Several years ago, I offered the following hypothesis to a reporter:
I would argue that the current obsession with small changes to trace levels of CO2 in the atmosphere has in fact gutted the environmental movement. Nothing else is getting done. ... My prediction– 10-20 years from now, environmentalists are going to look back on the current global warming hysteria as the worst thing ever to happened to the environmental movement.
Here is an example of that effect. A study comes out that says the following about the health of the Great Lakes:
The Commission is troubled by nearshore eutrophication, aquatic plant growth caused by excessive nutrients, which causes adverse effects on ecosystems, the economy, recreation, and human health. The reemergence of algal blooms is likely due to multiple factors, including inadequate municipal wastewater and residential septic systems; runoff from increased impervious surface areas and agricultural row-crop areas; discharges from tile drainage which result in more dissolved reactive phosphorus loading; industrial livestock operations; ecosystem changes from invasive mussel species; and impacts from climate change which include warmer water and more frequent and intense precipitation and stormwater events.
Of these listed potential causes, only the last, climate change, is not addressed at all in the main study document, nor is addressing climate change on their list of recommendations, which in fact emphasize that solutions tend to be local. In fact the tone of the study is that the causes are complex and poorly understood, but never again beyond this sentence is climate change mentioned or any evidence of increased precipitation or runoff presented.
One is left with the impression it was a toss-in on the list, included because climate change is "hot" and sexy and a magnet for funding and attention. Certainly the report provides no other evidence or detail as to why it is included in the list. Certainly any intelligent reader would understand that the climate change item was, at best, included to round out the possibilities of a complex and poorly understood problem, but that the study points to many of the other items on the list as more productive places to seek solutions.
So, given this, what do environmental reporters pick up? Here is the headline environmental reporter Cameron Scott uses on his SFGate blog "the Thin Green Line":
Climate change threatens Great Lakes
Yep, he latched on to the last, least important item that is completely un-adressed by the main report. By doing so, he is in effect helping to distract attention from the real causes that can be addressed and diverting attention to issues that are tangential at best. The solution will likely involve better managing agricultural runoffs and dealing with municipal wastewater plants which are under-treating discharges.
This is why I say that the global warming hysteria will be looked back on as a dead time for the environmental movement, when obsession with trace amounts of CO2 either caused folks to lose attention on important issues, or even caused environmentalists to advocate for ecologically detrimental programs (e.g. biofuels).