It has long been sage policy to ignore the crank denials around global warming. But now and then you have a weather-related disaster like the fires devouring big chunks of Southern California &

and you wonder about the extent to which the blockheads have slowed progress in dealing with the problem.




Leading climatologists may debate how much of the drought in the West and South reflects normal weather cycles and how much climate change. Few question that global warming is already here and that its acceleration will bring more of what we've been seeing &

extreme dryness in parts of the United States and more hurricanes.




Neither I, nor the deniers, nor nearly everyone else reading this is qualified to independently analyze global warming. What we do is choose whom to believe. We who worry have as our teachers nearly every leading climatologist on the planet.




While the deniers' reflections on science are not very interesting, their politics can be. In a recent column, Pat Buchanan insisted that the fuss over climate change is all a "con" to transfer "sovereignty, power and wealth to a global political elite."




To cast doubt on the scientists' warnings &

and perhaps fill space &

Buchanan lists examples in history of dire predictions that didn't come true, ignoring those that did. He also tries to equate the squishy prophecies of social science with the findings of hard science, now aided by sophisticated computer modeling.




And he has found a helpful scientist, the contrarian Dr. William Gray. A meteorologist at Colorado State University, Gray holds that human-caused global warming is "a hoax." Gray has yet to publish his theory in a peer-reviewed journal &

where fellow scientists could tear it apart &

but he gets a lot of media attention, as you can imagine.




OK.




The deniers declare it's not happening, or if it is, humans aren't involved. Or they just say these things for political expediency. It's a free country.




But when the deniers unfairly impugn the motives of respected scientists, they cross a dark line. Early on, they attacked the integrity of James Hansen, NASA's head climatologist. Hansen had hit the gong, warning that the environmental calamity will happen sooner than expected. Hansen's newfound enemies couldn't make a case that his science was bad. The best they could do was spread the lie that George Soros had paid him $720,000.




The Bush administration tried to silence him in sneaky ways. It empowered a lawyer from the petroleum industry to change Hansen's climate reports. Political appointees forbid him to talk with certain journalists.




No one could find a plausible reason why Hansen would subvert science. The reticent Iowan had no obvious lust for fame. He wasn't pushing a book. His politics were middle-of-the-road.




The global-warming issue isn't about whether or not you like Al Gore. It's not about the Kyoto Treaty, which no president was going to sign. The treaty's flaws did not change the reality that global warming is a serious problem needing international cooperation.




Bush could have suggested other approaches. Instead, he decided to blow off the countries that had signed Kyoto, including some of our dearest allies. His strategy back then was to stall on taking any action. He declared the science "not sufficiently reliable" &

as if he had ever read a word of it.




The people of Southern California can't be terribly interested right now in such pronouncements. Most know full well that their region, always subject to wildfires, is becoming more vulnerable as the planet warms.




Businesses, states and even the federal government have begun moving forward on the challenge of climate change. Too bad so much time has been wasted.




To find out more about Froma Harrop, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at .