Wednesday, June 14, 2006 | Earth warming is a hot subject today. Even the president looks as if he’s aware of it, although it’s hard to tell with him. Otherwise his opponent of six years ago, the fellow his dad called “Ozone Man,” has produced a movie that’s stirring things up.
I caught Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” last Friday, and if that movie doesn’t frighten you, you are not paying attention. Of course not paying attention is what so many of us do, today, and the politicians are paying attention to that! When it comes due, the cost of this indifference will make the national debt look as insignificant as an error on a luncheon tab.
For our leaders, the truth can be awfully inconvenient if it runs counter to politics or to the profits of those who donate heavily to politicians. George Bush’s biggest support comes from institutions which would suffer a huge monetary setback if truly effective measures were taken to halt earth warming. Let’s face it, no whiz-bang economist can cram as much profit into a fuel-efficient hybrid car as can be crammed into a hummer. As for us, we are placated by the assurances that we can drive our SUVs everywhere, and even aspire to moving up to one of those hummers if we get enough tax breaks.
And for God’s sake, don’t ask us to walk somewhere or take public transportation!
Our torpor serves us ill and our leaders take advantage of it with just a token nod towards the problem. In early 2003 the president finally commissioned a study to determine the effect of earth warming, sort of. His staff simply deleted the parts the president didn’t like. In fact one of his “science advisors” not only deleted a paragraph, but substituted his own.
Thousands of members of the National Academy of Science and other prestigious science organizations took him to task for it. Not that it mattered much. Earth warming just isn’t hot news. I’m always told “scientists don’t know everything.” I suppose that’s compared to the preachers who tell us the earth will come to an end if we don’t repent.
Unfortunately that business about the earth coming to an end as we know it isn’t far off the mark, but it won’t be caused by our sins. It’s happening and it’s because of what we are deliberately doing to this planet. Every bit of verifiable data indicates the earth cannot continue to function as it has for the last ten millennia.
But Al Gore? He is an alarmist, say his naysayers, and guess who the naysayers are? Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is funded in part by Exxon-Mobil, dismisses Gore as a hypocrite. Also Exxon-Mobil-funded pundit, Sterling Burnett, compared watching his movie to listening to Joseph Goebbels to learn about Nazi Germany. And of course we have Rush Limbaugh and his local echoes, Hedgecock and Larson, sneering at his movie. When you consider the source of such complaints, it sure looks as if Al is on to something.
ABC commentator John Stossel once told us that even the scientists admit that the temperature is changing a mere few degrees at a time. He added the temperature changes that much while we’re waiting for a light to change.
But the Union of Concerned Scientists website tells us: “…In the last 10,000 years, the Earth’s average temperature hasn’t varied by more than 1.8 degrees. Temperatures only 5-9 degrees cooler than those today prevailed at the end of the last Ice Age, in which the Northeast United States was covered by more than 3,000 feet of ice. If it hadn’t thawed out I wouldn’t have met my wife who hails from Eastbrook, Maine.
But the world is heating not cooling. What can that hurt?
Plenty. Ice melts and there’s a lot of ice at the polar regions. As it melts and flows into the oceans we will see a dramatic rise in sea level. What might that mean to a city sitting on San Diego Bay? There is a lot more to earth warming than a good sun tan in March.
But, if the president and congress refuse to take action, what on earth can we do about it? Only a couple million people live in our county, six and a half billion outside. But some 475 cities, towns, and counties have banded together in a group called “Cities for Climate Protection.” Would that help? Some, but not enough. We will need strong, committed leadership at the top. Probably our best bet is that the examples set by grass roots outfits like this will move the national leaders to take effective action.
I have long been involved with the San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry (SDARI), a group dedicated to using science as the best method of determining what’s what in this country. We have an ally in the city government. Linda Ginnalli Pratt, head of San Diego’s Environmental Services Department, planted the idea in my head of how a rise in sea level would be a disaster to the city on San Diego Bay.
She will be our guest speaker on June 25 at the Joyce Beers Center in Hillcrest. We meet at 7 p.m. Details are available on www.sdari.org.