The debate over climate change stirred up by the publication of Michael Crichton's new thriller, "State of Fear", continues. (See my postings of 1/11 and 1/27/05.) The Economist (subscription may be required) has chosen an interesting way to put their oar in, not by supporting or refuting the specifics of Mr. Crichton's views, but by attempting to give a sense of the arguments still raging within the scientific community over the details of climate change. After reading their commentary, anyone worried about monolithic conspiracies should come away relieved, but those of us looking for a clearer indication of what might happen and what should be done about it may well worry a bit more.
As anyone close to it will tell you, science is messy and as laden with politics as any human institution. But that by itself is insufficient cause to dismiss the consensus that has emerged concerning the potential for dangerous climate change (or global warming, or global weirding, whichever description you think comes closest to characterizing a very complex set of phenomena.)
The most serious deficiency in the entire debate--not just over Mr. Crichton's book, but on climate change in general--is a clear explanation of exactly what is truly known about climate change and what remains highly uncertain. This explanation should be understandable by reasonably-educated non-scientists and must come from someone with minimal conflicts of interest on the subject. That rules out politicians and bureaucrats, as well as most environmental groups and the media, which has preferred to focus on the most sensational and spectacular predictions. In short, where is the Carl Sagan of climate change, capable of telling this vital story simply and clearly to a wide audience?