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As a Political Issue, Global Warming is Starting to Tip

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyMarch 27, 2006 1:49 AM


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The latest Time magazine cover reads, "Be Worried. Be Very Worried." Inside, Jeffrey Kluger's cover story begins:

No one can say exactly what it looks like when a planet takes ill, but it probably looks a lot like Earth. Never mind what you've heard about global warming as a slow-motion emergency that would take decades to play out. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.

Wow. A Time magazine cover telling us to be scared, immediately, of global warming. I can't possibly exaggerate just how huge a deal this is. There's been increasing momentum behind the global warming issue in this country, and I suspect that we are now at a tipping point, both politically and in terms of its overall media salience. With massive interest in Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers, and now this urgent Time cover story, global warming is starting to really register. The reason? My theory is that the issue has now shifted into an impacts phase, where there are actual, significant changes to the real world that can be pointed to. This debate is no longer stuck up in the atmosphere any more. It has become visible, concrete. That said, however, Kruger's article (most of which I couldn't read, due to the subscription wall) takes an unfortunate turn almost immediately in discussing impacts:

Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us. It certainly looked that way last week as the atmospheric bomb that was Cyclone Larry--a Category 5 storm with wind bursts that reached 180 m.p.h.--exploded through northeastern Australia.

Come on, everybody knows we can't blame an individual storm like Larry on global warming....Global warming's effects are measured statistically, not anecdotally. Kruger walks right into a trap here, one that he really should have avoided.

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