Now, if you’d told me yesterday that a lot of utility executives are resistant to the idea that people are causing global warming, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But today comes news of a study about to be released that says not only do 44 percent of the power-company execs surveyed not believe people have anything to do with climate change, a full 7 percent don’t “believe” that the planet is warming at all!
That’s breathtaking. Even hard-core skeptics like Pat Michaels and Fred Singer gave up that canard years ago. (It was this very argument and its proponents’ vehemence in presenting it that convinced me not to take up coverage of the global warming story from the time I came onto the environment beat in the late 1980s until 1997. By then, the evidence had really started to pile up, and I could see that these guys had been feeding us a steaming pile.)
For example, here’s an excerpt from something Singer just wrote (second item):
Let us grant that the past decade was the ‘warmest on record.’ What exactly does this prove? Since the warming trend started well before the release of substantial amounts of greenhouse gases, the most likely cause is simply a natural recovery of the global climate from the Little Ice Age, which historical records place between around 1400 and 1800 AD.
You get the picture. Everyone knows the globe is warming. So… who are those 7 percent? Are these actually utility managers who are not keeping up on climate-change news and views? Astounding.
About this new poll of utility execs: Todd Woody’s post in in the New York Times says the engineering and consulting firm Black & Veatch surveyed 327 of them, finding that fully three-quarters believe there is a future for coal-fired power plants, which most of us know as the biggest and nastiest of the greenhouse gas producers.
The report is due out Thursday, and has some other interesting tidbits, such as the fact that water availability is becoming an increasing concern of utility managers. And what happens when the world warms? Well, in places like the American Southwest, that water will be even dearer than today. When the Black & Veatch report is out I’ll link to it. (Update: Actually, you have to pay $5.95 to see the study; the best I can do for free is a press release.)
Now, to get an idea how the utility execs could be so thoroughly in the thrall of rose-colored glasses, one need look no further than the very same New York Times website. There, Andy Revkin’s excellent Dot.Earth blog today carries an imagined future history of this period of climate-change science and politics.
Physicist and climate historian Spencer Weart writes what he thinks historians would say about this period from the vantage point of 2210. A few excerpts:
The scientific community — for it was not only the I.P.C.C. but the entire scientific community whose reliability was now called into question — was unprepared for the attacks they now faced. We can easily speculate about the personal and social characteristics that to this day make many scientists unfit for aggressive personal controversy. But it will suffice to point out that unlike, for example, any political organization or business corporation, the I.P.C.C. lacked a well-funded and expert public relations apparatus. Even the universities, notably East Anglia, showed a complete lack of understanding of the basic need to respond promptly with a coherent statement of the full factual history of their problems.
. . . (M)edia coverage represented a new low. . . (T)his was the first time the media reported that an entire community of scientists had been accused of actual dishonesty. Such claims, if directed for example at a politician on a matter of minor importance, would normally require serious investigation. But even in leading newspapers like The New York Times, critics with a long public record for animosity and exaggeration were quoted as experts.
Meanwhile, in D.C. today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, while saying it does not dispute the science of climate change, does exactly that in a filing that sets up its challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gases, Kate Sheppard writes for Mother Jones.
— Robert McClure