What? No global warming panic? How shocking!

Bob Tippee

An eminent prophet of global-warming doom is shocked that a colleague doesn't share his anxiety.

In a May 31 radio interview, Michael Griffin, administrator of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, raised questions about urgent responses to observed warming.

"I have no doubt that a trend of global warming exists," Griffin told National Public Radio. "I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change.

"First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown. And, second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings—where and when—are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take."

So goes the maligned "skeptical" position on global warming. It's the position that regularly encounters claims that the debate is over and that if you don't "believe in global warming" and the need to do something radical about it then you're obviously wrong and don't deserve to be listened to.

Listening to Griffin on NPR, someone might get the heretical idea that warming doesn't warrant panic.

"I was shocked by his comments," responded James Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Hansen figured prominently in former US Vice-President Al Gore's horror film about warming, An Inconvenient Truth. "It was a remarkable statement. I don't know if it was planned or it just slipped out of his mouth."

In a transcript, Griffin's statement doesn't read like a slip. It reads like a thoughtful and overdue appeal to examine global warming from a perspective other than the scariest imaginable.

(Online June 1, 2007; author's e-mail:

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