Are you tired, yet, of the omnipotence of greenhouse gases? You can’t swing a dead polar bear without hitting a story in a newspaper or magazine about how GHG (the street name for this uncontrolled substance) is causing natural or political calamities.
We have to sober up from the past eight months when the environment and climate change became relevant again. It is time to discard the divisive rhetoric and move to solutions.
In just the past month we have been pelted with the following stories that have been attributed to GHG:
China and the United States don’t trust each other. Kansas was devastated by a huge tornado and flooding. France elected a guy who (hold on to your shorts) is pro-Israeli and likes the United States (query whether the Bush-Sarkozy love affair means it is p.c. or not p.c. to eat French Fries again) and wants to work with us on climate change. Georgia was hit with the worst fires in the State’s history. A rare spring Nor’easter caused Manville, New Jersey, to be under ten feet of water. Then there is the story that W’s grey matter was fried from actually believing CEI’s commercials that said breathing in carbon dioxide is healthy. There are new gardening options that could bring palm trees to the coast of Maine. GHG is now being seriously discussed as a threat to our national security. And, if you think the Goracle is an alarmist, there is a guy who is saying that we are facing the end of civilization.
While not quite on the same horizon as the end of civilization, the pith helmet-wearing naturalist, known as Wildman,(not to be confused with the Wildman McKigney who wrestled bears) in part due to his foraging in Central Park for dinner, has called a Vegan Jihad on GHG. Apparently the friggin dandelions (his favorite meal) are blooming too blooming early. Oh, please. And if Wildman doesn’t scare you, what about with the image of Son of Wildman foraging for coconuts in Central Park wearing nothing but a pith helmet and a banana leaf.
There is my cynical side (no, really) that takes issue with lining up every weather event or heat wave and trying to stuff it into the four corners of the global climate change debate. Tornadoes happen in Kansas for reasons completely unrelated to the carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere. Manville is under ten feet of water because of the lack of sustainable development along the banks of an overflowing river. Fires are raging in Georgia because of arson, not just drought. People are losing their houses and lives by building (and rebuilding) on barrier islands meant to absorb the impact of coastal storms and hurricanes, not shelter million dollar houses. Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid and believe there is a relationship between the severity of the weather and man’s unregulated emission of carbon dioxide. But that is not license to overreact to every weather event.
Similarly, it is a mistake to use climate change as the basis to define political issues. China and the United States are economic rivals, and they will continue to use climate diplomacy as a way of acting out their rivalry. It is less about climate change and more about a perceived drag on the gross national product. It was the reason Kyoto was DOA in 1998, and the facts have not changed except we lost ten years. And as Dr. Stern correctly pointed out, pay me now, or pay me a lot more later.
And I didn’t even get to the new commercialism of climate change.
What is clear is that global climate change is maturing as an issue. As the IPCC continues to publish reports on the (brace yourself) consensus about the destructive force of unregulated GHG emissions, the United States is beginning to focus the debate on what can be done. It was far too easy when W was saying there was need for more study, when Fox News was acting the buffoon and when Senator Inhofe had the bit in his mouth. Now it is a bit more complicated with local, national and international nuanced agendas. It is time to put on the filter and focus on the important issues necessary to bring about the political and societal changes required to affect a sustainable way of living. We need to concentrate on publicizing the solutions, not just scaring the crap out of people.
-Mark K. Dowd
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