Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Global Warming Just a Bunch of Hot Air?

Is the earth warming due to manmade emissions? Or is this all just a bunch of hot air? A fire has been lit under just that question thanks to the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) recent disclosure that greenhouse gases, blamed for global warming, have reached their highest ever levels in the atmosphere.

"Global observations coordinated by WMO show that levels of carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, continue to increase steadily and show no signs of leveling off," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

But others are not convinced. And by “others” I mean George W. Bush and his dwindling cadre of disciples. Last year the U.N. began the Kyoto Protocol which obliges major industrial nations to cut emissions while granting exemptions to developing countries like China and India. In 2001 Bush withdrew the U.S. from the protocol, arguing that warming is a natural, not man-made process.

The White House’s stance on global warming is nothing new and the tone has persisted throughout the presidency. Just as the administration fabricated evidence of WMDs in Iraq, in 2002 it edited findings on global warming. An official removed or adjusted descriptions of scientific research linking global warming to the rise in greenhouse gasses in what the White House called a routine process.

One thing Republicans, Democrats, scientists, and the U.N. all seem to agree on is that the globe is warming up. Indeed, carbon dioxide and methane levels are on the rise, causing what I have coined a “greenhouse-like effect” in-which those gases trap energy from the sun. Yes, like much in life, the sun too seems to have a forked tongue. Oh Mr. Sun, you bring light and warmth. You conjure up Slip-n-Slides and pool parties. But you also deliver skin cancer and if too much of your energy gets trapped in the atmosphere we shall surely die. I think, right? Or, maybe just severe flooding if you live in coastal areas.

How should I know? Like the notable documentary rhetorically asks: what the bleep do we know? I can hardly figure out how to get my car registered much less contemplate a world where the polar caps melt and the oceans rise up and claim everything they can. And, honestly, this is probably what oil tycoons and giant SUV making barons are counting on.

But as such, I think I will join the ranks of the scientists who tell me it is my fault for increased gas levels in the air. Great. I can officially add this to my list of things to worry about--terrorism, nukes, the trade deficit, rising education costs, social security, Medicare, bird flu, and rogue asteroids. Great.

In such complicated and chaotic times it pays to ask: What Would Dubya Do? He is fortunate to live in a world where alarming warming levels are a natural process and therefore inevitable. That kind of takes the sting and responsibility out of things. He lives in a world where the risk of terrorist attack can be thwarted by attacks against terrorism. When this doctrine produces even more terrorism the evidence is shrugged off. In his world when asked for three mistakes made during his presidency he can’t even think of one. Yes, I envy that mindset.

This Sunday I listened to Arkansas Gov. Mike Hukabee talk about why he admired President Bush. And, of course, he credited the president for being decisive and for making hard decisions. And I wondered: when did making hard decisions become more important than making the right ones? You can make a hard decision and still be wrong, and isn’t that what really matters?

Anyway, you can’t bemoan the lack of scientists and engineers being produced in this country while also ignoring the work they’re producing now—results like today’s report on global warming. Why would anyone want to be a scientist anyway? You too can spend 20 years in school and get a PhD and have the White House edit your findings to sound more like the company line.

What’s the difference anyway? I suppose those who don’t care about scientific evidence plan on being dead before any of it comes to fruition. Unless they lived in New Orleans.

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