The political consensus surrounding climate policy is collapsing. If you are not aware of this fact you will be very soon. The collapse is not due to the cold winter in places you may live or see on the news. It is not due to years without an increase in global temperature. It is not due to the overturning of the scientific consensus on the role of human activity in the global climate system.
It is due to the fact that policy makers and their political advisors (some trained as scientists) can no longer avoid the reality that targets for stabilization such as 450 ppm (or even less realistic targets) are simply not achievable with the approach to climate change that has been at the focus of policy for over a decade. Policies that are obviously fictional and fantasy are frequently subject to a rapid collapse.
The current shrillness that has been put on display by many politically-active climate scientists and the feeding-frenzy among their skeptical political opposition can be explained as a result of this looming collapse, though many will confuse the shrillness and feeding-frenzy as a cause of the collapse. . .
Climate politics is collapsing because of political realities, and not real or perceived changes in how people see the science. As I have often argued, in the ongoing battle between climate scientists and skeptics there will be disproportionate carnage, because the climate scientists have so much more to lose, and not just as individuals, but also for the broader field, which includes many people simply on the sidelines.
The collapse of the political consensus surrounding climate could well be an opportunity to recast decarbonization of the global economy and adaptation to climate impacts in a manner that is much more consistent with progress toward policy goals. If climate science can be saved from itself, that would be a bonus. However, for climate science I fully expect things to get worse before they get better, simply because the most vocal, politically active climate scientists have shown no skill at operating in the political arena. The skeptics could not wish for a more convenient set of opponents.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Rojer Pielke, Jr. in Prometheus, February 7th: