But you should know that at a 1994 IPCC conference, it was the small Island nations of the Pacific that cried out loudest for a worldwide, 60 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, lest rising sea levels literally put them under. Only a twist of history separates our concerns from theirs. Unfortunately, neither energy-hungry America, first in CO2 emissions, nor energy-starved China, a close second, were interested in any such sacrifice, and the rest of the world followed suit.
Larry Hart, on the professional staff of the House science committee and an associate of Rohrabacher, puts the global warming question this way: “Climate change is forever. But what effect will it have if we hurry some massive change in lifestyle? Will it really make a difference?
Actually, a global change in lifestyle doesn’t have to be either disruptive or immediate to avert global warming. For instance, the IPCC points out that the world’s entire commercial energy system will be replaced at least twice over the next century, providing two painless opportunities to switch to more efficient technologies or to phase in alternative energy sources. But again, whether this happens depends on policymakers, who may or may not be interested in problems that can’t be solved within a given term of office, and the willingness of the fossil fuel industry to be flexible.
This last point is crucial. The petroleum end of the fossil fuel industry alone reaps one trillion dollars a year in annual sales and carries tremendous political clout worldwide. It’s no surprise that oil industry groups are downplaying the effects of global warming. The Global Climate Coalition, just one of many such groups, spends about a million dollars a year doing so. Demand for oil and coal is only going to grow—what’s to be gained by troubling that market with dark omens?
Between the political ball-playing, the clout of the most vested interests, and the sheer weight of the world’s appetite for energy, it’s doubtful that anything as sweeping or concrete as the Montreal Protocol will be established to deal with global warming. In the meantime, it’s tempting to believe celebrity pundits and a handful of dissenting scientists (many of them associated with petroleum industry groups like the Global Climate Coalition), who grab headlines and sell books based on the comforting idea that there is no problem with the ozone layer, no peril from impending global warming. It’s tempting because, after all, when a doctor says you aren’t sick, you don’t go get a second opinion.
But, you might want to check again, Hawaii. You’ve been getting a little too much sun, and it feels like you’re running a fever. Must be something in the air.