Just days ago, Hurricane Dennis, at one point reaching the immense power of Force 4 (209 to 248 km/h), slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast. Hurricane Emily is pounding Mexico right now. With the mid-Atlantic water temperatures at a sizzling 28 degrees — two degrees above the trigger point for hurricanes — the prospects are for one storm after another with increasing fury until November. Some will, no doubt, come our way in Nova Scotia and stir not-so-fond memories of Hurricane Juan.
Although this is the earliest ever for tropical storms of this size — September being the norm — nowhere, especially not in the big media in the U.S., do I find the expression “global warming.” There was the same peculiar silence last fall, when the U.S. southeast was being pounded by one monster storm after another — in the middle of a presidential election campaign yet!
The whole idea that the climate is going wonky and that we’re to blame then, is stuck in our throats although the denier-in-chief, U.S. President George W. Bush, did clear his at the G8 summit and mumble something to the effect that there does seem to be some warming going on and that, yes, maybe human activity has something to do with it.
It was perversely ironic that this small admission was obscured by the terrorist attack on London — since Bush’s own Pentagon, in a report a year and a half ago, identified climate change as a greater long-term threat than terrorism.
It’s astonishing that despite the near unanimity of the world’s scientists and governments on the threat of global warming and its obvious cause, and the increasingly regular lashings of an angry nature, the main reaction, led by the Bush administration, is still to take the hit and pretend nothing is happening.
The key point of denial — mainly fomented by polluting industries and their think tanks — is that climate change, including warming, has happened before in the history of the Earth, and quite quickly. This is true, but beside the point. The Earth has warmed before to what it is now, and apparently as quickly. But the computerized climate models — which have been right so far and have proved accurate when tested on past climate (the climate of the 1960s was entered and predicted the ’80s, for example) — indicate a rise of another three to six degrees again by the end of the century. Nothing on that scale has happened before in that timeframe.
Besides, isn’t it passing strange that the present warming, if entirely from natural causes, would proceed in perfect tandem with the rise in human pollution?
The extent to which climate change does fail to connect, especially in North America, can be measured by the extent to which it’s ignored by the major media. I’ve scoured the websites of nearly a dozen major newspapers and TV networks, and only one — the Los Angeles Times — listed “environment” as a specific category of coverage, in addition to the usual science, technology, education, travel, books, style, culture, etc.
There, incidentally, I discovered a report on a study done last year by a couple of professors on coverage of global warming by the big U.S. newspapers. They found that although those denying the science of global warming are minuscule in number, they usually got equal billing with the vast majority. Only one-third of news reports got the scientific balance right: That is, “while skeptics remain, humans contribute to a hotter Earth âe¦”
Deeper down, of course, we may have decided that nothing can be done, or we’re unwilling, or can’t, change our lifestyle to meet the challenge. And, of course, that’s the story of many a vanished society, civilization, species and whatnot on the face of this Earth. President Bush, although in thrall to polluting industries, is in fact speaking for most of us in being unwilling to face reality.
Meanwhile, it’s not just hurricanes. There’s searing drought in France, Spain and Italy again, while Eastern Europe is being flooded. Ditto central North America, while Manitoba and other parts west are flooded. A spokesman for Environment Canada says there’s no point anymore comparing weather to what is considered normal. After a couple of decades of worsening freak weather, “there’s no more normal.” And, let’s face it once and for all, the cause is our pollution.