Category Archives: global warming

Why Should We Care?

Annette del Sur publicizing salvage campaign, 1942. Taken from
Annette del Sur publicizing salvage campaign, 1942. Taken from

There were a lot of comments to my last post (many thanks) and since only some are offered in the Comments section I would like to share some good points with you.

“Those of us who try to avoid using plastic or paper bags at the grocery store, walk or bike whenever possible, recycle paper, cardboard, plastic and food items that can be mulched, sometimes feel as if it is hopeless because of the millions who don’t…and don’t care either.”

I hear you. And I feel your pain. But herein lies the challenge. I agree that we are not going to beat this by going bagless, hybrid or organic. No amount of bus rides, CFLs or tap water is going to turn this thing around. It is bigger than all of us and requires international action. But it also requires a new consciousness of our interconnectedness and our relationship with the planet. Humankind must emerge from its so self-involved adolescence. So, as you lug your reuseable bags while biking to the store after turning off all the lights and unplugging your cell phone charger and shutting down your computer–remember that you are modeling behavior that is the new standard of the right way to be.

“…nothing will be done until the rich nations of this world begin to suffer and the situation is almost too late to reverse. That’s if we’re lucky. Otherwise, be glad that you are living your life now and that you won’t be around to see what the future has in store.”

My sister would reply that in fact, she plans on being back so she’ll pay attention to the now, thank you very much. I can’t count on that but I care when I look at my grandchildren and try to imagine what life will be like for them. Supposedly, with enough political will, we can demand that our leaders address the issue of global warming. I understand your skepticism, however; as a student of political science I know that there are many forces pushing in many directions. I console myself with the stories of World War II and how the US pulled together–and did some remarkable things! So many examples! Because canned goods were needed to supply troops overseas, Americans turned to Victory Gardens, planting 20 million of them to provide vegetables for their families. Drivers received coupons for 3 gallons of gas per week…not to save gasoline but to save on automobile tires and the supply of rubber.

And, as the 1942 poster above depicts, the people were asked to conserve, collect and recycle everything from rags, metal, rubber and paper.

“…There are lots of people with their heads in the sand about what we humans have unconsciously been doing to our earth. This is not a liberal vs conservative matter and getting into stereotypes clouds serious issues for our survival…This is an ethical matter and ignoring evidence worldwide is unconscionable.”

It will take some time to bring some into the fold but overall I am hopeful. And that’s why I’m here.

Something Hopeful from the Debate Tonight

I haven’t posted for a while. I have had a tsunami of thoughts, emotions and ideas, and somehow I couldn’t find a way to put something coherent in this place that I have dedicated to getting better informed about what is happening and what we need to do. Literally, I have been troubled by the resistance from my own family. I am trying to understand why they think I am under some spell!

So let’s start simply and over again: tonight’s Republican debate. There has been a bit of an uproar (a quiet one I suppose for those who don’t subscribe to the things I do) about the lack of questions concerning global warming posed to the presidential candidates from each party concerning the steps that each candidate as president might take. One assessment stated that out of nearly 3,000 questions posed to presidential contenders only 3 related to global warming–way less than the number of questions asked about UFOs and what sports team they were rooting for. I suppose we must be understanding of the media’s need to lighten up the seriousness of political debate lest they lose some viewers (?) That is another debate entirely, sigh, for another day.

The one response at tonight’s debate that stands out for me is that of McCain’s. In response to a rare question about what to do about global warming: he would like to inspire as much technological and entrepreneurial talent as possible to clean our air. Then, even if we discover “that there is no such thing as climate change” well, then we’ve at least not wasted the effort and “we’ve given our children a cleaner world.” There are many clues here, and many are found in the language. Even for skeptics, I wonder what is the threat? Taking care of the planet seems a high consciousness thing to do for all.

Of all the Republican candidates, McCain is at least vocal about his support for active curtailments of carbon emissions, even if he is couching it under we’re OK if it is all a lie, idea. All the other remaining candidates seem to think that it is a “liberal” made up problem and of course, any kind of action will hurt business and hurt America and if China and India are not held to account then we shouldn’t pursue any kind of emissions control, much less caps on carbon.

Although they all love the idea of state’s rights–with Arnold Schwarzneggar in the audience they applauded what California is doing to control emissions in its own state and Huckabee said, great, if it doesn’t work, I welcome the job loss movement to Arkansas–they seem to be playing to a perceived base that doesn’t give much credence at all to the idea of global warming.

What is going on here? The idea of global warming is having a profound effect throughout the US. Businesses are embracing the need to be “green” because consumers are demanding social responsibility from the companies where they purchase products (“greenwashing “is now a well-known marketing term). This is one of those amazing viral ideas that has spread itself from place to place across the country within the past four to five years. It has taken an amazing hold on the thinking throughout the country.

Yet……the idea that global warming is an Al Gore-driven left-wing conspiracy still has deep roots. I am trying to understand the power of this contrary idea; and I have to admit that I must be so “liberal” that this makes absolutely no sense to me. But the more I am exposed to it, the more I realize that it must be overcome. I welcome arguments to the contrary to “educate” me in what I must be missing.

Whomever you are, if you care about these issues as important or maybe you see them as some sort of demagoguery run mad: Please take some time, if you can to watch this. I can’t continually make the arguments myself. This is so beyond “opinion” and into the realm of manipulation. Why can’t smart people see this? If I am missing something, can someone fill me in?

So am I the one who is deluded? Please tell me!

Weatherman Calls Warming a Scam

John Coleman, the founder of the Weather Channel made the news rounds when he wrote an article the other day:

“It is the greatest scam in history. I am amazed, appalled and highly offended by it. Global Warming; It is a SCAM. Some dastardly scientists with environmental and political motives manipulated long term scientific data to create an illusion of rapid global warming.”

In short, global warming is a hoax cooked up by scientists to garner themselves huge research grants. I’m not going to argue with John; some would say simply ignore such rantings. Or, as Jay Leno says: “My thing with the green situation is: Even if you don’t believe in global warming, don’t you want to screw the oil company or gas company or utility company?”

My curiousity is piqued, however, about just why there is such a vociferous backlash to something that is rapidly moving mainstream. Clearly, we don’t know everything; some of the prognosticators and their predictions will be shown to be wrong, but so much of the thinking, speaking and writing on climate change makes a certain sense. Or am I just being brainwashed?

Yesterday I read the entire text of James Hansen’s recent testimony before the Iowa State Utilities Board. He was an expert witness to argue against a new coal plant opening up. I did skim the technical parts but overall I found his arguments very convincing.

He holds some rather radical ideas, one being that an immediate moratorium on coal plants (any that do not carbon sequester, or recapture released emissions) is necessary before “feedbacks” resulting from the release of CO2 emissions will cause an acceleration of climate change impacts (somewhat like my earlier discussion of tipping points) and that developing countries with increasing coal use, such as China and India, should be given 10 years before they should be required to curb their coal plant emissions, mainly because cumulatively, we (US, Canada and Europe) have been responsible for the most CO2 emissions over time–regardless of the fact that China’s current emissions now surpass those of the US. This sounds tremendously fair and his calculations bear out his sense that the planet can handle that along with increased efficiencies, etc.

The public policy and politics of all of this is tremendously complex and we all need to pay attention and educate ourselves. I hope to help through this blog. But back to the Grand Disagreement.

Hansen concludes his testimony with this personal observation:

“Based on experience, I believe that the difficulty in communication about global warming and the lack of success in obtaining actions needed to reduce global warming are, at least in part, a consequence of the role of special interests
who seem to place inordinate priority on short-term profits. Although global warming has received much attention of late, there remains a large gap between what is understood by the relevant scientific community and what is known by those who need to know, the public and policy-makers. I find it puzzling that conservatives, and I consider myself to be a moderate conservative, are not more concerned about preserving creation…”

So…global warming is a hoax to tap into lucrative research grants and… special interests are spreading disinformation and disbelief to protect their short-term profits. Enough already.

Life Envisioned in Keywords

I don’t want to tell anyone about global warming these days (I mean hardly anyone). Most of us know about it. Rupert Murdock, of all people, has recently pledged to make his company News Corp. carbon neutral by 2010! The behemoth Walmart Corp. is pushing CFL light bulbs (compact fluorescent bulbs, which use about 75 per cent less electricity than incandescent bulbs*).

Good Grief, Charlie Brown! There’s nothing to worry about!

Maybe not and maybe so.

What I would like to do, for myself and interested readers, is to track the information flow on these issues and try to understand what is really happening. Like the age of the internet, climate change as an idea, is creating social and cultural change. It is controversial, and we, the United States, are highly responsible and on the spot to create solutions. My intent is to try to distill this and present some concrete methods for making personal changes…maybe even some political action…who knows… to live a more enlightened life.

I should put in here too, that I feel a tremendous responsibility for the mess we appear to be leaving the kids who are being born today. Not to mention, the rest of the world.

This, the tracking of information, however, is not as simple as it seems. The information flow we have today is “mass media” and others. Information is not always pure; it is often propaganda, to speak very directly. Exxon/Mobil ,for instance, has spent millions to inject doubt into the nascent national debate on global warming. (More to come on this, I am prepared to back up all my accusations with documents and facts.)

It is not easy to get to the truth, to feel really informed. With this age of the internet there is so much information being thrown at us I sometimes feel like I am being deluged with the force of a fireman’s water hose. Yet, in an effort to remain sane, concerned and informed (as well as productive) I have pared down my reading habits, my email “news alerts”, my magazine subscriptions, my rss feeds and my newspaper scans.

What this amounts to, curiously enough, is coming up with just the right keywords to define my circle of awareness and interest.

So here they are: climate change, global warming, greenwashing, green business, deep economy, technology, peak oil, energy, biofuel, cradle to cradle, greenhouse gas emissions, carbon sequestration, plastics, organic,local food, architecture, agri-business, OPEC, Kyoto, wind power, solar, sustainability, LEED, , IPPC.

Have you thought of your life in keywords?

*Postscript: A CFL bulb uses only one fourth as much electricity as a regular incandescent, lasts 10 times as long, and easily saves $50 during its lifetime.