A Few Things Ill Considered

Elizabeth Kolbert interview

Elizabeth Kolbert, journalist and author of “Field Notes from a Catastrophe”, is interviewed by Yale Environment 360 editor Roger Cohn.

The interview was put on their site mid-last week and readers might find it quite interesting.

Kolbert discussed a wide range of issues: how the media and scientists are both responsible for the lack of public understanding on climate change; the Obama administration’s chances of passing climate-related legislation; and the prospects of geoengineering the planet to mitigate the effects of warming. On whether there is a moral or ethical dimension to this issue, she observed, “It seems to me that if there’s not a moral dimension to potentially leaving a totally impoverished planet to future generations, all future generations, I don’t know what would be.”

This last bit of the quote lends some more deserved credibility to Michael Tobis’ position regarding the ethical implications of influencing policy on this issue. It really seems to me that it is a no brainer, of course there are serious moral implications in how one chooses to act. It is really obvious, even if people like Pielke Jr and Glenn Beck prefer to laugh at the suggestion. And in moral societies with functioning systems of justice, serious ethical issues are usually legal issues as well.

On the balance, Kolbert is not very encouraging in her analysis about what our chances are of dealing with this problem effectively. A slow moving, global danger where consequences follow actions by decades is exactly the kind of problem current political systems simply don’t deal with. She lays some of the blame in the US public’s apathy about this crisis at the feet of scientists. I personally don’t think that is very fair, but there is so much blame to go around, we can certainly spare that community a part.

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