More and Dumber People

Hot and Hotter Planet

Commentary by Paul Watson
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Finally, finally, and at long last, George W. Bush, (the environmental idiot from Texas who happens to astoundingly also be the leader of the "free" world) has discovered that global warming is real. After years of denial, after years of attempting to suppress the science, the facts, the critics, and the environmental movement, the Shrub now admits that greenhouse gases are the cause of rising temperature and climatic change.

It took him long enough. Hurricanes are assaulting the southeastern coast with relentless rapid fire intensity.  Caribbean island nations can't even recover from one hurricane before being pummeled by another and then another.

The government of the United States has contributed greatly to the unleashing of Thermageddon on the world.

And for those of you who still deny this ecocatastrophe: Wake up and smell the burning rainforests. The President of perjury, the Commander in Chief of ignorance now acknowledges that the heat is upon us - so it's time for the Rush Limbaughs and the Christian Wrong to follow their leader and admit that for years they have been wrong, wrong, and wrong, and the environmental movement has been right, right, and right.

Of course, now the Chinese want their share of the technological and material pie and not much is going to stop them from wanting their refrigerators, air conditioners, and mega-mobiles. They did not stand in front of tanks in Tiananmen Square for nothing. Lady Liberty promised them Big Mac's and heart attacks and they won't be denied.

The oiliocratic oligarchy that runs the world is not going to surrender their position as pushers to the global oil addiction. More catchy phrases like "sustainable production," "clean air policies," and "development of ecological alternatives" will be used more and more frequently, but the gas pumps will still keep pumping, the assembly lines will still keep moving, and the cities will still keep sprawling.

The "world-will-be-saved-by-technology" crowd is already preaching wondrous sci-fi remedies like 600,000 square mile deflector shields in space to filter ultra violet rays from the sun, gargantuan pumping stations to send carbon dioxide down into the ground into aquifers, and have even suggested that the CO2 will actually be able to force more oil reserves to the surface for extraction. If they have their way, we will be drinking Perrier from our taps and building more Hummers.

I'm surprised that George Bush does not simply say that God will solve the problem by transporting all the "good" people to his harp-strumming heaven. If only the rapture were real, this Earth could be saved - but, alas, it ain't gonna happen.

The fact remains, however, that President Bush in refusing to address the issue of global warming until it is too late has committed a crime against humanity. And he did it deliberately to protect the interests of his base - the oil companies.

Consider that Bush had a White House official and former oil lobbyist appointed as editor of White House reports to intentionally cast doubt on scientists who warned about global warming.

A few years back a Republican pollster warned his party that "the scientific debate is closing against us but not yet closed." He added, "Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming in the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly."

Now, Bush and his boys can no longer deny that the scientific community is in complete agreement, as it has been all along. The only "scientist" now that would deny global warming is one of the self-described scientists who also believe in the creation myth and promote it as "intelligent design."

The world's scientists are in agreement that the levels of carbon dioxide are now higher than at any time in four hundred and twenty million years. Of course, this means nothing to people who believe the world is only four thousand years old. Unfortunately, some of these nimrods work in the White House or sit in Congress.

Scientists are also in agreement that if nothing is done to address this rising level that the green house gas levels will grow to twice pre-industrial levels by 2050. Scientists currently project that the average temperatures worldwide will rise between 2.5°F and 10°F by 2100.

Elizabeth Kolbert in a recent article in the New Yorker made reference to a recent study that analyzed every peer-reviewed scientific paper on climate change published between 1993 and 2003. Of the 900 articles published, there was not one that denied or denies that global warming is a reality.

And the national scientific academies of eleven nations including the United States recently released the following statement:

"It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities. This warning has already led to changes in the Earth's climate....The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action."

Well, we certainly won't get prompt action and we will be lucky to get any action at all and when we do, it will be too little and much too late.

In the oceans, the great machine of tides, currents, and salts is being tampered with by fluctuating temperature changes. More fresh water from melting ice is literally shifting the movements, forcing the Gulf Stream coming out of the Gulf of Mexico southward and away from Europe. In the mid-Atlantic, the temperature changes are firing tropical storms on an assembly line of destruction - more storms, stronger storms, and higher tidal surges.

Rising ocean levels will soon threaten low-lying nations. Thousands of oceanic species will be disrupted. Migrations of birds, turtles, whales and fish will shift and many species will be driven to extinction.

All of this will be denied, of course. Governments do not like to alarm people with images of reality. Governments are in the fantasy business of making promises they can't ever hope to keep and delivering little to an electorate they regard as nothing more than a crop of willing sheep whose shearing provides the taxes they love to squander like little boys buying toys.

The Kyoto Protocol looks fine on paper, but like almost all international treaties and regulations, it means little. Similarly, there is a global moratorium on whaling, but this does not seem to hinder the Japanese, Norwegians, and Icelanders from slaughtering whales.

It is also difficult for the world's people to understand and appreciate the extreme numbers involved, and why even the smallest luxury is a large contributor to the problem.

Consider that to produce just one gallon of gasoline, it requires 196,000 pounds of  prehistoric animals and plants. That is nearly one hundred tons of organic material to push one automobile down the road a few miles!

That one gallon of gasoline will create 20 pounds of carbon dioxide.  How can this be that a gallon of gas (carbon) weighing six and a half pounds will produce 20 pounds of CO2 when burned? The answer is that each molecule of carbon combines with two molecules of oxygen and oxygen weighs 1.33 times as much as carbon. Carbon dioxide is your contribution of carbon combined with the oxygen in the air thus robbing the oxygen from the planet to create greenhouse gas. We are all modern day alchemists constantly transforming the elements of the atmosphere and like Disney's magician's apprentice, we are each helping to create chaos.

Some environmentalists say don't worry, just plant a tree.

Consider that one average household in the western world annually creates 28,350 pounds of greenhouse gases. To offset this by planting trees would require growing 34 hardwood trees which are much more efficient CO2 converters than softwoods. It would take 25 years for these 34 trees to reach peak efficiency to absorb the full 28,350 pounds which means that CO2 production would greatly exceed CO2 absorption.

In the bigger picture, it would require fifty million acres of hardwood trees planted annually to manage the fossil fuel use of the United States alone. But instead of planting trees, we are cutting them down.

There is only one solution to global warming - only one, an impossible one, and that is to immediately cease and desist from burning fossil fuels. Close the coal mines, cap all the oil and gas wells, stop burning the rainforests, stop driving cars, flying in airplanes, and transporting goods in super-tankers and giant container vessels. Sometimes the only possible answer is the impossible solution.

It's back to sail, horses, and bicycles folks. One way or the other that is the way it will be. We either do it voluntarily or we will be forced to do it.

It's back to growing our own food and walking. And it's about time we seriously started looking at voluntarily curtailing our escalating numbers.

There are now six and a half billion of us and we are all hooked on oil and gas, coal and burning wood. We all want cars, fridges, televisions, and airplanes.

The fact is that those of us alive today and our parents and grandparents have just enjoyed the biggest damn materialistic fun festival in human history and the party is almost over.

We had a ball. The 20th century was the age of affluence, the age of luxury, and the age of excess. More people were born and lived in the 20th century than all human generations put together prior to 1800. We exploded like yeast in a vat, like algae on a pond, and like rabbits in a warren. We grew and are growing like malignant cancer cells - out of control and primed for self-destruction.

And now here we stand with an ecological idiot as the most powerful human being on Earth, trapped in lunatic conflicts over pie-in-the-sky fantasies about whose God is bigger, meaner, prettier, and better, and whose football team is tougher, whose teeth are whiter, whose clothes are brighter, whose body is sexier, and whose beer is lighter.

We are about to discover just what is really important, and the culture of trivial pursuits is about to be replaced by a culture of survival.

Forget about watching Survivor on TV - we will all soon be participating in the real production sponsored by Exxon and promoted by Shell and Texaco.

Being ecologically dumb made this world hot and becoming ecologically dumber will make it much hotter yet.