When Financiers Freelance as Climate Experts

By Keith Kloor | December 19, 2012 8:44 am

In case you hadn’t heard, the state of the planet is not good.  At a big gathering earlier in the year, an assortment of esteemed, professional worriers reaffirmed this diagnosis and warned:

Without urgent action, we could face threats to water, food, biodiversity and other critical resources.

I don’t take these concerns lightly. Global changes of a massive scale suggest some very worrisome trends, which have led to some very bleak projections. So it behooves us to pay attention to the state of the planet. (It is also reasonable to hash out the metrics used for these projections.) I’m no panglossian, notwithstanding my distaste for breathless catastrophizing. I think we should pay close attention to how the earth is being altered by 7 billion people and what those alterations may portend.

What bothers me most about this debate is how it swings between two opposite poles. I suppose it happens this way because voices are loudest at these ends and the tug-of-war conflict makes for a convenient narrative.

Thus, on one side, we have Team Doomsday that poses this blunt question at staid science conferences:

sn-document.jpg
Credit: Eli Kintisch/Science

On the other side, we have Team Nothing-to-Worry About, whose members breezily dismiss concerns about global warming. One of the high-profile leaders of this pack is UK science writer Matt Ridley, who, in his latest Wall Street Journal op-ed, turns to a semi-retired financier for expert advice on one of the most vexing, complex issues related to climate change.

Perhaps Ridley was taking his cue from the journal Nature Climate Change, which recently featured another financier, who lectured on the problems of peak fertilizer and meek climate scientists.

Yes, there’s something to be said about a public discourse shaped by two teams at opposite poles on the climate spectrum, each with their own freelancing financiers.

  • Skeptic

    More Alarmist Drivel .The biosphere is responding extremely well to the enhanced CO2 in the atmosphere with an overall increase in biomass of 7% in the last 5 years alone worldwide. Warming of the planet is far more beneficial than cooling and all the latest peer-reviewed papers and results from actual studies such as ERBE show that the disaster scenarios assumed by a climate sensitivity of 4 degrees are way way off the mark. The models predicted much more warming yet the earth’s temperature has flatlined for the last 17 years. The sky isn’t falling.

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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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