10 Years to Catastrophe
This post isn't going to address the relative merits of the proponents vs. the skeptics. But I do want to point out that there seems to be a momentum shift away from the Global Warming Orthodoxy, and not just because Crichton published his book.
How can you tell? By the increasingly ominous rhetoric and doomsday scenarios that are being released into the media:
From the UK's Independent - A joint Australia, UK, and US report sponsored by the Center for American Progress (a liberal thinktank chaired by John Podesta, Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff), and the Australia Institute (an advocacy group which argues for communal rights over private property rights as it relates to environmental concerns), gives us ten years before the "point of no return" is reached in Global Warming - i.e., two degrees above the average temperature in the year 1750 - which the report says will be reached within the decade. The consequences, according to the report, will be dire:
These could include widespread agricultural failure, water shortages and major droughts, increased disease, sea-level rise and the death of forests - with the added possibility of abrupt catastrophic events such as "runaway" global warming, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, or the switching-off of the Gulf Stream.
Fixing a date and precise temperature trigger to the onset of environmental cataclysm is not the sign of a self-assured movement that is confident in its data and policy prescriptions. By ratcheting up the fear factor, these groups are attempting to stall the counter-momentum that is being felt as adoption of Kyoto guidelines loom and skeptics challenge the policy prescriptions; Canada is having serious second thoughts, the E.U. is threatening many of its members for dragging its feet, Japan is going squishy, and Blair is desperately trying to fashion a Kyoto-lite that doesn't include CO2 caps.
The fever pitch of the hysteria, and The Day After Tomorrow media scenarios suggest that, instead of a concerned citizenry recognizing a real threat, thinking people are looking at all the evidence and determining that reasonable environmental limits, investments in technology, and the underlying principles of economic growth are the appropriate path forward. After Global Cooling, Nuclear Winter, the Population Explosion, and Acid Rain, people hear "ten years until catastrophe" and just step on the gas.