Today I did a search on global warming for news articles at news.google.com. Over 35,000 returned. That is 35,000 that they still are indexing as recent news articles. Green is the new black; NPR, local city meetings, large scale projects, former vice presidents (okay, maybe just one), political candidate, news articles, et cetera—we are all so focused on saving the world from getting warm. That’s fine with me. I love to ski and I don’t want my resorts to go away. There is one problem with this whole approach—it seems to not be helpful. Here is why.
Much of the focus thus far has been on proving the cause of this warming trend. Did we (that is, humans) cause or not cause it? That is not really the point; the issue, as debated so well in the Intelligence Squared event, “Is Global Warming a Crisis?” Specifically, if it is happening, can we stop it, if so or if not: what do we do about it. Instead of Senator Obama getting a free ride to say that the food crisis is because of global warming (as he did recently), and we all nod and wring our hands at the scary thought of this unstoppable force, we, and our leaders need to say: “The food crisis is be caused because of X aspect (perhaps relating to global warming); this is what we can’t do—this is what we can do” (and if is Senator Obama, a chorus of “Yes We Can!” will probably follow), “. . . so lets move forward and do it.” We can’t just blame everything on it and hope it doesn’t affect us. There was a great letter to the Economist that rightly called the Economist writers to accountability when they blamed the wet weather at one time and the dry weather another time for the same region on the warming trend. These articles were issued with the proclamation that region will continue to experience similar (ongoing wet OR dry years, depending on the article) weather for the foreseeable future because of global warming.
Second, we need to examine if this is worth our time and money. The economic impact, depending on who you believe, may be minimal when it comes to climate change; particularly when compared to the effects of poverty and illness in developing countries. Though there have been some great pieces explaining this misappropriation of values, we continue to jump on the green bandwagon. Is it no wonder that, in some part (perhaps significant) the present food crisis has been brought about because of the focus on greener fuels. We may be decreasing emissions, be death, starvation, and rioting in poorer countries is a pretty heavy price to pay for our ski resorts. That may be a bit harsh, but there are real needs now that should outweigh much of our future fears—fears that too often are based on multiple assumptions. Our current tragedies are destroying lives today, and that destruction is real; it is not a decades away prediction. It is a sad critique on our society when public sentiment is focused on a crisis 50 years away while ignore the suffering of our neighbors.
Years ago, Silent Spring helped to restrict the use DDT worldwide. Though still in limited use, it has been abandoned in many malaria-ridden areas throughout the world. Though there was much to be lost from the use of DDT, it’s general absence is hard to continue to justify when malaria persists as such a widespread killer. I really am for environmentalism. I don’t like SUVs. I like clean skies and cold winter. I like the polar caps. Clean water is my favorite kind of water. This isn’t the point. The issue is not to say we shouldn’t focus on helping the climate. The issue is with what we don’t do instead. We too often focus on things that are popular before focusing and investing on areas that are right and necessary.