It’s mean to pick on the New Haven Register. So when I write this article, know it’s more of a shot at Al Gore. It used to be mean to pick on Al Gore, but he won a Nobel Prize, so now picking on him is more brazen than anything.
Over the weekend I was thumbing through a New Haven Register as I waited for an apple-picking trip to begin. I found an article on the front page of one of the sections praising Al Gore as a prescient visionary who foresaw this lengthy summer we have been enjoying.
I managed not to tear the paper to shreds, but that concluded my brief courtesy of reading it.
I have a report for the New Haven Register, hippies and Al Gore himself. Global warming is not the cause of this long summer. Global warming is a one degree increase in the average temperature worldwide over the past century. Every time it is unseasonably hot, otherwise-intelligent people rend their garments in agony proclaiming global warming has finally come to kill us all. They imagine polar bears desperately enrolling in swimming lessons and penguins watching their real estate fortunes plummet as the ice under their feet melts.
I confess, I have not yet seen “An Inconvenient Truth,” so I can’t directly comment on its content. The previews I have seen remind me too much of that scene in the movie “Red Dragon” where the red dragon glues the reporter to the chair and forces him to watch his slide show while saying: “This is Mrs. Jacobi transforming, do you see? This is Mrs. Jacobi transformed, do you see? This is the North Pole melting, do you see?”
My anger stems from an appearance by Al Gore himself on the Tonight Show when his movie first came out. Jay Leno asked him if the recent heat wave was caused by global warming and Al confirmed that it was. Al, you disappoint! And as much as I appreciate Al inventing the Internet, I’m puzzled why he is hailed as the first person to notice global warming. I remember one of my peers presenting on greenhouse gases for the seventh grade science fair. Perhaps she is well on her way to a Nobel Prize?
Climate change is an important issue, so to see it addressed in such an incompetent manner really upsets me. I believe this culture of ignorance fostered by the leadership filters down to the people trying to make a difference in the community. This is why we get people who drive hundreds of miles in their SUVs to wait in line for limited-edition cloth totes that proudly proclaim “I am NOT a Plastic Bag.” This is why we get STEP inanely spending the energy and man-hours to put a sticker on every light switch and every heater reminding us to try to conserve energy. I seriously doubt anyone on campus turns on the heater, realizes the room is too warm, and keeps it running while opening the window.
Perhaps we can turn to the dismal science for a solution.
I took a class on environmental economics here at Yale. The professor suggested that global warming is actually pretty sweet for North America. It just means we’ll get a longer growing season for our crops. Build some seawalls and levees around New York City (levees are impenetrable, after all) and we’ll be good to go. Even hippies should be pleased with this solution, as they will have a longer season during which they can grow more granola. The professor said all this with a straight face. (I admit to substituting hippies and granola for farmers and crops.)
Before we get all bent out of shape over global warming, we should recall a past environmental crisis that seemed dire but was resolved.
CFCs were pouring out of aerosol cans and eating a hole in the ozone. The north and south poles were both completely exposed to the sun’s radiation, and I remember watching a video in school about how Australians would soon be unable to go outside without wearing sunblock. A mortal fear gripped me (in case the photo at the end of the column doesn’t make it obvious, I’m pretty darn pasty). But then CFCs were replaced with HFCs which don’t eat the ozone, and the kangaroos roam free without sunburns. Of course, HFCs are a greenhouse gas …
Still, I have faith that the countries and industries of the world will cease their destruction before it is too late for one simple reason. Greed. Greed is good. A destroyed world will have no one left to buy goods, so industry will act in its own interest to maintain its market and save us all from certain death. The Industrial Revolution got us into this mess and it will get us out of it.
Brian C. Thompson is a senior in Branford College. His column runs on alternate Wednesdays.