Two weeks ago, "Hypocrisy and the Church of Global Warming" appeared on this page. The reaction was predictable: To set me straight, earnest readers sent me scientific stuff. But science wasn't my subject. With tongue in cheek, I took as my subject the sociology and politics of the debate.Amen, Mike.
Allow me to retract my tongue.
Science and religion seek different sorts of truths in different ways. Scientists propose theories. The "willfully ignorant" raise doubts, question those theories, and offer possible alternatives. New data comes in. Theories get tested and modified. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman put it best: Scientists must "be willing to question and doubt their own theories and their own results, and investigate possible flaws in a theory."
But when all doubts, questions and alternatives about global warming are silenced, or when dilettantes launch cowardly personal attacks or make babblescent threats to cancel their subscription to the newspaper because it provides a forum for alternative views, that's religion, not science, and religion in its least attractive guise, so feeble that it can't - or won't - withstand scrutiny. At best it's science by press conference. Not all that long ago, leading scientists fervently believed that criminal propensities could be predicted through cranial measurements. At the same time, they wrongly dismissed plate tectonics as pseudoscience. I say, thank heaven for the doubters and questioners.
Further, I don't like to be told not to drive an SUV by someone with a private jet. Far from being a "distraction," the lives of the rich and famous, many living off the fruits of industrialization, are at the dead center of the debate. The issue is not simply whether global warming is a real problem. I'll grant that it is. The real question is, what do we do now? Every one of us consumes far more than we need. Our cars are too powerful, our houses too palatial, our appetites too piggish. So how are you going to sell the concept of "cutting back" and treading lightly over Mother Earth when the nation's most conspicuous people, including Al Gore himself, or John Edwards and his 28,000-square-foot, $6 million mansion, leave behind Sasquatch-size carbon footprints? So they buy carbon credits. How nice. I can't, so I nibble at the edges of global warming by shivering in my house or driving a tin can death trap, but my actions will accomplish nothing if everyone doesn't play, including the nations that cynically violate the Kyoto agreement they signed with great self-congratulation. And do you think your hybrid Prius and its components were manufactured in plants powered by solar panels?
This raises the issue of alternative energy. Every form of energy, alternative or otherwise, has its downside, but many people don't want to confront global warming in their own backyard. Lord help me, I plead guilty. I might be a proponent of nuclear power - it's clean, and the plants have smaller footprints than conventional power plants - but I don't want one frying my figgins from across the street.
But if a proposal is made for a hydroelectric dam, or a tidal or wave-energy or ocean-current facility, or a wind farm, or the conversion of farmland to cultivation of biomass fuels, trust-fund environmentalists rise as one to oppose it. Back in the 1970s, when the Alaskan oil pipeline was being built, dilettantes who wouldn't know a caribou from a cockatoo waxed hysterical that the pipeline would destroy Alaska's caribou herds. But according to the state's Fish and Game Department, when the oil started to flow in 1977 Alaska's caribou population was about 6,000. Today it's more than 27,000. And the sky did not fall.
Whatever energy source we use, it has to be produced somewhere. If preening "environmentalists" along Cape Cod and elsewhere really believe in global warming, they should be willing to make compromises. Instead, they try to grab the turd by the clean end with cant like "environmentally sensitive area." Yet they heat their homes with oil and coal burned in power plants located in someone else's environmentally sensitive area - in most places, poor neighborhoods - then have the gall to whine if their playground is threatened.
We can fix the problem or be dilettantes. But dilettantes can't make the hard choices, except when they're making them for others.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
"The 'Church of Global Warming' revisited"
Another great column from Michael O'Neal in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News, guaranteed to drive the liberals nuts: