This has not been a great week for people seeking solutions to global warming. On the other hand, for those who believe global warming is a hoax, there’s a lot to celebrate.
This week, the U.S. Senate jettisoned its effort to reduce greenhouse gases through a “cap and trade” policy (cap carbon emissions by individual businesses, but allow them to trade emissions credits to gain the right to exceed the cap). Reactions were swift. “Cap and trade, if implemented, would have been simply one more crippling blow to what little remains of American industry,” wrote the New American. The far right website goes on to postulate that “cap and trade was intended to coerce an entire economy to submit to an artificial scarcity in government permission to ‘pollute’.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists called Senate inaction on cap and trade “dangerous” and argued that:
“the best way to ensure that we dramatically reduce emissions is by putting a declining limit on them…. A comprehensive climate and energy package can reduce oil consumption, create new jobs and help us avoid the worst consequences of climate change and, by significantly reducing conventional pollutants, save lives.”
“We’re gonna be sorry,” headlined the Sunday’s New York Times column by Thomas Friedman. “But the truth is,” he wrote, “the public, confused and stressed by the last two years, never got mobilized to press for this legislation. We will regret it.”
Friedman has a point. People who understand the exigencies of “cap and trade” are few and far between. Those who get the threat of big government are common. Global warming and its solutions are hard sells.
There is no real sense of urgency about global warming. It took a fictional disaster of world-wide proportions to get the public’s attention in the movie, “Day After Tomorrow.” But no one realistically expects that kind of precipitous change in our climate. The slow pace of global warming leaves it open to questions – is it real? is it temporary? is it just part of the planet’s normal cycles?
The most memorable line about global warming belongs to Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) who called it “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” That was in 2006 – before much of the climate science had matured. But the statement has seared its way into the American psyche.
Even the recent NOAA announcement that 2010 has thus far been the warmest year on record has been countered with a range of statistical and political alternatives. Some anti-global warming sources undermine scientific announcements with conspiracy theories. The New American report continually references the debunked Climategate email scandal as proof that global warming is a conspiracy by the scientific community. Meanwhile, the very real collusion of the world’s greatest polluters – including the big energy companies – is largely ignored.
I don’t believe that the world is about to turn into a molten ball of lava, but I have little patience with those who feel the scientific community is trying to create some sort of new world order based on the excuse of fighting climate change.
It’s difficult to get people excited about the slow-moving danger that warming presents. But if we wait until the problem has reached a point of real urgency, we may just be too late.
If I’m going to err, I want it to be on the side of my grandchildren. That means pulling together some sort of action to combat global warming, decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, and maintain our quality of life.