If an unpleasant possibility rears its head in the real world --one that runs counter to pet policies of ideologues--they simply decree it isn't so and move on. That's how ideologues so often operate. Take these lines from a column that ran in newspapers, including this one Sept. 9. Charles Krauthammer wrote: "This kind of stupidity merits no attention whatsoever, but I'll give it a paragraph. There is no relationship between global warming and the frequency and intensity of Atlantic hurricanes. Period. "
Do tell. No attribution, no logic, no list of reasons why, just the bald assertion, "There is no relationship.... " It's that "Period " that's so insulting. Nothing anyone has ever said or will ever say again, that one-word sentence implies, can possibly have any bearing on this debate. Good argument Charles. With a wave of your hand you've eliminated global warming as an issue and moved on. Emailers actually pointed to Krauthammer's column as proof that global warming isn't real. There it was in black and white. Must be true.
On its face there's nothing wrong with pointing to the opinion of a well-known commentator who has had far too much influence on our times, as Krauthammer arguably has. And there's nothing wrong with restating conventional wisdom and moving on. I can't argue with "the sky is blue. " It's self-evident--most places.
The problem is, Krauthammer has been wrong about so much, the stakes here are so high, the experts disagree so vehemently when it comes to global warming, that it's time we all examined the evidence. Krauthammer's assertion is akin to decreeing, "They hate us because we're free, " as if such assertions were self-evident. As if that means we should invade Iraq. Such decrees would be humorous were they not so damaging.
Oh, did I decree a moment ago that Krauthammer has been wrong about some things? You're right, I owe you examples. Krauthammer is one of the architects of the present unpleasantness in Iraq. A self-described Neocon, he long ago signed on to the Project for the New American Century. He has argued in his columns and on his commentaries for Fox TV that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. That Ahmad Chalabi was a worthy ally. That we would be greeted as liberators. That we should use our military might to rule the world ("mono-polar hegmony" he calls it). That those who disagree with such assertions represent a "fifth column." The list is long.
Evidence suggests more than 100,000 people have died in Iraq, mostly innocent civilians, as a result of such opinions from Krauthammer and others. I wouldn't bring all this up were he not relying on his own authority to discount global warming.
I admit to issuing opinions on a range of issues--every columnist does--but most of us back them up with a promise of more later or a hint that our opinions are based on something besides our own hot air, or we acknowledge we could be wrong. Not Krauthammer. He simply asserts, "There is no relationship between global warming and the frequency and intensity of Atlantic hurricanes. Period. "
You and I know it's more complicated. What Krauthammer does --what Bush does, and what his oil-dependent father does--is to assert that global warming does not exist or that we don't know what causes it, that we should study the problem for a few more years, and then they leave it to their critics to prove them wrong.
It's a clever tactic. I can't prove global warming causes hurricanes, any more than I can prove it caused the greening of those lush Nevada deserts my wife and I ran through in the spring, or the record heat waves that killed 20,000 in Europe in '03, or the record forest fires in Spain and Portugal in recent weeks, or the dropping water levels in France, the record torrential rains that killed thousands in India, the melting polar ice caps, the migrating of species northward, the thinning of the ice fields over Greenland, the fading Snows of Kilimanjaro, the dying coral reefs, the drowning of New Orleans, or the 90-degree temperatures we experienced here on Wednesday. But at some point we'd best take stock of such things.
What I can do is cite the opinions of independent scientists, astronauts, former presidents, insurance executives and policy wonks who are alarmed at what they see happening to our world. Or I can point to Rita, spinning so elegantly towards the Texas coast, and I can wonder aloud whether turning down the global thermostat a notch over the past 30 years might've been worth giving it the old college try.
Don's new book, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes, is now available
Don can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.