Problem 8 - The Dilemma of Global Warming

snow melting off mountainous terrain

   This post is part of the serialization of the first chapter of the Original Green [Unlocking the Mystery of True Sustainability].


   This is the only part of this book that will be explicitly about politics... I promise. Anyone who is a serious advocate for sustainability in the US needs to face up to the fact that we have a big problem.

   Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies found in July 2007 that “... a large majority of the American public is personally convinced that global warming is happening (71%). Surprisingly, however, only 48 percent believe that there is consensus among the scientific community, while 40 percent of Americans still believe there is a lot of disagreement among scientists over whether global warming is occurring.”

   I can understand that, to a degree, if this were 1999 rather than 2009. I am old enough to remember the debate in the 1970s as to whether we were going to have global warming or global cooling. That debate made me a skeptic of global warming for years. I was finally convinced, however, by the glacier photos. Remember Hemingway’s The Snows of Killimanjaro? Well, if you look at photos of Mount Killimanjaro taken in Hemingway’s day versus photos taken today (at the same time of the year) the difference is shocking. As are images of numerous glaciers around the world. I generally do not argue with evidence my eyes can clearly see.

   Here’s another bit of evidence I have seen with my own eyes, and which stunningly confirmed the glacier photos: I was in Europe in 2003, and on our return flight just after the 4th of July, the pilot said “If you can, move to the right side of the plane, because you’re about to see something you may never see again. We are on a flight path further north than normal, and we’re about to fly past Greenland. This is probably the only time you will ever see Greenland.”

   I moved to the right side, of course, and will forever regret that I left my camera packed away in the overhead bins. The gorgeous snowy mountains billowed away to the horizon. It was a stunning sight that shall always be imprinted upon my mind.

   This year, I was in Europe again, except it was a month earlier in the year; I was returning in early June. I grew increasingly more excited as it became apparent that we were on the same flight path over Greenland on which we had been five years earlier. Anxiously, I retrieved my camera this time, and gripped it, unwilling to miss such a beautiful sight again.

   But as we crossed over the coast, my anticipation turned to shock and disbelief. The landscape that had been such a beautiful wonderland just five years before melted away before my eyes. Where billowy mountains of snow had stretched endlessly on the previous flight, I now saw only rocky slopes, and the small bits of remaining snow and ice slipping off them into the sea. My disbelief was so great that my camera hung there useless... I didn’t even think to photograph what I was seeing. As for me, nobody will ever again convince me that global warming is not happening, because I have seen it with my own eyes. It is not some hypothetical possibility, but rather, it is something which I have witnessed.

   But there is a problem with global warming. Hundreds of millions of Americans were not on the plane with me that day (or on the day several years earlier when I finally had to confront the glacier photos and give up my long-held skepticism,) and if the Yale study is to be believed, there are still tens of millions of Americans who have serious misgivings about the truth of global warming, and about its origins.

   The major culprit in this situation is politics. It has not always been that way. Strangely (from today’s point of view,) Richard Nixon (a Republican) presided over the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. And on the first Earth Day just a few months earlier, it seemed that there was wide agreement among Americans of all political stripes that our natural environment was in critical condition.

   It was not long, however, until the bipartisanship dissolved into polarization over the environment. It does not matter who fired the first shots; Republicans say it was Carter, while Democrats say it was Reagan. For the purposes of this book, it’s immaterial. Here’s why:

   Democrats clearly are identified today as protectors of the environment, while Republicans are tagged as the desecrators. There are many reasons for this; some of them well-earned, and some of them pure political posturing (on both sides.) Here is this book’s most important political message:

   Get over it!!!

If you’re a Republican, get over it! You lost the global warming debate, but our future is bigger than your loss. We need your help... today!

If you’re a Democrat, get over it! So you won the debate.... what’s more important now... to spend your time rubbing your opponents’ collective noses in the fact that they were wrong about global warming, or to spend your time in actually doing something about global warming?

Put another way... We need all hands on deck... now!!! If we plan to act like Americans and buckle down and get the job done, then the last thing we need is for one side to gloat, or for the other side to leave the table. So Get Over It... NOW!!! Let’s all pitch in and do the American thing and get the job done! Anything less is unacceptable.


~ Steve Mouzon


Legacy Comments:

Monday, March 2, 2009 - 12:06 PM

Chad Cooper

Steve,

For my part, and I believe many of those who are frustrated with the Global Warming debate, the question is not whether or not Global Warming is occuring... statistically, the Earth has seen a rise of 6 degrees over the past 600 years.  The question is... to what extent are humans responsible... essentially, from what source is the cause, and with this, the role of carbon. 

Please consider the following excerpt:

"... a rise in temperature will increase the CO2 in the atmosphere is supported by a hysical Chemical model. The earth’s surface is 70% ocean. Water has a substantial solubility for CO2 which decreases exponntially with increased temperature. Taking into account the volume of water, the solubility effect of CO2 (probably in the range of PPM), and the fact that the ocean is probably close to equilibrium in CO2 content with the atmosphere, leads to a model. The model will explain the fact that huge amounts of CO2 may be dissolved in the ocean with little if any impact from the burning of carbon fuels. But small changes in ocean temperature will indeed increase the CO2 in the atmosphere substantially."

I apologize for the long reply.

Best,

Chad


Friday, March 6, 2009 - 04:09 PM

Steve Mouzon

Chad, let's look at it another way. Zig Ziglar paraphrased the Insanity Principle this way: "Insanity is the inability to realize that if you keep doing what you've been doing, you'll keep getting what you've been getting!" I'd like to propose the Inverse Insanity Principle: "Insanity is also the act of thinking you can do something radically different and somehow get the same result." A Jewish carpenter wrapped both ideas together a couple thousand years ago when he observed that "you reap what you sow."

   So the thought that we could dump billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere and it would have no effect on the climate simply doesn't square with the fact that "you reap what you sow." The important thing, IMO, is to get past the point of it being a political debate so that we can all go to work sowing different seed than what we have been sowing. Supporting big industry isn't our star-spangled obligation. Please read the blog post "The Trouble With Consumption." America's free-enterprise system was built on a Conserving Economy. The Consuming Economy we're all a part of today was only invented about 1925 with the advent of planned obsolescence, which coincides with the beginning of the Great Decline... or was the timing a coincidence? I don't think so.

   Ever-increasing consumption isn't our patriotic duty... as a matter of fact, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and the rest of our founding fathers would be aghast to see how we've changed. A return to the Conserving Economy they lived and espoused would solve so many of the problems we face today.


Friday, March 6, 2009 - 04:37 PM

Chad Cooper

I'm with you on the line of thnking you've noted above.  Anything done irresponsibly, especially on such a large scale, is undesirable and bound to reap negative results.  This is why I support the Original Green and it's views regarding true sustainability.  Where I get uneasy is when the principled reasonings as to why current practices and solutions are questionable take a back seat, and key considerations are set aside in an effort to draw in emotion and let it lead a debate.  I'm not suggesting the Original Green is conducting itself in this manner... if it did, I would not continue to read.  But, there's quite a lot of this going around.  I guess there's a small part of me that is concerned about the OG shifting in this direction over time, to not do so would eventually almost certainly aggravate "those in the know".  Regardless of what the most media reports suggest, or what Al Gore has flatly stated (yet will not debate in public), the debate is not over.  But again, I don't see this as being in conflict to the goals or merits of the OG.  I believe mankind should live responsibly and sensibly regardless of whether he is the driving force or a small tertiary piece in the global warming equation.  I'd just rather see mankind living cleaner, more responsibly, more sustainably.

Thanks,

Chad


Friday, March 6, 2009 - 05:15 PM

Steve Mouzon

Exactly... we can either debate, or we can get something done. I vote for getting something done. Whether or not everyone agrees that auto emissions contribute to climate change, we can all agree that the downside of driving is much bigger than the upside on so many counts.

   The same goes for pretty much every other practice that most agree contributes to global warming. For example, the merits and demerits of that coal-fired power plant that runs your air conditioner can be debated, but here's something that's beyond debate: why spend more on utilities than you need to? I don't know anybody that actually wants to waste energy, or waste resources. Do you?

   That's what I mean about getting beyond the debate... when you really get down to how the debate affects you personally, we're all on the same side. Because the activities that are pegged with contributing to climate change are activities that also happen to cost us money... at the gas pump, at the utility meter, and at the store. Why pay more?


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