The OTHER Reasons To Hop On The Climate Change Bandwagon

It boggles me to a degree that an issue we knew about back when I was in grade school is still being fiercely debated. Back then we called it “The Greenhouse Effect”. Somewhere along the line it went from that to “Global Warming” and now it’s being called “Climate Change”

I blame the names in part for the lack of action. Greenhouses are, especially if you have a green thumb, pleasant. Global Warming sounds cozy, and as for Climate Change… come on, isn’t that what we take vacations for? I can’t stand Virginia’s climate, so occasionally I have to fly back to California where it doesn’t rain in the summer, and winters are actually cold.

Instead, maybe it would be more beneficial to rename the phenomena something like, “Holy Crap if we don’t get our shit together we’re all going to be living under water!” That’s a mouthful, so maybe something simpler like the “End Of Days” would help.

On second thought, maybe not that last one. Everyone who has already been saved by Jesus and therefore have nothing to fear will only probably just speed things along.

The truth of the matter, though, is that we know it’s there, whatever you want to call it. It’s happening, and studying trend analysis, it seems rather curious but can be hardly irrelevent that CO2 emissions have risen sharply since the Industrial Revolution, nor that average global temperature tracks CO2 content in the atmosphere pretty closely.

The final projected results are catastrophic. Forget losing polar bears, we’re talking about the loss of hundreds of millions of lives, entire countries will be shrunk down by the sea, or lost completely. To make things more specific, does anyone relish the idea of Las Vegas having oceanfront property?

Coming from California, I know our ilk tend not to be particularly liked in Middle America, so I’m not so sure that Kansas would be all that happy to be flooded with an influx of millions of Californian refugees.

The picture is, needless to say, bleak. Very bleak. So bleak that there’s no way it could happen in our life time, or our children’s life time, or even ever at all. It has to be a hoax, right? RIGHT?

Well, no. In Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, he takes on the myth that there is dissent in the scientific community regarding the subject of Climate Change, and funnily enough, a survey based on a sampling that is about twice that used in presidential primary polling, among articles published in peer reviewed journals the sum total of articles published that disagree with the process of Climate Change and its projected effects is… zero.

Zero percent. Nil. None. Nada. Scientists firmly agree that greenhouse gases due to human activity are resulting in a contribution to the globe’s atmospheric CO2 content, that this phenomenon is resulting in observable changes in average global temperature, and that the effects of this could have a severe effect on the planet. In the cases of some ecosystems this is already happening.

But there seems to be urgency among a fraction of the population. This isn’t difficult to understand why; in a similar poll, while scientific journals are unanimous in their understanding of Global Warming, reports put out by the media go about half and half when dealing with the validity of the issue.

And why? Well, that’s an interesting question. Also in Gore’s documentary, we are treated to a very simple slide that was used by the Bush administration when deliberating on whether or not to take Climate Change seriously. It depicts a set of scales. On one side is the Earth, and on the other side is a stack of gold bars. The message is simple, if we try to save the planet, we’ll go broke.

This contention seems to highlight a bigger cultural clash in America today, one that draws the battlelines almost directly over so many other battlelines in today’s rough and tumble political debate; left vs. right, the out of touch bleeding hearts against the hard working stoic American trying to get by.

Indeed, in smaller circles we’ve seen this whole battle time and time again, and it’s to the point where the issue of Climate Change has become a battle that seems so much more metaphysical to the greater American Psyche. It brings up images of the cultural missteps of the past forty or fifty years when it comes to the left. It’s the barking of the tree-hugging hippies, and granola eating sandal wearing eco-nuts. Anyone who tries to raise awareness and do something about Global Warming must also have about three moon rings, a PETA membership, and own stock in a tofu company.

We eco-nut-new-agers listen to weird music and drive funny small, funny cars and shriek uncontrollably about rainforests thousands of miles away, and it’s an affront to the American culture, to big cars and rock and roll music and staunch heterosexuality, and worse still, American jobs.

Battles of the eco-nuts have happened in the past, putting the jobs of timber workers in dire straits just to save a spotted owl of all things, and in our attempts to conserve water during a drought, we put at risk the livelihood of farmers in Oregon.

And that seems to be the bottom line. If we try to go green, our economy will take a nose dive, and millions of hard working Americans will be thrust into unemployment, and for what? To save a couple polar bears.

But this is taking the narrow view by a wide margin. In fact, going green can not only create jobs, but lots of them, and strengthen already existing American companies. For instance the auto industry. One of the fiercest opponents of going green seems to be the automakers who are clinging onto the idea that if they are forced to meet strict new emissions and mileage standards, they will not be able to stay afloat in the market.

Et tu, paradigm shift?

I remember about a year before I bought my Jetta, my wife and I went shopping for a new car. What we wanted was a Prius, we wanted to be environmentally friendly, and reap some of the benefits of not having to fill up the gas tank so often. Going to the dealership, the salesman seemed pleased that we were interested, but lamented that, “I don’t have one for you now. We’re supposed to get one next week, but we can’t keep those on the lot.”

The fact is, while American motor companies have fallen on tough times, this is due in large part because foreign companies, particularly Japanese companies, are currently leading the market in hybrid vehicles. And if we were to look at the export market, the picture gets even worse where standards for mileage and emissions are significantly tougher, therefore eroding the market for our gas guzzlers.

We like to say that America leads the way. Well imagine how strong our automakers would be if they led the way in high mileage, low emissions vehicles. Imagine if we were mass producing them, thereby driving down the cost and making them more affordable for our folks, and also making the companies more competitive in the export market.

In Hampton Roads, next to the Military, perhaps the single largest employer was the Ford plant that just recently closed. It produced the fairly popular Ford F150, and when the company shut it down, they released a small statement basically saying they wanted the production to be closer to the main offices. Shift the gears a little, bump up hybrid production, and now you can afford to not only have a plant in both Detroit and Norfolk Virginia, but you could expand, hire more workers, and possibly pay them more.

But this is only a small piece of the pie. New fields of business are where you can really cash in. It doesn’t always come off, a la the “Dotcom Debacle”, but when you hear the phrase “Paradigm Shift,” that’s exactly what people are talking about.

For those of you not up on your business speak, a “paradigm” is merely a widely held view by the mass of the population. For example, hundreds of years ago, people KNEW the world was flat. These are vast, sweeping, widely held views about the world around us, but as ways of gaining knowledge change, and we grow as a species, these paradigms are subjected to shifting.

For example, once upon a time, the only time pieces anyone ever had were the old fashioned coils and springs and sprockets analogue types, and the best in the world were made by the Swiss. Then this guy had an idea. He invented the digital watch.

He took his invention to the finest watchmakers in Switzerland, and showed off his new invention trying to find a company that would pay him a huge sum of cash so he could spend the rest of his days fat, dumb, and happy. But invariably the response that he was treated to was “Oh, that will never be as accurate as what we make,” and “No one would buy something like that.”

So he took his idea to Japan. In case you don’t know how that story ends, stop by where they have the watches on desplay the next time you hit a departent store. That is a paradigm shift.

And we’re in the middle of one right now. Curious thing about paradigm shifts, because they require a shifting of the world view, they are largely resisted against. People didn’t want to learn that the world was round, or that the Earth revolved around the Sun, and not the other way around. In fact, the consequences for implying such nonsense were pretty dire.

But the consequences for not eventually succumbing to that particular paradigm shift would be pretty radical; Columbus not realizing that the reason sailboats appeared to be sinking as they went further off in the horizon was not because they were sinking but because the Earth may actually be round could have resulted in a much different America than we live in today.

So with this paradigm shift, what we are seeing is a multitude of new businesses begging to be born. There could be consulting firms whose sole job it is to make other businesses more environment friendly, businesses who research alternative fuels, and businesses to actually employ them. Solar power, windpower, hydrostatic power, nuclear power, all cleaner and more environmentally friendly (yes, even nuclear power if it is regulated properly), and all a budding new field that could result in millions and millions of new jobs.

And as we explore these new resources, one thing I think you’ll see is that so much more would be homegrown. I mean, lets look at some of the ones we already know are possible or probably. Hydrogen, plenty of that going around. Solar power; no need to go searching for that one. Wind; okay so Chicago may have a little more than the rest of us, but for the most part wind isn’t exactly a region specific thing. And I’m pretty sure any presidential candidate who goes through the primary meet and greets of early primary states knows that there’s ethanol, and if they don’t, I’m pretty sure Iowans will be quick to remind them.

But I won’t sugar coat it. Some jobs may be lost by making America “go green,” but the industries and businesses that would result of the venture would in all likelihood make up for the losses. And to cite Inconvenient one last time, what good are all those gold bars going to do you with no planet to spend them on?

Now I had made the point that many alternative energies are home grown. This brings us to our second reason to get with the Climate Change program; energy dependence. We are locked into a quagmire not just in Iraq, but essentially in the Middle East, and the reason is as plain as the everpresent leer on Dick Cheney’s face; oil.

I want to harken you back to just before the 2004 presidential election. Weeks before voters went to the polls, Osama bin Laden released another video tape for mass consumption. Among many other things, in that tape, OBL pretty clearly laid out the reasoning behind the September 11th terrorist attacks.

It wasn’t because al Qaida “hated our freedoms” but because of US policies in the Middle East; generally because we have a habit of supporting dictators not because they would be good for the Arab people they govern but because they would be willing to deal with us, and specifically he cited the US bombings in Lebanon.

Now no one likes listening to terrorists, and it was pretty evident that neither presidential candidate that fall was going to. Instead of registering a single thing bin Laden had said, both merely reverted back to tough talk; Kerry, boarding a plane and trying to sound even tougher than Bush had something to the effect of, “We’re going to hunt down and kill these barbarians.”

But call me crazy, I think that there can be at least a little bit of wisdom gleaned from a madman. It may be ludicrous to treat Osama bin Laden as a best buddy, and just start immediately chatting civilly with him over tea and crumpets, but it’s also, I think, equally ludicrous to ignore flat out anything the man says. Terrorism is, at its heart, a political movement, allbeit a violent, and vile one, complete with political goals.

So while 99% of what a terrorist says is radical, fanatic, and rabid, there’s probably 1% of truth buried in there somewhere. After all, pro-life terrorists don’t bomb abortion clinics because the moon told them to, do they? No, along with all of their radical “Christian” propaganda, they’ll probably also mention the fact that they did it because they don’t agree with abortion. Eco-terrorists may do some heinous things, but somewhere in there will be a message about the environment.

Keeping this in mind, one thing you can glean is that the US hasn’t had the best policy in the world when it comes to the Middle East. Did we deserve to have three thousand of our citizens murdered? No. Would Osama bin Laden still be a murderous madman? Quite possibly. But, I have a hard time believing that he would have had the support and system in place that he did when 9-11 happened had our Middle Eastern policy been different.

But as it stood and still stands, the effect is essentially that the ref is being bribed. In this case, we’re the ref, and the bribe money comes in the form of eased oil dealings. In other words, our integrity and ability to act as impartial and effective mediators in anything that occurs in the Middle East is greatly compromised by our dependence on their oil.

Ending our dependence on foreign oil is a political meme that has gotten legs lately, but why? I believe it’s more of a gas pump issue than it is Climate Change or improving our standing in the Middle East, and with some conservatives, it may be a new way to call for drilling in Alaska.

But let’s look at the bigger picture here. Early in the occupation of Iraq, we went through great lengths to protect Iraqi oil facilities, while other things were left by the wayside, like perhaps the infrastructure, or, as we would later come to find out, even weapon stocks. While there are many justifications for this, many of them valid, one thing that has to be understood is that this did not send a very good message to the Iraqi people: “We are not here to help you, we are here to help ourselves and your oil.”

It’s hard to think that US presence in Iraq is completely altruistic when we are licking our chops at their oil fields. But think about it a different way. You are chosen to moderate an argument between two neighbors. One of your neighbors has a lawn mower that you use pretty frequently, while the other neighbor doesn’t even have a lawn mower due to the fact that he has a rock garden instead of traditional grass. You may be objective, you may be impartial, but even on the part of the two disagreeing parties, how fair do they think you’re going to be? The neighbor with the lawn mower is going to think you owe him a favor, while the other neighbor is going to not have faith in the whole process because he too thinks you owe the other neighbor a favor.

So taking the bennie o’ doubt route and assuming that the US can remain impartial, even opposing factions are still going to doubt US impartiality based on who has the most leverage with oil.

The ultimate point is this, if you take oil out of the equation, we don’t have any underlying interests in the region, other than perhaps peace and other economic factors. So when we do come to the table, our position is significantly more clear, and definitely not compromised.

But oil is still there, and we still fiend for it like crack, so that puts us in a position where we will prop up anyone (like say the Saudi Royal Family) despite how good they are for their own people, as long as they’ll sell us oil on the cheap.

There are lots of problems facing us in the Middle East, and I’m not trying to say that kicking the oil habit will fix them all, but it will greatly improve our standing, and strengthen our hand when we do attempt to navigate the raging rapids of Middle East politics and conflict.

And by reducing our dependence on foriegn oil by cultivating alternative fuel sources that could be generated, refined, and managed here at home, we’re not only strengthening our position in the Middle East, we are making millions of new jobs for our citizens, and we are helping to stifle the effects of Climate Change.

To learn more about Climate Change, you can visit the Climate Crisis web page.

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