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Right Field

Hot Air

By Russ Smith | Posted 5/9/2007

Like the vast majority of people with strong political opinions, I'm not a scientist, and so it's difficult to sort through the ever-increasing jumble of facts, dire predictions, and reactionary dismissals on the topic of global warming and climate change. This isn't an excuse, it's just extraordinarily difficult to process so much information (and tossed-off punditry) on the subject and arrive at a reasonably intelligent viewpoint. On the one hand, it stands to reason that as the planet's population skyrockets and formerly agrarian countries like China and India become industrial behemoths, the finite amount of natural resources is bound to be affected and pollution increased; on the other hand, whether environmental catastrophe is right around the corner or won't occur for hundreds, or even thousands, of years hasn't been answered to this layman's satisfaction.

One thing I'm quite sure of is that the weather hasn't changed as dramatically in the past generation as the sloganeers and disciples of Al Gore would have you believe. Sure, in today's hyper-technological world, it's far easier to track patterns of hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornados, and the melting of glaciers than even 50 years ago, but had that information been available to scientists back then, it's likely a similar pastiche of doomsday scenarios and status quo reports would've been produced.

Just this year, the "End is Near" crowd was agog on the East Coast as mild temperatures in the dead of winter held steady for several weeks. Conversely, the month of April was brutally cold and stormy. I'm betting it won't happen again in 2008. Besides, unpredictable weather didn't coincide with the launch of, say, YouTube. One weekend in early May 1968, for example, while on an overnight hike in the Adirondacks, my progress was hindered by a blinding snowstorm, a crazy fluke of nature that didn't make for a very pleasant time. Likewise, living on Long Island as a youth, hurricanes came and went, some worse than others, but there was no institute giving advance notice of how many storms would occur in a given year.

Granted, there are thousands of brilliant men and women in the United States who have dedicated their careers to educating the masses about the potential for an environmental Armageddon, but what's galling to me is the exponentially larger number of people, often wealthy celebrities and politicians, who've jumped on global-warming bandwagon as a recreational activity. Some, often the same partisans who bleat that today's economy resembles that of the Gilded Age or even the Great Depression, blame Republicans in general, and George W. Bush in particular, for failing to realize that California is about to be swallowed by the Pacific.

Pardon the flippancy, but I can't point the finger at Hillary Clinton or John Edwards--two Democrats whose policies I find quite objectionable--for modern problems I'm familiar with, such as the refusal of kids to read more than two or three books a year or the fact that a majority of Americans can't identify more than one or two Supreme Court Justices.

Thomas Sowell, the syndicated columnist and senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, had a beaut of a line in the May 3 Sun: "'Global warming' seems to be joining 'diversity,' 'gun control,' 'open space,' and a growing list of other subjects where rational discussion has become impossible--and where you are considered a bad person even for wanting to discuss it rationally... That is what environmentalism--and much else on the political left's agenda--is really all about, self-congratulation."

An item last week in the New York Post's Page Six provided an apt example of the mind-boggling hypocrisy that's rampant among the liberal elite today. It seems that Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair (which published a "green" issue last month), had a publicity problem because of the traffic-blocking limos that wait outside for luminaries at his exclusive Waverly Inn restaurant. According to the paper, on the last weekend of April an ambulance rushing to nearby St. Vincent's Hospital was delayed for five minutes because of the crush of double-parked luxury cars. If Carter's friends are so concerned about the environment, why aren't they taking mass transit to their clubhouse? Stories about celebrities who appear at environmental rallies and then take off to exotic spots via private jets are well known; and how smart is it to build mansions on the cliffs of Malibu, which can't help the cyclical pattern of fires and mud slides in that scenic part of Los Angeles?

It's not my intention at all to demean those who are conducting invaluable research about environmental concerns and the threat to humanity, but it seems to me that currently there are more pressing concerns than daisies blooming in March instead of April. What about the future of Social Security in the United States, a nearly bankrupt entitlement that will drastically affect the economic status of millions starting in just a decade unless the program is reformed? Or the ongoing battle between those who'd like to deport all illegal aliens and those who believe that the country's tradition, not to mention economy, is imperiled by the xenophobes who'd isolate America from the rest of the world? And while Bush is leaving office soon, terrorism won't go away.

Perhaps it's selfish, but right now I'm more worried about the future of my children and grandchildren than how global warming might affect descendants two centuries from now.

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