IHS Chemical Week


Grasping at Documents

1:03 PM MDT | May 13, 2009 | By VINCENT VALK

Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) called a White House Office of Management and Budget (O.M.B.) document critical of the EPA's recent findings on greenhouse gases a "smoking gun." But it doesn't really rise to that level.

OMB Director Peter Orszag referred to the document as "a collection of disparate comments from various agencies" that was simply passed along to EPA for consideration. In other words, it was a rather small part of the process that went into the EPA's finding. Maybe Orszag is stretching the truth a bit – but I'm inclined to believe him.

Senator Barrasso's "smoking gun" seems to be the latest in a long line of scant bits of contrary evidence that climate change deniers cling to like capsized sailors on bits of driftwood. Has there been a cold snap in your city? Climate change is a hoax! A prominent scientist expresses some doubts on the issue? We've clearly got nothing to worry about!

Look, there's no escaping this fact: scientific consensus says that climate change is happening, and it's bad. How bad? We really don't know (and, it's worth noting, though the globe will warm on average, some specific places may experience colder weather) and it's very difficult to predict accurately. I probably would not bet on Inconvenient Truth-level disaster, but even less-dire outcomes appear unpleasant. Furthermore, even if there's a 1-in-1,000 chance of a near-apocalypse, it seems worth it invest now to avoid that possibility. You insure your car, and, if you own it, your home, don't you? Maybe we should start looking at climate change regulation as insurance on society, which, even if it may not be necessary, is a precaution worth taking.

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