Call it anything, but don’t call it ‘global warming’

August 6, 2013

Tooling around the web recently - I never could surf - I came across a headline that would appear to warm the cockles of Sam Wilson’s heart.

Wilson, of course, is the Sussex County councilman from District 2. Earlier this year he bluntly told a Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control staffer that her presentation about sea level rise was a waste of time. (His actual language was more colorful.)

The story was about climatologist Jason Box, and his “radical ideas about upending the global-warming science establishment.”

I’m willing to have my beliefs challenged, so I clicked on the Rolling Stone article, curious to see if this scientist was going to debunk current theories about global warming.

Not quite. The article said, “As he sees it, the general public has been betrayed by the reluctance of climate researchers to speak about the dangers of climate change with sufficient urgency.” The story tells how predictions Box made about the ice melt in Greenland, once dismissed as alarmist, have come true even faster than he expected.

The story came to mind last Wednesday as people gathered on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk for an I Will Act on Climate Change press conference, one of many held around the country to highlight the issue.

“Words are a funny thing,” House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, began. “I’m about to tiptoe all around the words ‘global warming,’ because a certain percentage of our population will raise their eyebrows in disbelief as soon as they hear those words. And they’ll just quit listening because they heard about it on some political TV show that refers to it as ‘unreliable science.’”

Exactly. Such is the power of the right-wing media. A recent survey of 12,000 scientific papers that took a stand on the question of global warming showed that 97 percent of those studies agreed that human activities were causing our planet to heat up.

And yet from media reports, you’d think there was a lot of controversy on global warming. Well, there is controversy, just not among scientists.

I don’t blame Schwartzkopf for being careful with his words. Just last month, Cape Henlopen school board member Sandi Minard complained about how Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” - a 2006 documentary about global warming - was shown to district students, because of its supposed lack of scientific credibility.

I could understand objecting to the movie because Gore is boring and might put students to sleep, but the movie gets pretty good marks for its scientific explanations.

What’s hard to understand is objecting to students watching a movie that 97 percent of the scientific community basically agrees with.

Does there have to be 100 percent agreement before we say it’s not “bad science?” If so, there’s precious little science - or any subject - we can teach.

Instead, Schwartzkopf talked about sea level rise and his personal experience, beginning 40 years ago as a lifeguard at Bethany Beach and continuing through his work with the state police, where he helped deal with weather-related emergencies.

“We all know things are changing,” Schwartzkopf, “ that something is going on with our shoreline and with our weather.”

“The storms are more severe now, more frequent and creating much more damage,” he said.

It was just a press conference, and no press conference, by itself, ever changed much of anything.

But it’s still another small step forward dealing with an issue that is of paramount importance to our area.

Next month we’ll see a bigger step: the official release of recommendations by the state Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee.

It’s already available online.

Zimmerman shooting: Stand Your Ground law revisited

Some writers have made much of the fact that George Zimmerman’s lawyers argued self-defense in the Trayvon Martin shooting; therefore Florida’s Stand Your Ground law had no impact on the outcome.

You can decide for yourself if the Stand Your Ground law played a role in Zimmerman’s acquittal. The following are from the actual instructions given to the Florida jury (italics mine):

“If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

“In considering the issue of self-defense, you may take into account the relative physical abilities and capacities of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.

“If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt on the question of whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you should find George Zimmerman not guilty.”

Given the instructions, it’s not so surprising Zimmerman walked out of court a free man.

  • A number of accomplished writers will be appearing in the Politics column every Tuesday on a rotating basis to explore the dynamic world of politics at the local, county, state, national and world levels.

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