There are some who, lacking the ecstatic thrill of any other faith-based religion, wish to believe that the Earth is in the early stages of an unprecedented climatic change which will see temperatures soar, the polar ice caps melt, rising sea levels flood our coastal cities — general devastation on the biblical model — all because we insist on driving petroleum-fueled private automobiles and using electricity generated by burning coal.
Burning that stuff releases into the atmosphere large amounts of carbon dioxide, you see, a “greenhouse gas” that contributes to the ongoing warming of the planet.
Now, this is almost entirely fantastic nonsense. The planet is currently warming at a rate of perhaps one degree a century, part of an ongoing cycle of global warming and cooling which (ice cores and other fossil records tell us) has been ongoing for millions of years. This is caused not primarily by CO? levels — changes in atmospheric CO? loading actually trail temperature shifts by decades or even centuries — but rather by fluctuating solar activity. Even if CO? were a factor, most of the CO? in the atmosphere comes from volcanoes and the natural processes of the oceans, not from man-made sources.
Since wiping out mankind would have a minimal impact on climate, what good do you think a few rich folk switching to “hybrids” will do?
If warming continues at the present rate, the most significant impact is likely to be a small increase in the amount of previously frozen ground on which people could grow wheat.
The global warming hysteria will be remembered as one of those episodes of “the madness of crowds” which saw bands of flagellants wandering Europe urging folks to finish work on those cathedrals real soon because the world was going to come to an end at the millennium, in 1,000 A.D., and the minor panic of Oct. 30, 1938, when numerous radio listeners were taken in by the realistic Orson Welles broadcast of “The War of the Worlds.”
The difference from those earlier episodes of mass folly, however, is that there is a group of folks with an ulterior motive beating the drums for this one. These are jealous socialists who want America to be a lot more like Europe, punishing “rich people” for the gall of freely driving where they want, when they want, in their “wasteful” private automobiles. This gang wants prohibitive taxes on cars and gasoline, with the money to be shifted into mass transit boondoggles that will require us all to enjoy much more togetherness, singing “Kumbaya” in three-part harmony as we live in quaint urban walk-ups and ride around packed into little tin trolley cars in a neater, tidier world a lot more like Sweden, or possibly the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour.”
These people still say they’re fighting “to protect the environment.” But they’ve pulled off a massive shift, largely unnoticed, in the meaning of that word.
It used to be that we said we wanted to improve man’s life by cleaning up man’s environment. We wanted to reduce sulfuric fumes in the air and toxic crap in the water, the same way we’d try to train a particularly slow-witted kitty-cat not to poop in his own food bowl.
By “the environment” we meant “mankind’s environment” — the fresh air and clean water and green trees that make our human lives healthier and more pleasant.
Last weekend, however, the Review-Journal ran an editorial ridiculing the radical greens for fighting a pipeline needed to transport drinking water to Las Vegas from east central Nevada by using their usual cat’s paw — insisting the plan would damage some obscure minnow in some pond in Utah.
“It appears that the R-J editorials have hit a new low,” wrote one of these characters. “The childish, blind-eye editorial in Sunday’s paper was pathetic. Apparently whoever wrote (and approved it) feels that man is the only thing on earth worth saving … and damn the environment if it gets in their way!”
So now “the environment,” as used by these zealots, no longer means “the environs of mankind, which make mankind’s life healthier and more enjoyable” — presumably including plenty of clean drinking water. Rather, the term has been skinned and cured, turned into sheep’s clothing and draped over a lurking wolf. The term is now used to mean “pristine nature, a beautiful thing which is endangered by the ongoing prosperity and procreation of human beings, a foul invasive enemy whose numbers need to be reduced through thirst and other means to protect each weed and bug.”
That’s a big change, worth remembering the next time you’re tempted to say, “Of course we all consider ourselves environmentalists …”
But, all that said, let’s pretend for a moment we agree that Earth is heating up, as punishment from the Goddess Gaia for our hubris in daring to tame the wilderness, putting in stand-alone houses and sewage lines and Wendy’s drive-through windows.
If these Chicken Littles really believed this, what would they be doing? They’d be looking for proven ways to really cool things down, of course.
How about examining the historical record for the approximately 200 years for which we have reliable weather data? Look to see if there was a period when the weather cooled down, all of a sudden, and what caused it.
Google “Year Without a Summer.” From April 5 to 15, 1815, Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa in the Dutch East Indies (modern-day Indonesia) blew up, ejecting 40 cubic kilometers of volcanic ash (more than twice as much as the 1883 explosion of Krakatoa) into the upper atmosphere.
Other volcanoes — La Soufrière on Saint Vincent in the Caribbean in 1812 and Mayon in the Philippines in 1814 — had already built up a substantial amount of atmospheric dust.
That stuff stayed up there, in the jet stream, for more than a year. Sunlight was reflected off that orbiting cloud of crap and had trouble getting through. The “Year Without a Summer,” known colloquially as “Eighteen hundred and froze to death,” was 1816, in which severe summer climate abnormalities destroyed crops in Northern Europe, the American Northeast, eastern Canada and even China.
In May, frost killed off most of the crops that had been planted. In June, two large snowstorms in eastern Canada and New England resulted in many human deaths. In July and August, lake and river ice were observed as far south as Pennsylvania.
In Europe, food riots broke out and grain warehouses were looted. A recent BBC documentary tallied up 200,000 deaths.
Clearly, if anyone believes Earth is warming catastrophically and that we need to do something, the only proven solution is to start throwing as much crap into the atmosphere as we possibly can, right now.
Clean nuclear and natural-gas-fired power plants must be shut down and immediately replaced with coal plants burning the softest, dirtiest coal — peat would be better — that can be found. “Smog inspections” will take on a new meaning as our cars will be checked regularly to make sure each is pouring out the densest possible cloud of carbon particulates and lifesaving black soot.
Since every little bit counts, we may also have to make tobacco smoking mandatory for everyone above the age of 10.
Now is not a time to hesitate, to refuse to make the minor sacrifice of breathing some slightly less healthful air. Global warming is a crisis, baby! It’s time we all set aside our selfish desire to keep our yard furniture free of drifting soot and share the sacrifice! Think globally; act locally. Do your part!
Pollution — massive, smoky pollution — is the only answer!
P.S. — This is actually going to happen, whether we like it or not. The explosion of the Yellowstone caldera, already overdue, will make Tambora look like a kid’s sparkler. The real ecological challenge of the coming age will be global cooling.
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Review-Journal and author of the novel “The Black Arrow.” See www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?vci=51238921.VIN SUPRYNOWICZMORE COLUMNS