other to a soft landing on this issue.

When 97% of the climatologists around the world agree that we have a problem and current weather patterns back them up, it's time for a serious and rational approach.

Let's count the ways we need to consider to assay the gravity of the situation: Is America's great Southwest enduring a long-term drought that's forcing a 60-year reduction in the cattle herd size as well as a gradual migration northward? Check. Is polar ice thawing on a scale not seen in recorded times? Check. Are violent temperature swings around the world bringing record-setting heat waves to the Southern Hemisphere while arctic blasts of cold reach deeper into the American South? Check.

Just how bad is that drought, you ask? In Texas, it began in 2010 and peaked in 2011, which was the hottest, driest year ever recorded in the cattle state's history. Weather-beaten ranchers responded by quickly reducing their herds by 1 million head in two short years — a 20% reduction.

Even though there was hope last year that the rains would return and a few hardy souls were talking about rebuilding, the drought seems to be rebounding, particularly in the Texas Panhandle. This year's hoped-for spring wet season has been a no-show.

For argument's sake, let's go with the preponderance of research and say global warming has a 97% chance of being real. If you're a doubter, that leaves you with a 3% chance of being right. Does that translate into the kind of odds you're willing to accept? You are betting on the lives and livelihoods of your children and grandchildren and the future of civilization.

So, let's take politics out of the debate and just talk about the facts. Whether it's manmade or just the natural, inevitable swing of the world's climate is beside the point. Potential changes of this magnitude require a serious and well-considered response based on facts, not wishes and suppositions. Climate change is neither a conservative nor a liberal issue; it is a survival issue.

*Chuck Jolley is president of Jolley & Associates, a marketing and public relations firm that concentrates on the food industry.

Volume:86 Issue:21

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