Alexander Cockburn: The Left's Global Warming Denier

In his latest column for The Nation, which is the putative mouthpiece of the intellectual Left in the United States, Alexander Cockburn dispatches from his rustic digs near lovely Anderson Valley in northern California a scathing indictment of the fools and fanatics who buy into this "global warming" rubbish. Cockburn calls Al Gore "the world's best-known hysteric and self promoter," who is a "shill for the nuclear and coal barons," and a practitioner of "threat inflation" to serve the interests of the "threatosphere" (whatever that is).

Cockburn's thesis is simple: those who hype the looming crisis of climate change are cynically employing scare tactics to shake down the federal government and other donors for billions of dollars in research funds to feed selfish "bureaucracies." He denounces the "grant-guzzling climate modelers" of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, calling them "devotees of the fearmongers' catechism."

"Man-made-global-warming theory," Cockburn argues, "is fed by pseudo-quantitative predictions from climate careerists" who are "intent on self-preservation and budgetary enhancement." At one point in his screed, Cockburn compares scientists who believe in anthropogenic climate change to 19th Century phrenologists. Cockburn sounds like Senator James Inhofe spouting off in "Young Earth Weekly," but this attack leaps from the pages of a serious publication of the American Left.

Cockburn has taken the worst of the Exxon-Inhofe pooh-poohing of human-generated atmospheric change and melded it with a "Left" analysis of a vast conspiracy among government environmental agencies and private foundations. Yeah right, Alex, the thousands of specialists who study bird migrations, ice samplings, arctic habitats, and physics, are falsifying their research in peer-reviewed journals just to snatch up as many federal dollars and grants as possible.

Cockburn apparently believes the tenured professors and their graduate students from over a hundred countries trudge through harsh terrain, and work long hours gathering arcane data purely for crass monetary reward. Such tripe reminds me of the kind of crap Christopher Hitchens was writing in his final articles for The Nation.

Even if Cockburn isn't totally out to lunch on this one, and Al Gore and others are a little off in their calculations by a few years or even decades, (which is not bloody likely), what's wrong with abandoning (for now) our gas-guzzling Hummers and Expeditions and Suburbans and Escalades in favor of more efficient models? Why not reduce the tons of pollutants pumped into our atmosphere every minute? What harm will come from that choice?

Birds don't change migrations because an elaborate hoax has been played on them. Polar bears don't starve to death on isolated chunks of ice because of Al Gore's movie. This is 2007, not 1977. We do not have the luxury of fiddling while the planet burns.

The iconoclastic Cockburn, and by association The Nation magazine, have given the right-wingers like Senator Inhofe grist to say: "See, even noted Leftists dispute the existence of global warming." Cockburn is following the path of Hitchens whose gleeful cheerleading for the invasion and occupation of Iraq also enabled right-wingers to argue that "even people on the Left" supported Bush's war. In either case, it's not very helpful.