The story is told of a feudal land baron who proffered a challenge to three of his overseers: whichever one gave the best answer to three questions would have a job for life; the other two would be fired at the end of the month. The baron's questions were:
- What is the biggest thing in the world?
- What is the fastest thing in the world?
- What is the best thing in the world?
Two of the overseers received permission from the baron to go in on the same answers. Being guileful sycophants, the pair quickly agreed that in order to win, their answers had to provide the maximum in flattery. And so, they responded:
- "The biggest thing in the world is the baron's heart."
- "The fastest thing in the world is the baron's prize stallion."
- "The best thing in the world is working for the baron."
The baron pondered their answers, frowned, and then said: "What kind of a simpleton do you take me for? I was looking for a bit of wisdom, not base flattery. Pack your things and be off the estate by the end of the month." Utterly deflated, the two slunk dejectedly out of the room.
This left the third man, a rather simple and artless soul. Fearful that he would lose his job -- and certain that he was nowhere near as smart as the other two -- he swallowed hard and stammered out his answer to the first question:
"The b-b-b-iggest th-th-thing in the world is . . . is . . . the w-w-world itself."
The baron smiled broadly and said but a single word: "Brilliant!"
And here we pause . . .
It follows that if the single biggest thing in the world is the world itself, then the single most important issue facing the planet is the planet itself . . . namely man-made global warming. I sincerely doubt that any reader of the K.F. Stone Weekly considers global warming to be a hoax or seriously questions the science behind it. The signs are both omnipresent and ominous: blistering heat, shorter winters, devastating crop losses, disappearing water sources, and rapidly shrinking polar ice caps to name but a few. Most of us understand that although history does record ages of greater and lesser terrestrial temperatures, this time, it is largely -- if not entirely -- our doing. Our addiction to burning fossil fuels is the major culprit; each year the people of planet earth burn some 33.5 billion metric tons of CO2, of which slightly more than 55% (18.4 billion metric tons) goes into the atmosphere, thus depleting our all-important ozone layer.
Climatologists and policymakers warn that unless the United States and other industrialized nations move to rein in emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases by 2020, most aspects of life -- from the food chain to the oceans to communicable disease -- could be altered, largely for the worse.
And yet, despite a welter of scientific and anecdotal evidence -- and innumerable well-conceived and doable steps we can take to deal with it -- there are still millions upon millions of people who consider global warming to be unproven at best, and some sort of liberal conspiratorial hoax at worst.
Among these -- if we are to take him at his word -- is Mitt Romney. To my way of thinking, of all the Faustian bargains the former Massachusetts governor has had to make in order to capture his party's nomination (healthcare, abortion, gun control, immigration to name but a few), none is so dangerous -- or damnably, dumbly obvious -- as his new-found disbelief in science. You know, there was a time not so terribly long ago when Romney -- like 99.9% of his Crimson (Harvard) classmates -- agreed with all the scientists who concluded that global warming was real, mostly man-made, and potentially catastrophic unless properly addressed.
Oh for the days when Romney thought and acted more like a college-educated adult and less like a loutish Luddite. When Romney was governor of Massachusetts, from 2003 to 2007, his staff included prominent environmentalists who developed a state climate action plan and a regional cap-and-trade system.
As recently as June 3, 2011, Romney said, "I think it's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and global warming that you're seeing," Less than 5 months later (October 28, 2011), Romney was whistling a different tune. Speaking at the Consol Energy Center (Consol is the largest producer of both natural gas and high-BTU coal in the Appalachian region), Romney said, ""My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet."
Romney is running on a platform which focuses heavily on expanding the supply of fossil fuels.
Romney's plan makes no mention of climate change and would end subsidies for cleaner sources of energy, such as wind and solar. In places like Iowa, where close to 3,000 utility scale turbines employ more than 7,000 people, provide more than 25% of the state's electricity needs and has increased the assessed property valuation by $2.3 billion, Romney's plan would be more than a mere step back; it would be devastating. Ironically, Romney initially unveiled this "no more wind power" energy plan in New Mexico, where he had to fight the wind as he showed flip charts of his policy. Further, the Romney/Ryan plan would open up oil and gas development off the Atlantic Coast, as well as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And he proposed putting states in charge of regulating oil and gas development on federal lands.