Fiddling as the Planet Burns

The Observer: Sunday June 19, 2005

The great lie in the climate debate is that there is still a debate worth having. Opponents of change insist that the human factors in global warming are not proven and that we must wait until we have hard evidence before taking drastic action.

What is so destructive about this stance is that it claims equal weight and equal airtime. The 'balance' in newspaper reports, especially in the United States, is, in fact, a bias against the truth and weakens the case for immediate action against emissions of C02. And while we hum and haw, trying to persuade reluctant sceptics, the permafrost of the Arctic melts, sea levels inch up and the pH levels of oceans gradually drop because of the carbon that is absorbed from the atmosphere.


Last winter, I attended the climate change conference at the new Met Office headquarters outside Exeter. In the end of the conference, there was an open session in which scientists talked about what they had heard over the previous days. I will never forget the solemn urgency of that session. Even the scientists were shocked by how advanced various manifestations of global warming were. I was sitting next to the woman who has done pioneering work on the pH levels of the oceans. Like the others, she had seen the abyss and it showed in her face.

I wish we could all have that experience, because the conviction of the masses is the only way things will change.

Henry Porter