“Relax. … The fuss over Kyoto is absurd. … Do you think all the signers are going to honor what they signed? … If sea levels rise, we can build dikes and move back from the coasts. It worked for Holland.”
— John Stossel, ABC newscaster and author of Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity
First, John Stossel — mustachioed consumer reporter turned libertarian Ron Jeremy of contrarian news — let me address you personally and say that it’s kind of hard to “relax” when everywhere I turn there’s an actor or a college student telling me to stay away from my car, change my light bulbs, or generally “green-it-up” or get out.
Second, I don’t know who the “we” is that you’re referring to, but I, for one, am not building a dike — no matter how high the sea level rises, how toasty my summers get, or how many polar bears have to die. Got it? And by the way, think of all the things that didn’t work for Holland.
OK, I think me and Stossel are straight.
But, as it turns out, the more he rants about how off-base the scientific community is regarding its global-warming predictions, the more worried I become about climate change. It’s the truth. And, believe me, at age 32, I’m a lot of things, but an ecologically conscious man is not one of them. To give you an idea, when I throw a plastic water bottle in the garbage can, I’m 79-percent sure that an old Chinese lady will fish it out later that day, which by and large is good enough for me.
But the more Stossel continues stockpiling ammunition, gathering any scientist he can who supports his “chill out, Earth-lovers” attitude, the further I get from my own laid-back/apathetic view of our environmental crisis.
Fortunately, Harvard-Smithsonian Center astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas (known for her previous skepticism of ozone depletion) is here to convince me further that something must be done. Baliunas not only agrees with Stossel, but also goes on to suggest that added CO2 in the atmosphere actually may benefit the world. Her theory is simple (even for an astrophysicist): Plants love CO2, and we love plants, right? Let’s pollute!
Thanks to Baliunas, the idea of paying 40 bucks to offset my Civic’s carbon emissions for the year sounds pretty good right now. Especially when Stossel is out there, right by her side, like a faulty robot set on “destroy,” yelling: “Warmer may be better! More people die in cold waves than heat waves.”
So, fair enough. I set my refrigerator to low and Stossel banishes me, right along with the other “fundamentalist doom mongers.” But none of these measures for environmental safety we’re taking are going to actually harm the Earth, right? I’d rather be a fundamentalist doom monger with unnecessary light bulbs than an underwater fundamentalist doom monger with no polar bears to watch on the Discovery Channel.
In this environmentally unstable world, when scientists warn us that the sea is rising, shelf ice is melting, droughts and wildfires are becoming commonplace, heat waves are intensifying and animal species are under the guillotine of extinction, think to yourself, long and hard, “What would Stossel do?” Then, of course, do the exact opposite. •
Josh Fernandez is associate arts editor at Sacramento News & Review.
End Ed. note: This week, the Current is pleased (and somewhat terrified) to publish a selection of stories from a special reporting project of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty designed to address global climate change by controlling greenhouse gases — which the U.S. never signed. We and the rest of the world get a second chance this month in Bali at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In 2007, the delegates convene under the cloud of even more alarming evidence that temperature increases caused by human activity are catalyzing an avalanche of irreversible and life-threatening events, from wildfires to tropical super-storms to disappearing glaciers.
Read environmentalist Bill McKibben’s article, page 9, for an overview of failures and accomplishments since Kyoto was implemented in 1997, and visit sacurrent.com for a handful of recommendations for the future from a wide variety of activists, scientists, and businesspeople; a look at California’s environmental initiatives; plus an insightful chart that summarizes a decade of global (in)attention to climate change.
On page 11 of this issue, Brian Burghart
examines some alarming scenarios for the Southwest’s arid regions under the influence of CO2. For an even more local look, we recommend the following articles by the Current’s Greg
Harman, available online at sacurrent.com:
• “Global Warming hates South Texas,” July 25, 2007
• “CPS must die,” October 24, 2007
• “Bob loves you,” November 21, 2007
You can also find more info on Global Warming and ways you can make an impact at theclimateproject.org.