“Science” writer John Tierney hates kittens

I occasionally find John Tierney’s contrarian column in the Science section of the New York Times enlightening, but invariably when he writes about climate change I want to punch a hole through the wall.

His latest column has to do with supposed doomsayers calling for expensive reductions in GDP to combat climate change. The gist is that doomsayers have always been wrong, so people thinking the sky is falling (by warming us off the plane of existence) are both wrong and liable to hurt us in attempting to halt dangerous climate change.

Presented with this strawman, it is at this point that I bang my head against the wall.

My big questions to Tierney are: What is doomsday to him? Is it the loss of more than 80% of the world’s tropical forests? Would doomsday include a decline in global species diversity by more than 50%? Does Tierney’s doomsday scenario include drastically different rainfall patterns and the potential displacement of 1/6 of the world’s human population?

The bias in Tienery’s writing is anthropocentrism: it doesn’t appear to matter if other forms of life should be relegated to the waste bin of history, because humans will survive whatever doomsday scenario is attributed to those of us concerned about climate change.

I’ll be honest: I’m not actually that worried about humans surviving a drastically different environment on earth. We put a man on the moon, and we’ll survive temperatures in excess of their historic range. My concern is about the ability of future generations to enjoy the things that I so cherish about the current biosphere: tropical and temperate rain forests, millions of amazing and exotic species, spots on the earth that look nothing like any other spot on an incredibly small planet. These are a small part of my personal doomsday scenario, and Tierney apparently doesn’t think these things are worth trying to protect.

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tim

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  1. Daniel Kirk-Davidoff - May 27, 2010

    Amen.

  2. JustMe2 - May 27, 2010

    I’m not so convinced that putting a man on the moon (so what?) means our species is capable of surviving its own catastrophe. A few with alternative resources might. Many (MANY) who can’t adapt post peak oil are going to die. That’s how overgrown populations are controlled. It’s just the way it is.

  3. fyzixman - May 28, 2010

    Well, how well we adapt is going to be open to debate. The archaeological and historical record is littered with the remains of “Civilizations” that couldn’t adapt to change. The resultant population crashes were pretty dramatic along the way. In some cases it appears the people involved vanished. Are we in American next?
    As for putting a man on the moon – well that is just obeying the laws of physics and learning how to apply them. We seem to have forgotten how to do that here on the surface of the planet.

  4. Poisson Ivy - May 28, 2010

    So John Tierny is against sensationalizing climate change. I don’t blame him. I believe that we should all acknowledge our responsiblity and contribute to improving our current climate change problem. However, how can we get our critics on board when some supporters are publishing articles such as this, “

  5. Tim - May 28, 2010

    The point is Tierney doesn’t want to acknowledge responsibility nor take action to improve the problem. He has a long track record of arguing against taking action, and thinks it better to hope/wait for a technological silver bullet to fix everything. I don’t agree.
    As for the title, it’s a joke and this is a blog. I don’t know if Tierney hates kittens, I imagine probably not – that’s irony. Sometimes my titles are a bit too snarky and I will try to reel them back a bit.
    As for bringing critics on board: some of my posts are to the choir, and some are to the critics. I support general venting to your friends as well as dispassionate reasoning with your adversaries. This one falls in the venting category.

  6. Kristin Bauer - May 29, 2010

    Very well out. Why are some so …uncaring about some forms of life?
    It is amazingly myopic and misses the point entirely. The point of respect and kindness. All that stuff mother taught us.
    Mayeb that’s it, he never did learn the basics.

  7. Anonymous - May 29, 2010

    I’m replying to my own post as I see so many typos, sorry! Please be kind as I am a terrible typist!
    Very well Put”
    and “MayBe”

  8. Barbara Appelbaum - May 31, 2010

    I don’t think that the extinction of the human race should be used as the measure of the evils of climate change. Personally, I think that no matter how bad it gets, some small group of humans will undoubtedly survive. We are, however, facing a likely steep increase in human misery. Our ancestors back a million years moved on when things went bad. Now the earth is too crowded for that, and the scarcity of drinkable water, for example, results in genocidal wars because there is no other place to go.
    As it is, humanity is making some strides against global poverty and starvation, but who wants to live in a time when millions of humans are uprooted by rising ocean levels that flood coastal cities or by massive long-term droughts that make migration a necessity?
    Punishing storms are clearly already rising in frequency; flooding is becoming common in coastal towns in Alaska but there is no money to move whole towns inland. Diseases and pest species that used to be confined to tropical zones are moving northward. And we have wasted more than thirty years during which climate change could have been turned around with “only” a few billion dollars.
    Even climate change skeptics are going to feel the heat – hopefully sooner rather than later.

  9. Anonymous - June 3, 2010

    Well spoken Barbara. If the the current system is so good is how it that so many people in Sub-Sahara Africa and in the Asian sub-continent live in what the UN euphamistically calls “food insecurity?” Clean, safe drinking water is an even scarcer commodity.
    Clearly the burgeoning population and our current system, which has been in place over 100 years, is no longer a viable combination.

  10. fyzixman - June 3, 2010

    Well spoken Barbara. If the the current system is so good how is it that so many people in Sub-Sahara Africa and in the Asian sub-continent live in what the UN euphamistically calls “food insecurity?” Clean, safe drinking water is an even scarcer commodity.
    Clearly the burgeoning population and our current system, which has been in place over 100 years, is no longer a viable combination.

  11. Linda - June 18, 2010

    Climate change is on the way, no matter what we do. I hate that animals are dying, forests are being destroyed, man’s greed is terrible and so, for me, if a few million people die, that’s a good thing for the earth. Maybe then it can heal itself from all the damage we have done to it.