When the New York Times writes an opinion piece on climate change and the challenge it poses our political and economic system, as Andrew Revkin and other thinkers at that paper do on a routine basis, the world yawns. When the editorial board at the Washington Post declares that every candidate for political office should be asked if he or she disagrees with the scientific consensus on climate change, and if so, on what basis, few notice. Even when the august National Geographic gives an extraordinary lead column to the leading advocate for action on climate change, Bill McKibben, the nation shrugs.
But when the centrist USA Today declares that climate change deniers, which today includes almost the entirety of the Republican party, are like birthers, well, that makes news.
Late last week, the nation's pre-eminent scientific advisory group, the National Research Council arm of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report called "America's Climate Choices." As scientific reports go, its key findings were straightforward and unequivocal: "Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment." Among those risks in the USA: more intense and frequent heat waves, threats to coastal communities from rising sea levels, and greater drying of the arid Southwest.
Coincidentally, USA TODAY's Dan Vergano reported Monday, a statistics journal retracted a federally funded study that had become a touchstone among climate-change deniers. The retraction followed complaints of plagiarism and use of unreliable sources, such as Wikipedia.
Taken together, these developments ought to leave the deniers in the same position as the "birthers," who continue to challenge President Obama's American citizenship — a vocal minority that refuses to accept overwhelming evidence.
It's a good argument. Maybe it will get traction.
Clearly, the facts aren't enough -- six years ago on its front page the paper said "the debate was over" -- the globe was warming.