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E-M:/ A blast from the past re: $3 gas
- Subject: E-M:/ A blast from the past re: $3 gas
- From: John Gear <email@example.com>
- Date: Mon, 26 Sep 2005 00:16:44 -0400
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- List-name: Enviro-Mich
- Reply-to: John Gear <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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Enviro-Mich message from John Gear <email@example.com>
Also posted and accepting comments at:
Here's an op-ed I wrote in 1997 to respond to a piece of disinformation
mass-mailed to newspapers by the Global Climate Coalition, the industry
S. Fred Singer's article on global warming ("Global warming much less a
threat than new Ice Age") demonstrates the adage about lawyers’ tricks:
"When the law is on your side, pound the law. When the facts are on your
side, pound the facts. And if neither one is one your side, pound the
table." In denying the connection between greenhouse gases and global
warming, Singer pounds the table as beautifully as any Tobacco Institute
scientist denying that tobacco causes cancer.
Greenhouse gases (mainly CO2 and methane) from human activities cause
global warming. The two sides to this question are like those in the
tobacco “debate”: On one side is virtually every disinterested scientist
and researcher, including hundreds of Nobel laureates in the physical
sciences. On the other side, a tiny handful of "confusionists," funded
by the industries with the most to lose from global warming prevention.
It is only the media’s inability to distinguish credible science from
flackery that creates the impression that there is much scientific
The only countries denying global warming are oil states and
coal-dependent China. 157 other nations have set targets and timetables
for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This creates a global race to win
the market for the clean, super-efficient energy systems of the 21st
century. America can win that race with entreprenuership and innovation.
But if we cling to fossil fuels, Japan and Europe will win instead. The
huge subsidies the US gives coal, oil, and gas companies distort our
economy and stifle the innovation we will need.
Let's review the article. First, Singer says, "The climate is never just
average." This banal observation is intended to downplay the danger of a
trend toward a perceptibly warmer global climate. Singer warns us to
"watch out when you read about the 'hottest year,' 'longest drought,' or
'biggest hurricane.'" Fine; one datum does not a change make. But when,
year after year, records are set, watch out.
Later Singer even admits that human activities are influencing climate.
He cites just a few of the observed affects, but then uses sophistry to
conclude "But this does not mean that there will be a catastrophic or
even a substantial warming of the climate in the next century." True
enough--but then, symptoms never are causes. What Singer carefully
avoids is saying whether or not the observed effects, which even he must
concede, are consistent with the theories of climate change he denigrates.
Of course Singer also omits any mention of the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC). With over 2000 currently-practicing scientists
from 130 countries, the IPCC has released two authoritative and
extensively peer-reviewed reports discrediting Singer’s claims. And
while IPCC's atmospheric models are imperfect, they are far more
plausible than Singer. At one point he even claims "Many scientists
predict sea level will drop if oceans warm." Exactly how many is that
"many?" Is it related to the number of Tobacco Institute scientists who
deny the link between smoking and cancer?
Singer asks whether global warming would be good or bad (good, he says,
after using half his article to say it’s not happening) and then "When
it comes to it, what can we do about climate warming?" to which his
answer is essentially "Nothing." First he minimizes the threat, then he
aims to convince us nothing should be done anyway. This is a page from
the Tobacco Institute’s songbook. They like to say that since cancer is
"an old-person's disease" the cancer pandemic is only a statistical
fluke caused by our longer lives, and so nothing needs to be done
anyway. Different subject, same objective: lull us back to sleep.
That is Singer’s goal: convince us not to act to avert global warming.
To scare us into inactivity, Singer threatens that doing otherwise will
require energy rationing, (with "governments and bureaucrats deciding
who may use energy and who may not") or, scarier still, "$3-per- gallon
-gasoline." Oddly enough, Singer forgets to mention both the ways
"governments and bureaucrats" use subsidies to ration energy today and
his ties to Exxon, Shell, ARCO, UNOCAL, and Sun oil companies.
When Singer asks "Should we ruin our economies and cause tremendous
hardship for people to counter a phantom threat?" he isn't talking about
the economy that you and I live in. For Singer, "our economies" means
the oil companies that fund his disinformation campaign. But for the
rest of us, it is time to put America’s interests ahead of the oil
companies'. It's time to respond to the threat -- and the reality -- of
global warming, not to deny it.
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