So, there's this thing that comes up every so often in the climate debate about how incredibly wrong environmentalists are like, all the time. Well, no - they're wrong about the world ending, every time they say that it will. Which is fine, if you like making doomsday predictions - but it tends to hurt the climate change debate sometimes.
Consider for a moment that environmentalists have (as individuals, mind) made the following claims:
In the near future (less than 50 years):
We will all be poisoned to death by chemicals
We will be incinerated by ultraviolet rays from holes in the ozone layer
We will run out of food
The rainforests will be cut down
Most species will be extinct
There will not be enough top-soil left
We'll be out of fresh water
Acid rain will wipe out all the forests
The world will turn to deserts
We will run out of most minerals and fossil fuels
The climate will shift, get colder, and we'll find ourselves in a new ice age
The problem is exacerbated by the media, which is a terribly cliched thing to say in all cases except this one - because let's be honest. To most people, most Earth science is unexciting. Geological time-scales are not recipes for exciting new developments. But if there's an approaching catastrophe, that's interesting, and we all know how it goes. And the scientists get a little caught up in it (and funding becomes more readily available for the research-of-the-year) and environmentalists get caught up in it and all of a sudden, gloom and doom is coming.
You can debate some of the stuff - some of it might still happen, some of it (like the ozone thing) may have been stalled by the quick response from individuals and nations as a result of environmentalist efforts - but the over-all point remains, and is this:
To most people, the world is always in peril to environmentalists, and thus far they've been wrong.
So what does that mean to "most people" when they hear details about climate change?
Or, even worse, when they're holding the legitimate facts about climate change up against the politically-minded lies that this is more of the same hysteria and that nothing unusual is happening?
To set the record straight, here's the facts of the matter:
While global warming may have begun the same way many other environmental-doom fads have, we have discovered that climate change as a result of global warming exists and is caused by humans. We have an idea of what will happen. It will not be the end of the world, but it will be deadly to some, horrible to many, and uncomfortable for everyone else. If we begin acting now, we can prevent most of the deadly/horrible stuff and just keep with the uncomfortableness.
We know that climate change is real. It has gone through scientific tests and criticisms that no other doomsday claim from environmentalists has ever been subjected to. There is still consensus, which means that it's happening right now, and is still a danger.
Maybe the record is a little straighter, now, hopefully?
Oh, and for a demonstration of how this whole process works, read this article (via Yglesias) and try to nail down your immediate reaction. If it's negative, those environmentalists probably just hurt the cause.