Forty years ago I went to visit an old man on Prince Edward Island who had built an ark in his back yard. He had started it after Jesus had appeared to him one night on top of an apple tree. Crazy stuff, I know, and yet the old man wove a captivating tale of his visions, his beliefs, his carpentry and craftsmanship. He didn’t know when the flood was coming. He just knew it was coming. The day the news of the irreversible melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet made headlines, the Dow Jones average closed up 112 points. So, should we believe the rising markets or the rising oceans? Have stock prices already discounted the effects of climate change? Are only climate skeptics with snorkels left on Wall Street? More likely, though, as Andrew Revkin noted, the shrugging off of climate change has to do with basic differences in our use of language and our understanding of time. The language of science does not translate well into news headlines (and appears to be completely beyond the grasp of Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma); and geologic time isn’t much use for quarterly forecasts. We don't know when the flood is coming. But the science is clear: climate change is real and it is accelerating, and the real lunacy in this story is the refusal of Congress to confront it.
One of these days I might take a ride back to Prince Edward Island and see if that ark is still there.