Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tuesday Introspective - Our Environment

I had planned on doing a Tuesday post on global warming and climate change for the past few Tuesdays but something always came up. But it was meant to be that I would post today as I was able to utilize all the environmentally conscious blogs that posted for Blog Action Day. And given Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize for his role as an Ambassador for our Environment, timing couldn't have been better. Who would have thought the former Vice President, who technically should habe been the 43rd President of the USA, who went away to quietly lick his wounds and came back as a major spokesman for global warming, would win a Nobel Peace Prize?

Yesterday, the NYT Op-Ed Columnist Paul Krugman asks "What is it about Al Gore that drives right-wingers insane?" And he answers that it's because Mr. Gore keeps being proven right. "Today, being a good Republican means believing that taxes should always be cut, never raised. It also means believing that we should bomb and bully foreigners, not negotiate with them. So if science says that we have a big problem that can’t be solved with tax cuts or bombs — well, the science must be rejected, and the scientists must be slimed." And in an age where smear tactics are the proven choice for conservatives fighting for their guns and their large SUVs and their big tax breaks to keep their large McMansion estates - it drives them wild that none of their tactics have worked on Mr. Gore. Instead "he's taken everything they could throw at him, and emerged more respected, and more credible, than ever. And it drives them crazy."

As much as I respect Al Gore, we must remember despite the media hype, he was not the only winner. He split the Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a respected organization known for its measured approach to the problem, focusing on the more noncontroversial findings. Their approach is very different from the doom and gloom approach Mr. Gore has taken. There has been concerns that Mr. Gore's emphasis on the more sensationalistic aspects of global warming is misrepresenting the science. For example, the NYT article titled
"2 Winners, and 2 Approaches to Spreading the Word on Climate" stated that in Mr. Gore's documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” "a fast-motion flood spills into ground zero, implying seas could rise many feet in the near term from melting Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. In the [IPCC] panel’s latest study, losing the Greenland sheet was projected to take 1,000 years or more." One IPCC member, Gary Yohe stated “If the spectacular nature of his presentations and the personalities involved become the story instead of the science, then it becomes counterproductive.” Some are concerned that Mr Gore is an alarmist in his approach, especially when the science is still uncertain. Those authorities who tend to marginalize the issue of climate change look at Mr. Gore's tactics as trying to frighten the public with dire climate scenarios like more intense hurricanes. And given that the science is uncertain, it allows Mr. Gore's detractors to counterargue his position as simple alarmism and reassure the scared public that there is no solid proof of this phenomenon.

I believe both approaches are important to bringing world attention to the concerns of our environment. What other way is there to attract the attention of the masses? For the science itself is too complex for average citizens and elected officials (even our President!) to comprehend. And even the experts agree that if the profile of the issue had not been raised with “An Inconvenient Truth,” the ICPP's reports this year would not have had nearly as much impact.

Since Mr. Gore plans to donate a portion of the $1.5 million prize money to the nonprofit organization he founded last year, the Alliance for Climate Protection, I hope he will also take a more conservative approach in the dissemination of the message to the public now that he has catpured everyone's attention. In no way do I think he should change his approach too drastically, as I do believe we must keep the pressure up, but I would want him to stay as close to the proven science as possible, if only to counter the inevitable backlash from the right wing conservatives.

Mr. Gore's approach has helped raise the issues of climate change to the public and now that public attention has been captured, it is now up to the world's governments and the scientific community to come up with answers and solutions to save our world. And it is up to us, the citizen's of the world, to hold our government's accountable to find these solutions.


Charles Gramlich said...

A good balanced approach to the issue. Something we see little enough of these days.

Robin S. said...

hi ello,

I agree with Charles. This was a good and balanced approach.

There are always zealots on any issue - it's helpful to find the sane ground, so something can actually be accomplished, (other than finding out who the best chest-beater is in a lineup).

Bernita said...

We need balance.

Lisa said...

The interesting this about the argument about climate change always comes down to picking apart how scientifically accurate the arguments are and it also comes down to disagreement about how much of the global warming that's occurring is a direct result of what we're doing to the planet and how much of it is natural occurrence. To me, it's the equivalent of arguing what percentage of the hull of the titanic the iceberg wiped out. The water is still coming in.

Certainly, when all is said and done, even the staunchest opponent to Al Gore's particular message has to agree that we need to stop damaging the planet and work toward more sustainable ways of living. Sadly, this comes down to people and how much we're willing to sacrifice and compromise. Politicians want to represent the interests of their constituents, and although most people give lip service to being more environmentally responsible, the bottom line question is how much are people willing to pay? Change can't occur at any measurable level on an individual, voluntary level and judging by the number of gas guzzling SUVs on the road and our level of consumer consumption, we're not very driven to make changes as a culture. Significant, measurable change isn't free. If we could reduce carbon emissions substantially, but it meant that the average utility bill would increase by 25 or 50 percent, what are the odds that the voting public would support that kind of change? If we suddenly had a choice to buy hybrid cars at the same cost that we could buy gas powered cars, how many people would do it, knowing that they'd be sacrificing horsepower? If we could retrofit our houses to use solar power tomorrow, but it would mean that we had to carefully plan when and how to use heat and hot water, how many people would voluntarily do it?

There are a lot of things that can be done to slow global warming and to improve our environment, but the road to getting to them is very unclear to me.

Josephine Damian said...

Balance? Move to Florida and experience 150+ days a year of temps WELL over 90 and then talk to me about balance. Move to Florida where even the darkest sunglasses can't keep you from squinting against the harsh sunlight and then talk to me about balance. Move to Florida and have a category four hurricane destroy pretty much your entire town and then talk to me about balance.

OK. I'll get off soap-box now.

Ello, I miss your old avatar. Why'd you change it?

Melissa Marsh said...

I cringe during the winter months when I drive to work and see all the exhaust coming from the cars. You don't see it in the summer, but only when it's cold - and it frightens me. That's a lot of stuff we're putting into the air, and I live in a fairly small city!

Gore's position in society gave him a unique opportunity to highlight what's going on with our environment - I'm glad he used his fame for good.

Church Lady said...

Another great post. And I really like your analogy, Lisa (the titanic).

I don't blame people for not doing everything it takes to be bio-friendly. It's time-consuming, in a day and age where people are working crazy crazy hours.

I think it must start with large companies (like improving the gas mileage and reducing emissions on cars). I believe the best chances of success are schemes that begin with government / large companies.

Sherry said...

You've written an outstanding piece as always ello.
You've made excellent arguments about the two sided approach and yes, Gore's method did capture public attention...it isn't the scientific approach which the masses generally don't understand. He hit us where we needed to be "hit" (some who hadn't already realized most of this).

preTzel said...

I think there are zealots in both camps. I fear that the message is being lost in the propaganda being tossed and that the deaf ear is being turned because of it. I believe Al Gore made his approach in a way that lacked the major propaganda that some put in but it was still there. Mr. preTzel and I both watched the movie and we were both in awe of things we didn't know but we both wondered how much was 100% fact and how much was propaganda. We're both staunch Democrats/Libs and loved Gore when he ran and cursed Bush when he won.

I just wish these people would say what they need to say and leave the "smear" out of it so their message doesn't get lost.

Robin S. said...

Hey pretzel:

"I just wish these people would say what they need to say and leave the "smear" out of it so their message doesn't get lost."

Well said! You're absolutely right-zealotry is a party-free zone. it doesn't matter what "side" you're on, they're in there with you, and they ruin it for the rest of us.

Ello said...

Great comments from everyone. Like CL said, it is hard for us to do everything we need to help the environment, but if we all did a little bit, we can make a difference in the world. But the most important thing is educating everyone in what is happening. We can't afford to deny what is going on anymore. Our governments around the world must put aside the silly wrangling and work together to fix the problems.

SzélsőFa said...

People are heading for convenience and habits. Except for a few ultra-green lunatics, no one is willing to give up his present-day standard of living.
It's not (only) the big companies.
It's us, who are unwilling to change and give up CONSIDERABLE amounts of freedom of movement, choice of food, convenience in and out of our houses, choice of workplace/schools/shops...the list is endless...

Having been on the green side of things in the past few years, I am really outraged when I hear about 'scientifically unproven', or 'gloomy scenarios'...

People are blind to see the truth.

People who consider them being greens, come together and organize a meeting when they all talk about how green and environmentally friendly they all should be.
They pat each other's shpulders for coming up with brilliant ideas.

At the end of the meeting they have food that is coming from another continent and they all sit into their large cars and after a few hours' of drive go home.

Can't you see how antagonistic this all is?

Call me 'wearing a gloomy/black screen' when talking about the environment, Ello.
I'm taking it.