Monday, June 20, 2005

While the planet burns

I wish I could somehow wave a magic wand and have George Bush read this article. It's simple enough that even he, with his limited reading ability, would be able to understand it, I think. And it let's us know that we have no time to fool around. The article - by Henry Porter - is published in the Guardian and is entitled, "Fiddling as the planet burns". Here are some pertinent passages:

The great lie in the climate debate is that there is still a debate worth having. Opponents of change insist that the human factors in global warming are not proven and that we must wait until we have hard evidence before taking drastic action, which is as about as silly as saying there are two equally valid views on the issue of whether paedophilia damages children.

What is so destructive about this stance is that it claims equal weight and equal airtime. The 'balance' in newspaper reports, especially in the United States, is, in fact, a bias against the truth and weakens the case for immediate action against emissions of C0<->2. And while we hum and haw, trying to persuade reluctant sceptics, the permafrost of the Arctic melts, sea levels inch up and the pH levels of oceans gradually drop because of the carbon that is absorbed from the atmosphere.

This has disturbed me about the mainstream press for some time now. They seem to think they're doing their job because they give time to "both sides". Their job, however, is to track down the truth. Why is it balanced to give both sides if one side is thoroughly bogus? Giving equal weight to two sides implies that the two sides in question are equally valid. If, however, one side has solid science behind it and the other is promoted by corporate profit interests, that ought to be reported as well.

Later Porter praises Tony Blair for his responsibility regarding the issue:

You have to hand it to the Prime Minister that he accepts the advice of his scientific advisers and has done all he can in Britain's presidency of the G8 to focus world leaders' attention on the problem.

But his chum Bush remains a delinquent simpleton in such matters. In the second draft of the G8 communique, the phrase 'our world is warming' has been placed in square brackets, which means that the statement is disputed by the US and is likely to be excluded from the final document. American officials also pressed negotiators to delete sections which tie global warming to human activity and emphasise the risk to economies.

Porter then continues by relating a personal experience:

Last winter, I attended the climate change conference at the new Met Office headquarters outside Exeter. In theend of the conference, there was an open session in which scientists talked about what they had heard over the previous days. I will never forget the solemn urgency of that session. Even the scientist were shocked by how advanced various manifestations of global warming were. I was sitting next to the woman who has done pioneering work on the pH levels of the oceans. Like the others, she had seen the abyss and it showed in her face.

What would happen if we all saw the abyss? Maybe we would demonstrate a willingness to make some changes. Here's how Porter concludes his article:

I wish we could all have that experience, because the conviction of the masses is the only way things will change. But here's the catch. It involves sacrifice and a loss of what we previously regarded as our rights to travel and consume freely. If I criticise the backwardness of Bush and his oil lobby, it follows that I must take action on a personal level - retire my ancient Volvo, use energy-saving light bulbs, switch off the computer at night, do away with the dishwasher, make fewer journeys by air, install solar panels, get a bicycle.

As yet, I have done none of these things.

I would add to his list to give money to environmental action groups, to lower the thermostat in the winter and raise it in the summer and simply to make fewer trips by car. Those things are relatively painless. Maybe Porter has "done none of these things" because he thinks he has to do them all at once. Why not pick one thing - just one thing - to do that will save energy. That is at least something. And then when the new behavior becomes a habit, pick one more thing. Otherwise we will all yield to inertia and just do nothing.

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