Quote of the Day: Elizabeth Kolbert on Climate-Change Skeptics


Eventually I came to think there are three major reasons [for climate-change skepticism].

One is catastrophe overload. The end of the world has been going to come several times, and we're all still here. So it's: 'Wake me up when the real end of the world is coming.'

Then there's: 'If this were really as bad as you say, I would feel it by now. There'd be water lapping at my first-floor windows.' The problem is that the climate operates on a very long time lag, so if you wait until there's water lapping at your first-floor windows, you can be sure there's going to be water lapping at your second-floor windows. I don't think the message has gotten out: changes 30 or 40 years from now are already inevitable. There is warming in the pipeline already.And then there is this question of what to do. People don't like to confront problems they don't have a clear answer to. And the answers here—to the extent there are answers—are very, very complicated. They're very hard. We know what causes people to be overweight, and we can't even stop that! And with global warming it's not as simple as 'eat less, lose weight.' It's 'do a million things.' As the mayor of Burlington, Vt., said to me, there's not one thing we have to do; there are hundreds and hundreds of things we have to do. And we have to do them on a global scale.

So that's pretty daunting to people. It's very much easier to pretend the problem doesn't exist."

—Elizabeth Kolbert in a 2006 interview with Grist