The Intersection

The latest Time magazine cover reads, “Be Worried. Be Very Worried.” Inside, Jeffrey Kluger’s cover story begins:

No one can say exactly what it looks like when a planet takes ill, but it probably looks a lot like Earth. Never mind what you’ve heard about global warming as a slow-motion emergency that would take decades to play out. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.

Wow. A Time magazine cover telling us to be scared, immediately, of global warming. I can’t possibly exaggerate just how huge a deal this is.

There’s been increasing momentum behind the global warming issue in this country, and I suspect that we are now at a tipping point, both politically and in terms of its overall media salience. With massive interest in Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers, and now this urgent Time cover story, global warming is starting to really register. The reason?

My theory is that the issue has now shifted into an impacts phase, where there are actual, significant changes to the real world that can be pointed to. This debate is no longer stuck up in the atmosphere any more. It has become visible, concrete.

That said, however, Kruger’s article (most of which I couldn’t read, due to the subscription wall) takes an unfortunate turn almost immediately in discussing impacts:

Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.

It certainly looked that way last week as the atmospheric bomb that was Cyclone Larry–a Category 5 storm with wind bursts that reached 180 m.p.h.–exploded through northeastern Australia.

Come on, everybody knows we can’t blame an individual storm like Larry on global warming….Global warming’s effects are measured statistically, not anecdotally. Kruger walks right into a trap here, one that he really should have avoided.


  1. #1 Left_Wing_Fox
    March 26, 2006

    Very interesting.

    I picked up The Weather Makers on Friday, and have just started to get into it. There’s an interview with Tim Flannery on CBC’s Quirks and Quarks radio show right now.

  2. #2 Stefan Jones
    March 26, 2006

    [tongue firmly planted in cheek]
    This can mean only one thing:

    The cabal of evil environmentalists and grant-hungry climatologists have infiltrated the office of TIME Magazine.

    The only reputable source of news we have left is FOX New, the Cato Institute, and the Union of Petroleum Geologists.
    [/tongue firmly planted in cheek]

    Seriously, this is pretty amazing. Just today The Oregonian ran on its front page a story about the Mount Hood’s shrinking glaciers.

    On the other hand, watch for this issue get totally ignored in the upcoming election.


  3. #3 Chris Mooney
    March 26, 2006

    wouldn’t be surprised if it gets ignored in the US in ’06, but look for it to feature prominently in the election in ’08….

  4. #4 SkookumPlanet
    March 26, 2006

    Even if you’re correct, the anti-GW lobby has already established a fall-back position. Although there hasn’t been adequate time to build up the think-tank-media groundwork sufficiently.

    That is — it’s more efficient to adapt to a changed world than to try to mitigate it. The implication is, then, not to try to stop CO2 emissions at all. The reason I say this, is because in the smattering of cost/benefit analysis I’ve seen, all in mass media, there are two giant assumptive holes.

    1) Cherry-picked time periods. [How about 200 years of more of the same. Never addresses the cost of stopping CO2.]

    2) Cherry-picked consequences of GW. [Selected regional climate change — no south Asian monsoon disruption, no abrupt climate change, no accounting for ecological damage, no acknowledgment for unforseen costs, etc.]

  5. #5 Carlie
    March 26, 2006

    “Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.”

    No, and no. It would be too much to expect, I guess, to lead off with “All the climatologists turned out to be correct, after all.”

  6. #6 Lubo? Motl
    March 26, 2006

    We will see whether this is just a local fluctuation or whether the Time magazine is gonna be controlled by brainless hysterical undereducated totalitarian politicized nervous junk scientists and their left-wing friends from politics. I completely agree with everyone that this is a big deal; what the Time magazine has done is outrageous, and I consider all money that they earn by selling this issue of the magazine to be nothing else than fraud.

  7. #7 Jon Winsor
    March 26, 2006

    Time has done climate change cover stories before. We’ll have to see if the press’s attention stays focused this time. Hopefully the spate of well-researched books coming down the pike will help…

  8. #8 REB 84
    March 26, 2006

    I found a great (and disturbing) color-coded NASA global map that illustrates projected regional temperature increases from 1960-2060. What is very disturbing is that the poles are the areas of greatest temperature increase, over 10 degrees Celsius in our children’s lifetimes!

    No, it isn’t “Suddenly and unexpectedly…” its been expected and the problem is growind exponentially. Concerned citizens need to sharpen our language skill and find new ways to wake up the politicians before it is too late. Following is one example:

    The debate is over. Scientists and climatologists are in agreement. The world is heating up and polar ice is melting faster than any had anticipated. What does this mean to us and our children? We can expect more damaging storms, floods, and devastation. Look out if you live in a coastal community. Current estimates project sea levels could rise up to 20 ft by the year 2100! (see link to article in title)

    So, what do our current crop of political leaders in Washington DC do about this real threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? They fight against the real science with so-called experts who argue for more study, while sucking up to their campaign contributors. Chris Mooney has documented this accelerating assault on real science in The Republican War on Science. Meanwhile, most Democrats (with a few exceptions) remain mute on the subject. Who will stand up and fight for the future of our planet?

    We the people need to wake up and let these politicians know they can no longer afford to avoid global warming. This problem is not going away and it is only getting worse! If America is going to lead the world in the 21st century, we need to get busy right now figuring out alternative ways to power our life-styles that don’t involve melting the planet and flooding our coasts. If we don’t some other country or countries will leave us behind.

    What ever happened to the Teddy Roosevelt Republicans? Theodore Roosevelt was a true conservative. “To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days or our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.” Now those are words we should all live by.


  9. #9 mark
    March 27, 2006

    Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.

    Who would’a’ guessed the levee would be breached?

    Local news has picked up the story, and in Maryland there has been a lot of talk about the impact on Chesapeake Bay, where some islands have already been disappearing.

  10. #10 ghost dawg
    March 27, 2006

    You’re very likely right about the political tipping point, Chris — I just heard from a well-placed insider that global warming is now the hottest environmental issue in Sacramento, and that it’s practically certain some kind of climate change-focused legislation will pass this session. On the leading edge of the continent…

  11. #11 Jon Koppenhoefer
    March 28, 2006


    What are they smoking at TIME? I’ve been hearing about global warming for decades, and they have the gall to write ‘Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.’

    WTF does it take to get people to pay attention to anything they haven’t read in PEOPLE magazine or TV GUIDE?

    I suppose they might believe the earth is warming up when the grass under their feet begins to smoke and the asphalt is boiliing.

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