27 May 2006

"Clouds are hard"


Bill Gray is not a young man. But he does sound like an angry young man. One who can't abide the foolish ways of his elders peers. He is, according to the Washington Post's Joel Achenbach "the World's Most Famous Hurricane Expert" and one of the more reputable, if stubborn, climate change skeptics.

This coming Sunday's Washington Post Magazine includes almost 7,500 words on Gray and his arguments. It's not a quick read, but it's worth it. What begins with a subhead that hints at sympathy for the skeptic's case -- warning of some "serious blowblack" -- plays out very differently in the end. Achenbach covers just about every familiar argument against climate-change consensus, respectfully, and then quite neatly demolishes them.

My favorite line from the story comes from a section "in praise of uncertainty." Isaac Held, a NOAA climate modeler, has this to say about the imperfection of computer simulations: "Clouds are hard." Love that one.

More importantly, Achenbach provides context. Lots and lots of context:
LET US BE HONEST about the intellectual culture of America in general: It has become almost impossible to have an intelligent discussion about anything.

Everything is a war now. This is the age of lethal verbal combat, where even scientific issues involving measurements and molecules are somehow supernaturally polarizing. The controversy about global warming resides all too perfectly at the collision point of environmentalism and free market capitalism. It's bound to be not only politicized but twisted, mangled and beaten senseless in the process. The divisive nature of global warming isn't helped by the fact that the most powerful global-warming skeptic (at least by reputation) is President Bush, and the loudest warnings come from Al Gore.

And that, as they is say, is the real problem. Tip of the hat to Roger Pielke Jr. for finding what should be required reading this weekend and alerting us to its early web publication.

That picture at the top? An iceberg melts in Kulusuk, Greenland, near the Arctic Circle. An AP Photo that accompanies the feature.

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