Washington Post and New York Times on Climatic End of World
- From: "gerry" <gerrytwo@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: 29 Jan 2006 00:07:19 -0800
Two Top Papers Ask: Is the World on a Path to Doom--With an Assist from
the White House?
By E&P Staff
Published: January 28, 2006 10:00 PM ET
NEW YORK While most Americans remain preoccupied with war, terrorism,
high gas prices--or the coming Pitt-Jolie baby--an issue that may dwarf
all of those concerns receives major attention in the Sunday editions
of The New York Times and The Washington Post.
One story raises a nightmare scenario for the end of the world, at
least as we know it, while the other suggests that the Bush
administration doesn't want anyone to know about that.
Here are the opening paragraphs of the two stories.
>>From The Washington Post article by Juliet Eilperin:
Now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to warm,
the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is progressing
so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to slow or
reverse the trend.
This "tipping point" scenario has begun to consume many prominent
researchers in the United States and abroad, because the answer could
determine how drastically countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas
emissions in the coming years. While scientists remain uncertain when
such a point might occur, many say it is urgent that policymakers cut
global carbon dioxide emissions in half over the next 50 years or risk
the triggering of changes that would be irreversible.
There are three specific events that these scientists describe as
especially worrisome and potentially imminent, although the time frames
are a matter of dispute: widespread coral bleaching that could damage
the world's fisheries within three decades; dramatic sea level rise by
the end of the century that would take tens of thousands of years to
reverse; and, within 200 years, a shutdown of the ocean current that
moderates temperatures in northern Europe.
The debate has been intensifying because Earth is warming much faster
than some researchers had predicted. James E. Hansen, who directs
NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, last week confirmed that
2005 was the warmest year on record, surpassing 1998. Earth's average
temperature has risen nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 30
years, he noted, and another increase of about 4 degrees over the next
century would "imply changes that constitute practically a different
"It's not something you can adapt to," Hansen said in an interview. "We
can't let it go on another 10 years like this. We've got to do
>>From The New York Times article by Andrew C. Revkin:
The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has
tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month
calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked
to global warming.
The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's
Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that
officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to
review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site
and requests for interviews from journalists.
Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job
is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.
Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the
space agency, said there was no effort to silence Dr. Hansen. "That's
not the way we operate here at NASA," Mr. Acosta said. "We promote
openness and we speak with the facts."
He said the restrictions on Dr. Hansen applied to all National
Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel. He added that
government scientists were free to discuss scientific findings, but
that policy statements should be left to policy makers and appointed
Mr. Acosta said other reasons for requiring press officers to review
interview requests were to have an orderly flow of information out of a
sprawling agency and to avoid surprises. "This is not about any
individual or any issue like global warming," he said. "It's about
Dr. Hansen strongly disagreed with this characterization, saying such
procedures had already prevented the public from fully grasping recent
findings about climate change that point to risks ahead.
"Communicating with the public seems to be essential," he said,
"because public concern is probably the only thing capable of
overcoming the special interests that have obfuscated the topic."
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