DOES LOSS OF FAITH IN GLOBAL WARMING
THREATEN THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT?
Back in college, I did some writing for a community magazine called Bucks County Life.
At one point, we planned a photo spread on the U.S. Steel Fairless Works, then a massive foundry complex that had provided the impetus for the building of Levittown, Fairless Hills, and other major housing and commercial developments in northeast suburban Philadelphia.
Being an extremely low-budget operation, Bucks County Life had no staff photographer, so we requested some images from the Fairless Works’ public relations office. When I arrived at the plant to pick them up, I was surprised to find that a tour had been arranged for me.
I got to witness an impressive array of industrial processes. But perhaps the most memorable vignette of the day — one my tour guide surely hadn’t intended — was watching gallons upon gallons of pink goop pouring from the plant into the Delaware River as we viewed the facility from a motor launch on the water.
It was during approximately the same time period (the late 1960s) that the Maumee River (which empties into Lake Erie at Toledo, Ohio) would burst into flames from the accumulation of industrial effluent. Likewise, I recall reading how laundry hung out to dry in and around Pittsburgh tended to become dirtier than before it was washed. And a few years later, I would witness snow of the same pink color as that Delaware River goop while driving past what is now the EVRAZ Steel Mill in Pueblo, Colorado.
That such systemic ecological desecration is rare these days reflects more than the decline of American manufacturing (especially the steel business). Indeed, the cleanup of U.S. industry represents, to a great degree, a triumph of the Environmental Movement.
It’s been my experience — having created promotional materials for several manufacturing firms — that industrial companies have not only accommodated themselves to environmental regulation, they’ve largely embraced the ecological ethic, taking pride in their green procedures (competition for environmental awards is often quite keen).
You probably wouldn’t know all of this if your awareness of environmental issues comes mainly from the statements of activists — Al Gore and his ilk foremost among them — or if you get your news primarily through the mainstream media. From these sources you will hear that, despite years of ecological reform and billions spent promoting alternative, “clean” energy, the earth teeters on the brink of environmental doom.
Yes, yes, one still reads the occasional story about massive Superfund cleanups, or the illegal dumping of industrial waste — Love Canal comes to mind — or, in rural areas, about the misuse of agricultural chemicals. But such incidents are newsworthy precisely because that kind of laxity (or corruption) is no longer the norm.
What is more common is the extreme application of environmental laws — designating mud holes as vital wetlands, or sandbagging major building efforts to protect the habitat of obscure species. Such hyper-zealousness has tended to undermine the credibility of environmentalists, obscuring their genuinely positive accomplishments and tarring activists and serious scientists alike as tree-huggers.
My mind runs to such ecological rumination on a day when the great midwest blizzard has passed — and after the rescue of climate researchers from their ship caught in a record-setting Antarctic ice shelf.
The theory of Global Warming has increasingly become a pop-science joke, as Al Gore and his Hollywood groupies go traipsing about the world in their private jets, leaving a carbon footprint that makes one think of China (if the Chinese have run away with our manufacturing edge, they’re paying a heavy price in health and quality of life). Whatever credibility the theory retains is sinking under the weight of the 18-inch snow I’ve measured in my Michigan backyard.
Over the past few years, proponents have taken to the dodge of talking about Climate Change rather than Global Warming. It’s less definite but still scary.
However, you can sense a decided loss of confidence (not to say panic) spreading among the climate community and its media phalanx. This was evident in recent comments by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who reacted strongly to charges by skeptics heard every winter that cold weather proves Global Warming is bunk. As reported by the Washington Examiner…
“‘Of course, no one ever said that climate change meant it wouldn’t ever be cold,’ Hayes said defensively, calling the annual tradition [of criticism] ‘willful stupidity’ of conservatives ‘who delight being on the wrong side of history.’”
My oh my, how could anybody doubt that Global Warming is real — especially when the theory is put forth by disinterested scholars willing to risk all in the pursuit of truth?…
“The right wing had a field day, pointing and laughing at the global warming believers, who just to be clear, are only a group of scientists risking their lives for no monetary gain and little glory in order to help save the planet.”
Ah, what self-sacrifice.
As if there weren’t oodles of research bucks underwriting pro-Climate Change research — like that sad, ice-bound Antarctic team — with very little money for scientists or research organizations harboring doubts.
Never one to ignore a pressing issue (or an opportunity for self-promotion), the Rev. Al Sharpton added his own blast of hot air. According to Independent Journal Review, the activist and talk show host (also on MSNBC, incidentally), said…
“These right wingers are boiling over with denial. Just because it snows in winter doesn’t mean the planet isn’t getting warmer. Remember a UN panel said there’s a 90 percent probability that humans are the primary cause of global warming.”
IJR added a footnote to Sharpton’s statement…
“Setting aside the fact that the earth stopped warming more than 15 years ago, a report from NASA earlier this year found that the greenhouse gases Al Gore and all the other global warming hoaxers have long claimed are overheating the planet are also capable of diffusing radiation back into space as well.”
I look at Global Warming through the eyes of an ignorant layman. I don’t doubt that the climate is changing. But then, the climate is always changing. I’ve read that, in colonial times, citrus was grown as far north as Virginia. If that’s true, it raises some interesting questions about what we actually face with a warmer planet, including some possible benefits.
What I seriously doubt is that people have very much to do with climatic transformation on a global scale. For my money, the definitive statement on that topic was made by the late Dixie Lee Ray, Chairwoman of the Atomic Energy Commission during the Nixon Administration and first female governor of the State of Washington.
Dr. Ray addressed a Hillsdale College conference on environmentalism back in 1991, observing that the amount of carbon released by one major volcanic eruption dwarfs the carbon generated by all the world’s industrial activity, auto emissions, and other human sources. She spoke with a certain authority, having been Washington’s governor at the time of the great Mount St. Helens eruption.
Is the world getting hot? Is the world getting cold? Either way, what’s the cause?
There’s been a lot of talk about solar surface instability (which is to say, sun spots) as well as shifts in the Earth’s magnetic poles. I’ve also heard that it can all be put down to bovine flatulence (which is to say, farting cows).
I’m more inclined to the solar/magnetic explanation, though I can’t say I have much faith in the ability of cows to be discreet.
Then too, there are a lot of people who see Global Warming as just a veiled attack on the free market — which actually makes a lot more sense than the cow thing.
Whether or not Global Warming can stand up as a valid scientific hypothesis, it is clearly losing ground in the public mind. And maybe that’s a good thing.
Maybe scientists need to take a whole different approach to understanding and explaining the Earth’s climate processes, And soon, before the public turns cold — not just toward Global Warming, but toward all of the demonstrably worthwhile accomplishments of the Environmental Movement.
“The impacts of climate change — including an increase in prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, an increase in wildfires, more severe droughts, permafrost thawing, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise — are already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies, and public health across the Nation.”
Maybe the President has spent too much time in Hawaii. It is warm there, after all, and the sea level is very high…