by Crikey intern Bhakthi Puvanenthiran
It’s been two days days since the White House released the most significant government paper on climate change to date, and yet environmental opinion writers and commentators the globe over seemed to have missed it. Wait, no, Andrew Bolt had a bit of a go, but more on that later.
The report, which was put together by a really large number of White House agencies agrees with what many have argued for some time — if emissions and greenhouse gases aren’t curbed soon, temperatures, rainfall patterns and sea levels will continue changing for the worse.
“What we would want to have people take away is that climate change is happening now, and it’s actually beginning to affect our lives,” says Thomas R Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a principal author of the report.
Most of the coverage of this landmark report has, essentially, swallowed the news whole. Stories from leading news sources (New York Times, The Guardian, Time) are mainly quoting the report, giving some background but leaving it at that. Even the ABC couldn’t find another angle.
Of the little commentary that exists, most of it looks at the “strong language” or a comment made by Jane Lubchenco, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association suggesting that the report was a “game changer”. Exciting stuff!
As mentioned earlier, Andrew Bolt’s already had a bit of a dig at the report, linking to one of the scientists cited in the report who claims his work was misrepresented. Yes indeed, Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Colarado Roger Pielke Jr makes some interesting points on his blog suggesting sections of the report regarding natural disasters were a bit of an academic flop.
While Piekle’s criticisms seem legitimate, his claims focus solely on extreme events like hurricanes and certainly aren’t significant enough to throw doubt on the fundamental claims of the government report.
That aside, the lack of commentary on the report remains puzzling. One plausible explanation is that the release of the report seems to have been intentionally timed to coincide (though it’s been denied) with deliberation over the Waxman-Markey America Climate and Energy Security Bill. Grist, which carried one of the more detailed analyses concludes this:
…sources close to the process affirmed that Tuesday’s release is part of a coordinated effort to rally support for the ACES legislation. The administration is making sure that the document gets to key members of Congress. Report authors confirmed to Grist that they began holding briefings on the assessment on Capitol Hill on Monday and will continue the briefings throughout the week.
Similarly Suzanne Goldenberg writes for the Guardian:
Today’s release is part of a carefully crafted strategy by the White House to help build public support for Obama’s agenda and boost the prospects of a climate change bill now making its way through Congress.”
Perhaps, as the Wall Street Journal reckons, both pundits and politicians alike are too busy tussling over the imminent bill and the way forward with climate change to pay attention to a report that for all intents and purposes was stating the obvious.