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Igloos and some hoax

BY BEAU ELLIOT | FEBRUARY 16, 2010 7:30 AM

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So, Washington, D.C., the Mid-Atlantic states, and the South get hit by a blizzard or two, and suddenly global climate change is a hoax.

Right?

Well, that’s what the political right wing seems to think. (Yes, I understand that’s a liberal use of the word “think.” I’m trying to be nice. Yes, it takes a lot of effort; you didn’t need to bring it up.)

After snowstorms hit Virginia, for example, according to many reports, the state Republican Party put out an ad attacking two Democratic representatives and their support of cap-and-trade legislation: “Tell them how much global warming you get this weekend. Maybe they’ll come help you shovel.”

Ah, yes; what fun. Republican Sen. Jim DeMint went all Tweety-Bird about global climate change: “It’s going to keep snowing until Al Gore cries ‘Uncle!’ ” (Someone probably should tell him that only mediocre would-be writers use exclamation marks. But he’d probably dismiss that as some sort of liberal plot to make all of America’s children be gay and join the military.)

And then there was right-wing Sen. James Inhofe’s daughter and assorted grandchildren who constructed a 6-foot igloo on Capitol Hill complete with signs: “Al Gore’s New Home” and “Honk if you [heart] Global Warming.”

Inhofe, in an e-mail to the New York Times wrote that the blizzards “reinforced doubts about scientists’ conclusion that global warming was ‘unequivocal’ and most likely caused by human activity.”

Well, sure, if you’re in the habit of mistaking weather for climate.

Weather you measure in days, perhaps a week. Climate you measure in many decades, if not hundreds of years.

And, according to the scientists I know, you don’t use the phrase “global warming,” because that’s misleading. One of my best friends is a geoscientist, and for more than 10 years, when someone uttered “global warming,” he politely corrected them by saying, “No, it’s global climate change.”

Global climate change means some places could get warmer, some could get colder. At least as I understand it (and I don’t pretend to understand it completely). Storms won’t necessarily become more frequent, but they could become more intense.

In any case, the last decade is the hottest on record. There’s no question Arctic ice is melting more in the summer, and that glaciers are receding. The snows of Kilimanjaro will soon exist only in Hemingway’s short story. Something’s going on. Call it whatever you want.

While the Mid-Atlantic was getting feet of snow, Colorado ski resort Breckinridge has to make do with 3 inches, according to NPR. And Vancouver, where, I hear, they’re trying to hold the Winter Olympics? Don’t ask.

(Who, by the way, thought a place that has 45-degree temperatures in the winter might be a swell place to hold the Winter Olympics? That’s like deciding to hold the Winter Olympics in Iowa City, then getting here and discovering Iowa City has no mountains to ski down.)

Rio de Janeiro, meanwhile, is suffering its worst heat wave in more than 50 years.

I’m going to take my cue from Michael Winship, the senior writer of “Bill Moyers Journal,” who notes that the U.S. national-security apparatus is taking global climate change quite seriously. As he points out, the CIA and the Pentagon have established task forces to assess the effect of climate change on U.S. security. The Pentagon, for instance, created the Quadrennial Defense Review, which reported “… climate change could have significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation, and the further weakening of fragile governments. Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration.”

So let’s build some igloos with funny signs.


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