Their language is downright evangelical. Recently, science guy Bill Nye joined other experts who objected to the media’s use of the term “climate skeptic.” They released a statement that concluded, “Please stop using the word ‘skeptic’ to describe deniers.” Deniers? Like Judas?

Why, they even hear voices from science. “Science has spoken,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently proclaimed. Some men think God talks to them; others hear Science.

On Monday, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said he plans on introducing a measure to require that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System sell off any coal-related investments. In recent years, demands for disinvestment have visited universities. In May, Stanford voted to forgo investments in coal mining. Student groups have been pushing for Harvard and the University of California to dump fossil-fuel assets as well. It’s a good sign that those efforts have not prevailed at either institution. It’s a bad sign that de León has found a new soft target — CalPERS.

The problem, Harvard Professor Robert N. Stavins wrote for the Wall Street Journal, is: “Symbolic actions often substitute for truly effective actions by allowing us to fool ourselves into thinking we are doing something meaningful about a problem when we are not.” Disinvestment also does nothing to reduce energy use.

Then there are the conferences — Kyoto, Copenhagen, Rio de Janeiro. The venues for Earth summits would make for a great episode of “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” The scions of science ought to get acquainted with Skype. If the future of the planet is at stake, shouldn’t the champions of science at least look as if they’re trying to curb their emissions?

Debra J. Saunders is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. E-mail:[email protected] Twitter: @DebraJSaunders

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