Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Can't anyone tell it like it is?

Here's an editorial in Nature, which bills itself as an international journal but is basically British, so it's probably best understood as a view from across the pond. From any distance, really, the United States right now is looking like the Land That Time Forgot, specifically in about, oh, 1372 or thereabouts. The proximate cause of the editors' growing contempt for our once great country is the Republican's witch hunt hearings on climate science of earlier this month, occasioned by an effort to prohibit the EPA from regulating emissions of greenhouse gases:

[T]he [proposed] legislation is fundamentally anti-science, just as the rhetoric that supports it is grounded in willful ignorance. One lawmaker last week described scientists as "elitist" and "arrogant" creatures who hide behind "discredited" institutions. Another propagated the myth that in the 1970s the scientific community warned of an imminent ice age. . . It is hard to escape the conclusion that the U.S. Congress has entered the intellectual wilderness. . . .

That's all fine, but then they just have to say this:

Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican who chairs the full Energy and Commerce Committee, once endorsed climate science, but last month said . . . that he is not convinced that greenhouse-gas emissions contribute to global warming. It was yet another blow to the shrinking minority of moderate centrists in both parties.

Is there something in the water? Or is there legislation I haven't heard about, that forbids anyone to criticize the delusional far right that has taken over one of the two major parties in the U.S. without pretending that somehow the Democratic Party has become a far-left mirror reflection? What would constitute "moderate centrism" on this issue? Agreeing that greenhouse gas emissions contribute to global warming, but only half as much as scientists say they do? And by the way, who exactly are those "moderate centrists" in the Republican party in the first place? Not a single Republican Senator -- not one -- will publicly state that human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases are causing dangerous climate change.

On the other hand, there are plenty of Democrats who are global warming skeptics, or who don't want to do anything about the problem. Update: Plenty of them. Presumably they aren't "moderate centrists," so what exactly are they?

Listen up, Nature editors. When one side is right on the facts, and the other side is wrong, there isn't any "moderate center." There is only truth and falsehood. Can we please, please, for all time abandon this idiotic fetish of "balance." It's killing us.

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