Monday, May 15, 2006

No Need For Panic

Seriously, there isn't. But what does that mean, exactly?

After getting to see Al Gore's Saturday Night Live performance, it got me to dive deeper into what he's been up to all this time (because, honestly, I haven't paid that much attention). Yeah, I heard about the movie he's promoting, "An Inconvenient Truth," but it was little more than a passing interest for me. Everyone knows about global warming and how bad it can really get. When the planet itself and most living organisms are mostly composed of water, you shouldn't be surprised that it would nearly engulf what little land does remain dry at this point.

America doesn't really worry about global warming because we are the fourth biggest nation in the world - or so it was in my children's encyclopedia growing up, so I guess the breakup of the USSR changes things, but whether or not it does is beside the point. But I watched the millennium celebrations on television, and the first place in the world to experience 2000 - Kiribati - is a small island in the Pacific, and according to the late Peter Jennings and the ABC News crew, it would be swallowed up by the oceans because of rising temperatures and the melting of the ice caps.

Let's be honest: no one really connected climate change to hurricanes until Katrina. The destruction of both Apollo 1 and Columbia was a failure of imagination. Yeah, I'm sure it's possible that terrorists ram a few airplanes into innocent people - I watched Ben Hur - but no one ever prepared for it. No one sees a disaster happening until it happens, actually.

So whether or not you believe the three or four ultra-conservative, reactionary bloggers and the oil companies that pay them, and insist that global warming did not drown New Orleans with a Cat 4 hurricane, is not important. Half of those bloggers acknowledge global warming exists in the first place anyways, and everyone who acknowledges it exists says that sea levels will rise because of it, a gradual concern that is seperate from the immediacy of crises like big freaking storms.

Al Gore's nightmare scenario is the oceans rising by twenty feet, should entire pieces of the Arctic disappear from the map. Let's say it was only a quarter of that within our generation. Not entirely out of the question, if we're just going to peel away the outer layer of the ice caps. I'm not even going to give you an example. Go to the beach this summer, stand right at the point where your feet just gets wet. Then extend your arms out at shoulder length. Then eyeball the distance where the elevation reaches the level of your arms. That's where the new shore will be. Chances are a big piece of the beach will be gone by the time your children come back there for spring break. That's a lot of water.

And if you live on the beach, like that house in Road to Perdition where Tom Hanks finally goes to die, may God help you.

Everyone is arguing like the point of contention in global warming is now going to be the hurricanes. It's not. I can say this because I didn't see that movie. I'm not sure I ever liked Dennis Quaid.

Gradual climate change within a generation is not as thrilling as sudden, unannounced-as-if-the-government-didn't-have-a-clue-about-them natural disasters, but it is as important to worry about, if not more.

And if that's the case, there is still no need for panic. Doomsday scenarios are not on the horizon just yet (though you can probably hear it in the distance).

But that doesn't mean everything is five-by-five. The conservative defense has been, on the rare blog or article that does defend against the notion of global warming's effects, the following:
Climate change has been exaggerated: the truth has been stretched so that Hollywood can sell movies. Even if it is exaggerated, you have to submit that the term "exaggeration" implies an origin of a fundamental truth that has to be reckoned with. Even a small fraction of the worst case is that much worse than your current way of life right now. If we, as Americans, are determined to protect our lifestyle, we must still be interested in protecting our lifestyle against global warming.

Climate change is a product of very long stretches of time and not of human nature: surely if you believe in evolution, and we conservatives do not, then the world is billions of years old and humans have only been around a fraction of that time, so there's no way we could've done that much damage in so short a time frame. Even if that were true, go to Arizona and drive a car. Eventually, a small pebble will be kicked up in the road and hit your windshield, causing it to crack. It will break in time. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not even soon. But it will. Most drivers who can afford it (I've seen taxi drivers put up with the nuisance) will go to the shop and have it fixed like yesterday, because putting it off will lead to a much larger bill once your windshield does shatter into a hundred blunt fragments. For a state that's red, you have to admit that that's quite the liberal behavior. You know, not compounding the error for future generations.

Climate change has not been proven or has not been proven to be bad: like tobacco, its effects either don't exist or may actually be good for you; it just hasn't been proven so there's no need to be alarmist about it. Let's put aside that it is interesting that the faith and beliefs end of the political spectrum in America has decided to be inconsistent about their faith and beliefs about global warming, demanding hard evidence beyond rational scientific thought instead. I will say this: except on television and in movies, where the stuntmen are trained to do stupid things, I've never seen a person hit by a moving vehicle. That does not mean I want to see proof that it could be really bad. I'm convinced already. Even in a situation where common sense could fail, such as the controversy over global warming, I'm convinced already that there's ice at the poles, and we shouldn't actually be rooting for them to melt. If anything, we should at least not be doing nothing to prevent whatever threatens them.
To me, it seems that any defense of the conservative position on the environment is a vote for the status quo. Nothing is wrong now, and no matter what happens in the future, we should do nothing until it, in fact, happens. If you don't believe that, then you can only look at the people in power now and blame their lack of foresight for the crises that could have turned out differently under their watch.

No, on global warming, panic is not necessary just yet. But that does not mean we ought to pat ourselves on the back and call it a day. We can all agree, that whatever the level of concern is, from tone-deaf muted to "It's the End of the World As We Know It" bellowing, in order to protect ourselves from it we ought to work to turn it back now.

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