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E-M:/ A blast from the past re: $3 gas



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Enviro-Mich message from John Gear <jmgear@acd.net>
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Also posted and accepting comments at:
http://www.michiganliberal.com/?op=displaystory;sid=2005/9/26/01111/2104

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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 sponsored deniers
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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 uncertainty here.

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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