IMMEDIATE RELEASE 24 September 2014
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932
Twist on the global warming war
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – Fast forward 100 years or even 50 years and look back on today from that vantage point. The threat posed by ISIS will be greatly diminished when compared to the damage done by climate change if steps are not taken to reduce the amount of pollution released into the atmosphere.
Some people will never believe that the warming of the planet is something man has accelerated. They cite climate swings in the past, and are willing to place the future of the planet in the hands of hope. What will be will be, they say.
Others point to evidence that the first decade of this century is the warmest on record, and people who live in coastal areas can see with their own eyes that sea levels are rising. In New York this week, where the United Nations hosted a summit on climate change, representatives from Pacific Island nations pleaded for help as they watch their land masses disappearing.
The scientific data is there, and when 300,000 ordinary people took to the streets in New York on Sunday to call on world leaders to take action on climate change, there was a sense we might have turned a corner on this emotional issue.
Advocates for addressing warming that is already underway no longer feel as great a need to convince the opposition that climate change is real, and that man’s endeavors contribute to the warming. Instead of pointing fingers and labeling people climate deniers, the new approach simply asks if we can agree that polluting the planet’s atmosphere is a bad thing.
Environmentalists can stop trying to convince people to believe in global warming, and switch instead to a more positive approach of combating pollution. Who can be opposed to that? In the sixties, during the “Mad Men” era, people used to litter in public parks without thinking twice about it. There is a scene in one of the early seasons of “Mad Men” where Don Draper and his family are picnicking in Central Park. When they’re done, they leave paper napkins and plates behind. Nobody got fined for littering in those days. Attitudes have changed.
Attitudes are changing as well about whether and how we combat climate change. There was a seriousness of purpose to the marchers in New York, described by The New York Times as a cross-section of “concerned ordinary people,” some veterans of the climate change movement, others newcomers. The world leaders who gathered Monday in New York to lay the groundwork for a potential 2015 agreement did so amid reports that the summer months of 2014 were the hottest on record for the globe, and that 2014 is on track to surpass the previous record-holder, 2010, as the hottest year in recorded history.
Even so, the reports that emerged from the New York meeting were not the dire warnings that we’ve become accustomed to hearing. Instead, there were the sounds of optimism born of acceptance that global warming is upon us, and that there is opportunity in combating it. It’s probably too much to dream that someone will come up with technology to extract carbon dioxide from the air, but short of that, renewable fuels are coming into their own and displacing old fossil fuels that have done so much to poison and pollute the atmosphere.
In a nice touch on the eve of the summit the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced it would be selling its investments in the fossil fuel industry, and would be joining other institutions and individuals in spurning companies that rely on coal and tar sands. The Rockefeller money came from their great-grandfather’s Standard Oil Company, a fact that makes their decision all the more poignant.
© 2014 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND