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Sachs vs. Murdoch on Climate Change

SNA (Tokyo) — Jeffery Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute, takes media mogul Rupert Murdoch to task for climate change denial. Sachs emphasizes the scientific consensus about global warming and the profound impact it will likely have on the future of humanity.


Jeffery Sachs: Because of the rise of the greenhouse gases, we’re now at the upper end of the band of temperatures that humanity has experienced during the civilization period. Soon, we will be outside of our experience in civilization because we’ll be above 1 degrees Celsius, and even the changes that we’ve made so far when they work themselves out, we will be at somewhere around one and a half degrees Celsius warming based on the gases that we’ve already put into the atmosphere.

What’s happening is that the gases, called the greenhouse gases—the carbon dioxide, and methane, and the nitrous oxide that we have put up during the industrial period—hasn’t yet warmed the earth fully. It’s not fully balanced yet, because the oceans are still warming up like a big bathtub. They take a lot of time to catch up with the land warming. So we’re already on a path of maybe one and a half degrees Celsius. We’re very close to not being able to stay below the 2 degrees Celsius. The forecasts are that by the end of this century, on various projections of business as usual, we would be anywhere from 3 to 7 degrees Celsius warming. Of course, there’s a huge uncertainty about the future of the world economy—the future of business as usual—but almost all scientists agree that if we were to be above 3 degrees Celsius, we would be in a kind of environment that our species has never experienced.

As a biological species homo sapiens have been a species for about 200,000 years, and the temperature has never been that warm during our whole life as a species. Indeed, we’d have to go back a very long time in Earth’s history to have that kind of temperature rise, so this is the kind of scale of the challenge. This is perhaps on the scale of several decades. It’s not year-to-year, but there are several decades.

Now, there are still climate skeptics. They generally exist in places where Mr. Rupert Murdoch has newspapers—which is the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia—because Rupert Murdoch’s media is a propounder of climate deniers, especially in the United States, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.

I don’t know truly whether this is a game, a set of vested interests, or scientific illiteracy. But, it’s one of those. And it fits our politics, because in the United States we have very powerful oil, gas, and coal industries—and that’s true also in Australia. So, whether this is vested interests of advertisers and colleagues, or whether it’s simply the selection of this media owner of his editorial boards, I’m not sure. But there is this kind of climate skepticism.

I would tell you as a director of a scientific institution, one of the world’s leading centers of scientific knowledge of these issues, the Earth Institute, there is a consensus in the scientific community about the things I’m saying. Even though there is some uncertainty about timing and magnitude, the basic physics are accepted consensus science.

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