Published: Saturday, April 21, 2007
Global warming's elusive elephant
By Jim Mitchell
The savvy old sheriff called me over to his cruiser when I, as a 12-year-old boy, came out of the brush with my .22-caliber rifle just a few yards from where he was parked. In those days a boy with a rifle was not uncommon but the sheriff made occasional contact with us kids just so we knew we were not entirely without adult supervision. He asked me what I was hunting, if I had a license, and made some adult-to-child chit-chat. What followed is a lesson I have found applicable to many political discussions, especially global warming.
The sheriff asked if I had seen any elephants. I was incredulous, not having expected to see elephants in the Arizona sagebrush. I answered that I had not. "They sure do hide well for such a big critter, don't they?" I could hear him chuckle as he drove away.
Today we are being asked to accept that the global climate change we see is unusual, and by its existence proves man is the cause, just as the fact that I had not seen an elephant proved their concealment skills. We are also expected to believe that if the Western industrialized countries would limit their industrial pursuits, climates will go back to "normal."
Computer models that were fed known climate conditions of the past have not projected from that data what we know to have been the result. Where is the proof that climate change will bring desertification and wild weather? Why should we be forced to subjugate our economy to projections of the future which are essentially computerized speculations?
On what does former Vice President Al Gore, the most visible "prophet" of this issue, base his assertion that if we take the lead by making the huge economic sacrifices necessary to bring us into compliance with the Kyoto Treaty, those such as China will follow our lead? We have proof to the contrary.
Clouds of toxin-laden dust that originate from China's expanding deserts, themselves largely caused by agricultural methods that America outlawed or abandoned decades ago, have shown up in air monitors on our Pacific coast. China is more likely to let us decimate our own economy with our strangling regulations, then, smiling sweetly, simply absorb our global market share rather than follow our lead.
The fact that when testifying on Capitol Hill Al Gore spoke to a standing-room-only crowd, while a leading skeptic of the global warming hysteria, Bjorn Lomborg - whom most people have never heard of in spite of his book "The Skeptical Environmentalist" - testified to a nearly empty room, should warn us that although the science is not settled, the political "reality" is.
If this is such a critical issue for the future of the planet, why not have nationally televised debates and let people hear from both sides? Mr. Gore has refused to debate Mr. Lomborg. Is Gore's position unassailable simply because his disciples consider it the moral high ground?
Suppose "greenhouse gas" emissions are taxed, as is being proposed by some. What happens to the money? Will it be used to fund research into finding a "cure" for carbon dioxide pollution; perhaps developing technology to harvest and recycle or reconstitute CO2? You already know the answer.
Why are we not talking about what we need to do to protect ourselves from the effects of climate change just in case we discover that man hasn't caused it and cannot control it? (Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans was, at its root cause, a failure to prepare for such a storm.) Are you ready to learn water conservation if the predictions of drier summers come true? Rather than convoluted schemes of "greenhouse gas" credits and taxes, shouldn't someone be trying to figure out a way to manage how we do things that will minimize the change's impact? No amount of CO2 credit-swapping or taxation will make derelict flood control apparatuses more functional or drought-resistant food more plentiful.
Not seeing any elephants during my boyhood excursion into the Arizona thickets did not prove their existence, however reclusive. Neither is a rise in the planet's temperature proof of an impending disaster, or of a man-made cause. We should be careful of the conclusions facts lead us to, but most of all we should be very suspicious of politicians posing as pundits who promise to save us from their fears - for a price - and ask that we trust them as gatekeepers of the "moral high ground."
Oh, the punchline for those who have been waiting.......
Jim Mitchell lives in Darrington. He spent many years working in the mining industry, and now works in the forest products industry.
Vice-Chair, Democracy for Snohomish County