. "21. The First Rough Draft of History: How the Press Reports on Global Warming." Managing Water Resources in the West Under Conditions of Climate Uncertainty: A Proceedings. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1991.
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Managing Water Resources in the West Under Conditions of Climate Uncertainty: Proceedings of a Colloquium November 14–16, 1990 Scottsdale, Arizona
saying they didn't have enough evidence to link smoking and cancer—ultimately it didn't make a lot of difference.
I think the implications of global warming are so horrendous that there is little dwelling on the pure science anymore. The mind immediately leaps to—what my mind leaps to—is, what about me? I think about where I'm going to live, and who's to blame, and what we can do, how much we must do, and what it will cost.
Your role as scientists in this debate is one of information. If you should, as Schneider has done, become a political scientist, then recognize that you're leaving the ivory tower and entering into the arena with the lions. And the history of scientists who have done that—the Einsteins, the Oppenheimers of World War II, the Craigheads of Yellowstone—is that they lost some skin in the process, despite the exoneration of history. The mass media in the real world—and this may be something that you don't agree with at all—is this great peer-review forum. It's the broad view, with experts, politicians, industrialists, minorities, and ordinary Joes all contributing to this great pile of information and opinion. And through the media we kind of lurch toward a consensus position that serves democracy best. Aldo Leopold had faith in this, and he could have been talking about global warming when he wrote: "[A] sufficiently enlightened society, by changing its wants and tolerances, can change the economic factors bearing on the land."
My plea to you is to join the chorus. Become part of the first rough draft of history. We depend on you to referee and validate what's going on. I wouldn't want to live in a world that is run by scientists, but I wouldn't want to live in one without them either. Don't pass up opportunities to speak to the press. There are ways to communicate that are better than others. One of the things that we use in our business all the time is to write as if, or talk as if you're speaking to your neighbor across the back fence. Metaphors help. I think Mr. Dickinson's metaphor of the "house warming" was beautifully done.
This, as I repeat, is a hell of a story, and thanks to you we know about it. Thanks to you and the much maligned press, we won't wake up one morning with Lake Powell dry or with the Atlantic Ocean running up Fifth Avenue.