Last week when I went online, Yahoo had listed, among the day’s lead stories, one about a cookbook showing how to change your diet to help decrease global warming.
Another was about Paris Hilton’s escapade in jail. I just shook my head, because I had now seen enough. And I’m not talking about the slutty hotel heiress. This latest article about global warming reported that eating too much meat and non-organic fruits and vegetables was the most harmful activity humans could do in causing the Earth to melt over the next 100 years, with one exception: driving your car. Until the issue of global warming came to prominence with the Kyoto Accord in 1997, the media paid little attention. Too much science for the pea-brained public.
But after Al Gore’s Oscar-winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth, the media has moved into global-warming overdrive. Just about everything now has a global-warming bent. Don’t eat bananas, because they are usually flown in from Central America, and all the jet exhaust will cause your grandchildren to suffer. Climb stairs instead of using an elevator. Hang your clothes on the line outside, because all that electricity used by the dryer generates greenhouse gases from the coal-fired electric plants. Plant native species in your yard. And don’t you dare eat meat – making hamburger uses too much grain and water. Then there is how the media relates virtually every weather event these days to global warming. Our recent drought was caused by greenhouse gases, as were last winter’s record snows in Buffalo, N.Y. Hurricane Katrina was probably caused by the ocean waters being warmed by human activity. Those same warm waters caused virtually no hurricanes last year, and no questions were raised, as this does not fit into the media’s global-warming model.
CBS News told their viewers that the recent Group of Eight summit, where leaders of wealthy nations discussed global warming, actually increased the problem due to jet exhaust from all the attendees’ flights. Most climatologists agree that the Earth’s temperature has increased about a degree over the last century. The debate concerns how much of it is due to human activity. The scientists backing the human cause point to the increase in greenhouse gases emitted from fossil-fuel-burning plants and car engines, and this increase is directly related to the rise in temperature. Many other scientists, however, point out that the planet’s cyclical climate changes throughout history – from ice ages to tropical temperatures when dinosaurs roamed – were caused by solar activity and orbital changes. I won’t get into the scientific arguments here. Not enough space, and I am not a climatologist. But many scientists who question the research on global warming are being ignored by the media and even treated as heretics.
Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman recently wrote that “global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.” Richard Lindzen, a longtime professor of atmospheric science at MIT, says the research about global warming has moved from purely scientific to a political and almost religious point of view. “Essentially if whatever you are told is alleged to be supported by ‘all scientists,’ you don’t have to understand [the issue] anymore,” Lindzen said to the National Press Club last year. “You simply go back to treating it as a matter of religious belief.” There is nothing wrong with the inhabitants of this planet working to make it a more livable place.
Reducing fossil-fuel emissions is a good thing, and so are national policies that reduce other pollutants. Many of my enviro-friendly colleagues point out that even if global warming is not caused by humans, who cares? It’s the old “ends justify the means” argument. So why even argue over the science? Because global warming has become a political issue. Liberals see it as a coming catastrophe; the conservatives see it as more liberal bunk. What environmentalists need to do is to make sure the science backing global warming is not on shaky ground and promote research that might shed light on our understanding of all these issues.
Public policy on such an important issue should not be based upon what some consider a fad that the media and Hollywood have jumped on. The media has to be part of this debate. Instead of doing stories on how eating bananas is the cause of the planet crisis – or how our grandchildren might have to live in Antarctica some day – let’s show how the scientific community is somewhat at odds on the cause of global warming. Because truth is not only inconvenient, it is sometimes damned hard to find.