Environment

The "Central Debate" Over Global Warming Today

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJan 30, 2006 4:40 PM

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Juliet Eilperin, too, had a front page story in the Post yesterday about global warming. Alas, it wasn't as juicy as the Times piece about James Hansen (though it included a bit about him). It was mainly about the future risk of dangerous or abrupt climate change, but I found myself puzzled by the story framing introduced in the very first paragraph:

Now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to warm, the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is progressing so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to slow or reverse the trend.

Isn't Eilperin missing a step? I agree that the debate about what's happening in the atmosphere is basically over. But doesn't that mean that the next debate will be over how and to what extent global warming impacts--sea level rise, melting glaciers, etc--will be felt locally, and to what extent local changes are indicative of a global trend?

It's not that the question of when global warming will reach its "tipping point" is uninteresting--in fact, it's absolutely crucial, especially from a policy/decision standpoint. But in her framing, Eilperin ignores the growing story about present day and near-future impacts, which is where a lot of debate can be expected to occur over the coming years. In fact, that debate has already begun.

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