Eastern Washington we�re emerging from an old fashioned winter like we haven�t
seen in years. Repeated blasts of arctic air huffed and puffed the local
Letters-To-The-Editor page full of requests for Al Gore to send us some of that
global warming. Editors frosted the confusion with titles such as �G-g-g-g-Global Warming?� and, �Hey! Where�s The Heat?� Embarrassing
harangues of people flaunting their ignorance marked every cold snap, ignorance
of the difference between weather, and climate. And while temperatures sank
around here like they�re supposed to, like they used to, the Northern
Hemisphere just recorded its warmest winter on record.
increased atmospheric carbon dioxide so much so fast, like tossing a blanket on
the globe, trapping more and more infrared radiation from flowing back into
space. Fundamental science of this dynamic is very simple: extra blanket =
warming. Weather is very simple: look outside. But Climate Change is a more
accurate term for our dilemma, and climate is very complex. Weather is outside
your window; climate covers the globe.
all know what it�s like outside, just like most of us can spot a scientist. You
know, they�re usually people with no idea what�s in style, tending to look
around a lot, seeming to see a lot. They use big words, especially when there�s
a group of them and they start talking so we can�t understand them.
of modern science, as in modern medicine, demands specialization, giving us all
kinds of scientists: geologists, chemists, cosmologists, entomologists,
biologists, physicists, climatologists . . . then we get into the PhD�s, kind
of a blanket to cover any . . . ists
that got left out -- and that�s where there�s some big fast money right now! If
you are a credentialed �scientist,� FOSSIL FUEL has a job for you. Simply
shine your credentials and publish an
article about how what is happening is not really happening . . . $10,000.00 a
pop, plus �expenses.�
this century has seen FOSSIL FUEL spend many millions
spreading denial, paying �experts� to travel the country preaching doubt. And
in 2001, Phillip Cooney became the White House head of Environmental Policy,
after six years of being in charge of confusing Americans about Climate Change
for the American Petroleum Institute. A lobbyist and lawyer with zero
scientific training, Cooney handled the administration�s disinformation and
denial regarding Climate Change until leaked documents embarrassed him into
resigning in 2005, and going to work for Exxon Mobil. However, this new
campaign seems the most vulgar so far in shouting that Americans understand
nothing of science. No wonder the difference between weather and climate lags
in understanding. Science is subtle, often whispers; money shouts!
Americans know that when they have an abscessed tooth they don�t go to a
proctologist. Without so much disinformation/denial money pouring from FOSSIL
FUEL, more Americans might realize that the best data on climate
change comes from scientists who specialize in climate. Climatologists
universally agree that what is happening to global climate is in fact really
happening. And they know that the extra blanket we�ve thrown on the globe with
our burning of fossil fuels is a primary cause. Never has it been so crucial
that we learn to whom we should listen. For instance, what�s left of the
messenger Al Gore, wrapped around all those bullet holes.
anyone unsure of the meaning of ad
hominem, dictionary definitions will include: an appealing to feelings or
prejudices rather than intellect; an attack on an opponent�s character rather
than by an answer to the contentions made. However, the treatment of Gore by
our corporate media is the best definition of ad hominem I�ve ever seen.
Editorial cartoons have been gushing ink over everything Gore, except the truth
of his message, which is so clearly established in light of the attacks. Today
our local editorial page showed a fat Gore seated before a congressional
committee and being asked why he wasn�t going after China and India because
they are much bigger polluters than us. Gore replies that he doesn�t want to be
president of China or India. Seated next to the questioner, Senator Clinton is
drawing a caricature of �Fat Albert.�
Gore�s facts were wrong, they could be attacked; since they are true, Gore must
be attacked. Perhaps
reason political cartoons have been especially relentless is because Americans
seem to believe that something seen in the newspaper or on television news must be true, there�s some kind of
law! And cartoons, they�re just cartoons.
Well, besides a few technicalities like libel considerations, there is no law. Any kind of bullshit goes, judgment
of the consumer and reputation of the source the only de facto limitations.
to that cartoon, the statement about China and India being much bigger
polluters than us could just as easily sully an editorial column in The New York
Times. Truth is the United States emits well over twice the greenhouse gasses
of China and India put together. Their rate
of increase may exceed ours because of their rapid economic growth, but
they have a long way to go to catch us in actual levels. Editorial cartoons are
extremely powerful; many readers of this particular Gore attack will surely
walk away suddenly knowing that China
and India are � . . . much bigger polluters than us!�
I decided to do some street research. First I chose an upscale bar downtown,
watering hole for many in the financial and legal industries. About 6:30 on a
raw and gusty Wednesday evening, sunset around here now, I went into McMurthy�s.
Two groomed men sitting together at the bar wore business suits, Caucasians
around 40. I took a stool on their left and ordered a shot of Bushmills. It was
halftime of the college basketball playoffs game the men were watching on the
television set mounted high behind the bar. They both looked at me.
as though I might be some kind of scientist, I asked the closest one: �So, what
do you guys think of all this global warming stuff?�
one flinched, but rather, both seemed to welcome my invitation to debate.
a loser,� said the guy I�d asked.
other one took a drink before smacking his lips, and saying, �He�s wacko. . . .�
these two were not novices, both having read Michael Crichton�s State of Fear. I began to hear about
solid scientific evidence that parts of the world were actually cooling. Though I hadn�t read the book,
I was familiar with its better blunders. So I tacitly conveyed having read State of Fear, cordially agreeing that
in fact some parts of the globe were cooling, taking it even further by saying
the science behind Climate Change assures us that especially Northern Europe
will get much cooler as the Gulf Stream shuts down -- something which has
already begun. Fresh water from melting ice of Greenland is interrupting the
thermohaline circulation which, in addition to distributing heat around the globe,
makes northern Europe far warmer than other areas at comparable latitude.
took no shine from these men�s confidence, but an eagerness in their glancing
eyes told me they were anxious for the television to rescue them. Not letting
up, I mentioned that validity of the science in Crichton�s book must be
measured by his description of the beginning of a hurricane, where he details a
gigantic mass of high pressure slowly beginning to rotate. I pointed out that a
hurricane is actually an area of low
pressure that evolves from a trough, or tropical wave, to a topical depression.
As the central pressure continues to drop, winds pick up and the disturbance
becomes a tropical storm, then a hurricane.
fact,� I said, �among the lowest surface pressures ever recorded was in the eye
of hurricane Wilma, a category 5 hurricane that followed hurricane Katrina by
about six weeks. The lowness of pressure in the eye of a hurricane is a good
gauge of the hurricane�s strength. When Crichton describes a gigantic mass of
high pressure as the beginning of a hurricane, he could not be more wrong. So,
again, the novel�s scientific validity must all be taken with that in mind.�
finished my drink.
second half began with a spectacular two-handed reverse dunk. I said, �See you
guys later,� and in moments had walked into a very, very early-season
thunderstorm. The lady standing beside me under McMurthy�s awning for shelter
from the downpour held a stuffed bag from Macy�s in each hand. I looked her in
the eyes. She shouted, �Crazy weather!�
In Part 2,
True Costs of Fossil Fuels.
In Part 3: Peace, Clean Energy, and Priorities
Clifford lives in Spokane, Washington, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His novels CASTLING and TIMING are published by StarChief Press.