Righty: Those sandal-wearing, NPR-addicted, tree-hugging Chicken Littles on the left have already convinced mainstream America that the sky is falling… that we’re about to be inundated by rising seas, tropical heat and other meteorological catastrophes of an apocalyptic nature. All as a result of filthy capitalists and piggish American middle-class consumers releasing tons of pollutants into the atmosphere, of course. Did they ever consider that the Earth has naturally occurring cycles of colder and warmer weather, and that we’re simply emerging from a minor ice age? Presidential aspirant and perennial flake Al Gore has lent his prestige to the global warming hysteria, complete with PowerPoint presentations and a jumble of statistics. Just remember that you’re listening to the man who claims he invented the Internet.
Lefty: Hurricanes. Tsunamis. Retreating glaciers. Cherry blossoms blooming in winter. The hottest recorded temperatures since temperature-recording began. Wake up, everyone, THIS IS FOR REAL. The fabled snows of Kilimanjaro have virtually vanished, and Glacier National Park will need a new name within a few decades. Even the great Greenland icecap is melting at an alarming pace and sliding slowly into the sea. By the end of this century, all our coastal cities will be looking like Venice. Changing patterns of vegetation will decimate crops and cause massive famines. How much more evidence to we need to produce before those right-wing energy hogs smarten up and reverse their catastrophic environmental policies? Their intransigence in this matter is nothing less than evil, and their greed will visit horrendous consequences on every future generation to inhabit this once-pristine planet.
The New Moderate:
I have to lean in Lefty’s direction on this one, but (naturally) with a couple of qualifications. For anyone who cares remotely about the future, the gradual transformation of our dazzling blue-green globe into a hellish pressure-cooker is a catastrophe that makes Islamist terrorism look like a game of croquet. Who would have dreamed that one puny species of higher ape could have wreaked such general havoc across the planet?
That we’re already heating up has been established beyond argument. Only two matters remain to be debated: how much of the warming is due to manmade rather than natural causes (The New Moderate is moderate enough to admit that not all the change might be traced to us humans), and how quickly the Earth will be turning up the burners. Will average temperatures rise 3 degrees or 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100? Will sea levels creep 8 inches or 8 feet higher? Should smart real estate investors abandon the Jersey shore and start buying up beachfront property in Pennsylvania? Scientists haven’t been able to agree on the degree of change, but nearly all of them agree on the direction of the change. Greenland might not melt like a heated popsicle in our lifetimes, but it will melt in somebody’s lifetime if nothing is done. And that’s enough to make an alarmist out of The New Moderate, even if some of my fellow alarmists go embarrassingly overboard in their hysteria. I’d like to believe that future generations might be able to enjoy London, Paris, New York and Boston without gondolas.
It doesn’t matter whether some or even most of the change is the result of natural shifts in climate. We know that manmade emissions contribute to the greenhouse effect, so we must stop in our tracks and develop new energy alternatives now. Not ten or twenty years from now. As China, India, Brazil and other late bloomers require more energy to fuel their giddy growth, we will be making impossible demands on our resources and (given our current energy habits) turning our atmosphere into a noxious soup of greenhouse gases. It doesn’t take a professional geologist to see that we’re headed for a scenario in which the future Earth resembles some nightmare landscape from the mind of Hieronymus Bosch. Either we find more benign sources of energy, or we cut our fuel consumption drastically across the planet. The New Moderate would favor the former. Imagine trying to live without air-conditioning when summer temperatures routinely top 100.
Summary: It doesn’t matter whether global warming is a natural or manmade phenomenon (or a combination thereof); we have to address it NOW.