The Right Can't Handle the Truth, Climate Edition

| Thu Oct. 6, 2011 5:06 PM EDT

In the Wall Street Journal today, Robert Bryce offers up five "obvious truths" about climate change. His first four are mostly practical observations, and it so happens that I actually agree with most of them. We carbon taxers have lost the war for now, we are going to need more energy in the future, greenhouse gas control is a global issue, and we do need to get more efficient at generating energy. I might not like it, but these things are all mostly true.

But then there's his fifth "obvious truth":

5) The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might—repeat, might—travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein's theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth's atmosphere.

Well, there you go. The fact that a neutrino might — unconfirmed but still possibly might! — travel faster than light means that climate change models are crap. This is what passes for serious scientific thinking on the right.

The practical issues surrounding climate change are gargantuan. I myself am pessimistic that the human race will collectively decide to address them, which is why I support research into geoengineering as a possible last resort and, in the meantime, hope and pray that we figure out a way to generate lots of clean energy in the fairly near future.

But that has nothing to do with whether or not climate change is real. It is. Our current models might turn out to be off by 10% or 20% or 50% — in either direction, mind you — but they're not wrong. When you dump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, more heat is trapped and the planet warms up very quickly (on geological scales). And when the planet warms up, lots of very bad stuff happens. It's just head-in-the-sand foolish to pretend otherwise. Even after Einstein came along, you'd still kill yourself just as badly if you jumped out of an airplane. Newton wasn't very wrong, after all.