Early yesterday morning, after reading the text of Al Gore's Nobel Prize acceptance speech on OpEdNews, I was puzzling over the comments section, where several of the scientific equivalent of Holocaust deniers had weighed in. Still wondering what to make of it, I decided it was time to hit the front stoop and tackle the daily ordeal of reading my rather conservative hometown newspaper. There to greet me was the lead story headline, "Melting of Arctic's ice speeds up." The (no doubt liberal) AP story went on to say:
"Greenland's ice sheet melted nearly 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark, and the volume of Arctic sea ice at summer's end was half what it was just four years earlier, according to new NASA satellite data. . . .
"Just last year, two top scientists surprised their colleagues by projecting that the Arctic sea ice was melting so rapidly that it could disappear entirely by the summer of 2040.
"This week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: 'At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of the summer of 2012 . . .'"
That's four years, folks, before we even decide whether to re-elect whoever is chosen in next year's presidential campaign.
Of course, I didn't need the scientists to tell me that things are changing drastically, and fast, as I watched leaves cling stubbornly to the trees of central Ohio as late as the first of December, a good month past when they used to drop just a decade or so ago. Some species are being seen in places they have never been seen before, while others are disappearing from places where they have lived for milennia. Just make a quick call to your own state's Wildlife or Parks Department, and you'll see.
Global warming critics like to note that the earth's temperature has always been in flux, and that only 30 years ago, after a few tough winters, scientists were warning of a coming ice age. And they make my point exactly. It's true, the earth's temperature has always been in flux, but show me in the geological record, in the tree rings or the ice cores, when it has ever changed so quickly.
It reminds me of the movie "And the Band Played On," about the initial days of the AIDS crisis. A San Francisco-based researcher has figured out the mysterious disease which has fatally afflicted a still-small number of the city's gay population, what it is and how it spreads, and he knows the numbers are about to increase exponentially. But no one will take his warnings seriously, and most in the gay community see only a Reagan Administration plot to crush their newfound freedom. So he looks out his window at a Gay Pride parade, and the fun-loving frolickers turn into images of Death before his very eyes, and the parade into a funeral march of skeletons.
I was a strong supporter of Gore in 2000, despite his flaws. I lived in George Bush's Texas at the time, and I knew what we could be getting into. And I found Gore's Nobel speech inspiring. He's come a long way, often in the face of undeserved ridicule, urban legends, and even outright lies. I can't help but savor the fact that, in a post-5-4 Supreme Court decision world, Gore has won the world's most prestigious award, while Bush has become the most despised person on the planet. As his distant kinsman, Gore Vidal, once observed, the four sweetest words in the English language are, "I told you so."
But I was not surprised when this week's Nobel ceremonies brought out his critics en masse. These people have never been known for their graciousness. There were the usual suspects, of course -- the paid prostitutes of the oil and coal industries, and the people who toe the GOP line no matter how ridiculous it gets. And a lot of people, of both the Bush and Nader varieties, have a hard time admitting what a disastrously mistaken choice they made seven years ago.
But I think the biggest problem is the people who just can't deal with the fact that our "fun, fun, fun 'til her daddy takes her T-Bird away" lifestyle is going to have to change. We can do it rationally and try to minimize the effects on ourselves and the planet, or we can party on until catastrophe forces more drastic and unpleasant changes upon us. But daddy's knocking on the door, asking for the keys, even as we speak, and catastrophe could come before my central Ohio trees green again next spring. In Atlanta, drought has so depleted the city's drinking water reserves and rain so desperately needed, prayer has recently come to be seen as a civic duty.
Nature, meanwhile, has her own sense of humor. Thus while oil companies drool over the reserves in ANWR -- made potentially more profitable with every increase in the price of crude -- such reserves are becoming more and more difficult to exploit, regardless of what political decisions we make. The permafrost is melting, you see, and they can't drive their trucks through the muck.