January 21, 2010

Ready For Act Two? The Global Warming Drama Will Play On

Global warming hysteria has often been compared to religion, and rightly so. But, there’s also many theatrical elements to be found, facets of the genre “green drama” that are so very familiar to those of us who have spent our professional careers watching environmental tragedies debut year after year.

Global warming is the blockbuster production of the environmental movement. It’s the Broadway hit that has maintained the rapt attention of environmental activists and policy-makers throughout the course of three decades. The players are familiar, having honed their roles after years of practice.

The directors naturally, and predictably, cast big, bad corporations as villains, with Exxon-Mobil supposedly skulking behind the scenes, passing out bribes to spineless skeptical scientists and obstructing the heroic politicians and activists trying to save innocent mother earth, before it’s too late. And what a victim to have! Sure, your average activist would be happy to be part of the local neighborhood production of: “Stop Building That New Factory Before It Kills All The Babies In Town (The Musical)”, but the Global Warming Show is truly big time. It’s not just the babies in town that are in danger, it’s everyone’s babies, everywhere. This production has innocent tribes living on sinking tropical islands and disappearing glaciers and forlorn polar bears. Global Warming; it’s the show that’s got it all!

Even better, the Global Warming Show is audience-participation theater. Google “green blog” and you’ll come up with 286 million hits. That’s more hits than you get with if you google “Obama,” “Bush,” “Iraq,” or – believe it or not – “free sex.” Saving an entire planet is pretty good for the ego, and probably makes for a nice entry on the resume to boot.

Plus, anyone can join the cast of this show. The lines are easy to learn. You just have to remember to preface every statement with the phrase “yeah, but…”

For example, if I say: every climate record makes it clear that we haven’t seen any global warming for the past twelve years, then you say:

Yeah, but: “As we pump more carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse gases into that blanket from cars, buildings, agriculture, forests and industry, more heat gets trapped.” (Thomas Friedman, NY Times, December 8, 2009)

So I say: That’s silly and no scientist, not even alarmists, believes that the kind of direct relationship that Friedman implies actually exists. Carbon dioxide is a relatively weak, insignificant greenhouse gas. The alarmist argument, such as it is, is that carbon dioxide kicks up more water vapor into the air and it’s water vapor, a strong greenhouse gas, that causes this whole warming thingy. But, we’ve got more and more evidence that the climate is self-regulating and that, if the “feedback” effect does indeed increase global temperatures at all, it’s barely a blip on the radar compared to the myriad of other, entirely natural, forces at work. To which you say:

Yeah, but: “Arctic sea ice is melting so fast most of it could be gone in 30 years.” (The Huffington Post, April 3, 2009).

So I say: Arctic ice has been on the rebound since 2007, even the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (which can hardly be described as a home for skeptics) admits that the Arctic ice sheet has grown by 26% in area since 2007. To which you say:

So I say: The polar bears started it.

No, seriously, what I really do is point out that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reported that the global polar bear population is now between 20,000 and 25,000, up from 8,000 to 10,000 in the 1960s. They’re even becoming a nuisance in Canada.
And so the dialogue goes on, round and round, eventually more closely resembling Abbott and Costello than Hamlet and Horatio.

Climategate, Copenhagen and record cold winter weather mark intermission in the Global Warming Show, but there will certainly be more to come. The chorus, faced with this frigid winter, has already started chanting that “weather” is not “climate”, leading one to wonder how much of the former one has to experience before it becomes the latter. No matter. This production has always been much more about the message than the science.

Yet, if this is not the beginning of the end, it’s at least the end of the beginning. With public support for the proposition that human activity is causing climate change continuing to erode, the players know that they will have to do some rewriting of their in Act Two. Having uttered the warning that “the world will end as we know it unless we do something this year” for so many years, it’s hard to imagine that they can come up with anything that will resonate.

Still, we must remain vigilant, for there is much work to done before the curtain finally falls on this theater of the absurd. If we do – even though the show will surely go on – I suspect that the audience will continue to quietly drift away, until the actors are left playing before a sea of empty seats, their lines audible only to themselves.


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