Appearing on CNN Wednesday evening, right-wing blogger and CNN contributor Erick Erickson insisted that humanity cannot do anything about climate change to the degree that people alive today would even notice an improvement, so we'll all just "have to get used to" it.
Instead of talking to a scientists about climate change, CNN's Erin Burnett asked Erickson to give his assessment of whether efforts to counteract climate change would be successful. His response: "What's it matter?"
"It seems to me the biggest problem that global warming advocates have is that every time the conversation comes up there's a snowstorm, and maybe if it were summer instead of the winter people would buy into it," he said. "Really the biggest problem is, what does it matter?"
His logic followed that because China and India use fossil fuels and their emissions are growing, the U.S. should not bother trying to stifle climate change through government policies that favor renewable energy technology.
"We could shut down production of everything tomorrow that causes greenhouse gases and China and India aren't," Erickson said. "And even if everyone did, the effects wouldn't take effect 'till a hundred years from now. So, it seems like it's a problem we probably have to get used to as opposed to something we can cure."
Burnett said he made an "interesting point," but added that the U.S. still emits more greenhouse gases per person than China. Then she said that Erickson is "right," although it's not clear what scientific basis he had for claiming that climate change cannot be mitigated in the short term.
Scientists say that over the next 100 years, the Earth likely faces some big, dramatic changes that many species will have to adapt to, humans included, and there will likely be great opportunities available to those who can. But that's where Erickson stops being "right," as Burnett said.
A report by the World Bank Group last year (PDF) found that most scientists believe the Earth is already headed for about 3-4°C of global average temperature warming by 2050, provided the current international agreements on carbon emissions are adhered to. By the end of the century, that change could be as high as 8-9°C.
The report made one point abundantly clear: 4°C of climate change could tip the scales of civilization decidedly against human survival. "The 4°C scenarios are devastating," it explains. "The inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems," Dr. Jim Young Kim wrote in the report's introduction.
“We will drive to extinction 20 to 50 percent of the species on the planet," NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen told Current TV host Eliot Spitzer last August. "We are pushing the system an order of magnitude faster than any natural changes of climate in the past."
Meanwhile, the World Bank report also notes that scientists are certain there are economical means of holding the worst warming to just two degrees in the short term, but because carbon energy is so cheap, lowering emissions in the short term would require the world's governments to marshal the political courage to implement a significant and growing tax on carbon-based energy sources, then dedicate the revenues to clean energy development.
Although President Barack Obama promised in his re-inauguration speech that America will do something about climate change, White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters on Wednesday that the president does not support taxing emissions. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), on the other hand, are both preparing legislation that would replace the gas tax with a carbon tax and impose fees on emissions.
This video was aired by CNN on Wednesday, January 23, 2013.