Jewish World Review April 3, 2006 / 5 Nissan 5766 |
Let cooler heads prevail: The media heat up over global warming
So, "the debate is over." Time magazine says so.
Last week's cover story exhorted readers to "Be Worried. Be Very
Worried," and ABC News concurred in several stories. So did Montana's
governor, speaking on ABC. And there was polling about global warming,
gathered by Time and ABC in collaboration.
Eighty-five percent of Americans say warming is probably happening, and
62 percent say it threatens them personally. The National Academy of
Sciences says the rise in the Earth's surface temperature has been
about one degree Fahrenheit in the past century. Did 85 percent of
Americans notice? Of course not. They got their anxiety from journalism
calculated to produce it. Never mind that one degree might be the
margin of error when measuring the planet's temperature. To take a
person's temperature, you put a thermometer in an orifice or under an
arm. Taking the temperature of our churning planet, with its tectonic
plates sliding around over a molten core, involves limited precision.
Why have Americans been dilatory about becoming as worried — as very
worried — as Time and ABC think proper? An article on ABC's Web site
wonders ominously, "Was Confusion Over Global Warming a Con Job?"
It suggests there has been a misinformation campaign implying that
scientists might not be unanimous, a campaign by — how did you guess? —
big oil. And the coal industry. But speaking of coal . . .
Recently, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer flew with ABC's George
Stephanopoulos over Glacier National Park's receding glaciers. But
Schweitzer offered hope: Everyone, buy Montana coal. New technologies
can, he said, burn it while removing carbon causes of global warming.
Stephanopoulos noted that such technologies are at least four years
away and "all the scientists" say something must be done "right now."
Schweitzer, quickly recovering from hopefulness and returning to the
"be worried, be very worried" message, said "it's even more critical
than that" because China and India are going to "put more carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere with conventional coal-fired generators than
all of the rest of the planet has during the last 150 years."
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That is one reason why the Clinton administration never submitted the
Kyoto accord on global warming for Senate ratification. In 1997 the
Senate voted 95 to 0 that the accord would disproportionately burden
America while being too permissive toward major polluters that are
America's trade competitors.
While worrying about Montana's receding glaciers, Schweitzer, who is
50, should also worry about the fact that when he was 20 he was told to
be worried, very worried, about global cooling. Science magazine (Dec.
10, 1976) warned of "extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation." Science
Digest (February 1973) reported that "the world's climatologists are
agreed" that we must "prepare for the next ice age." The Christian
Science Monitor ("Warning: Earth's Climate is Changing Faster Than Even
Experts Expect," Aug. 27, 1974) reported that glaciers "have begun to
advance," "growing seasons in England and Scandinavia are getting
shorter" and "the North Atlantic is cooling down about as fast as an
ocean can cool." Newsweek agreed ("The Cooling World," April 28, 1975)
that meteorologists "are almost unanimous" that catastrophic famines
might result from the global cooling that the New York Times (Sept. 14,
1975) said "may mark the return to another ice age." The Times (May 21,
1975) also said "a major cooling of the climate is widely considered
inevitable" now that it is "well established" that the Northern
Hemisphere's climate "has been getting cooler since about 1950."
In fact, the Earth is always experiencing either warming or cooling.
But suppose the scientists and their journalistic conduits, who today
say they were so spectacularly wrong so recently, are now correct.
Suppose the Earth is warming and suppose the warming is caused by human
activity. Are we sure there will be proportionate benefits from
whatever climate change can be purchased at the cost of slowing
economic growth and spending trillions? Are we sure the consequences of
climate change — remember, a thick sheet of ice once covered the
Midwest — must be bad? Or has the science-journalism complex decided
that debate about these questions, too, is "over"?
About the mystery that vexes ABC — Why have Americans been slow to get
in lock step concerning global warming? — perhaps the "problem" is not
big oil or big coal, both of which have discovered there is big money
to be made from tax breaks and other subsidies justified in the name of
Perhaps the problem is big crusading journalism.
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