Another missed opportunity
Let’s be clear: The Earth is warming, the ice sheets are melting and burning fossil fuels contributes to greenhouse gases. However, the debate about how man has influenced these phenomena has become so polarized that it’s almost impossible to decipher all the conflicting data. Science, politics and economics are so intertwined that for every expert who says there’s a crisis we can find another who says there isn’t. It’s regrettable that the voices of scientists who actually know how little we know on the topic are drowned out by those who claim to know more than they do. Unfortunately, too, many who proclaim concern about climate change are really just looking to hold the moral high ground in a debate rife with uncertainties. I mean, who can argue against saving the planet?Last night I went to see Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and left feeling the former vice president missed a grand opportunity to bring millions of Americans together in a cause that could simultaneously address the two of most critical issues facing us – climate change AND militant Islam.Let’s first examine climate change as represented by the former VP. This movie did little more than preach to the choir. Those with a green bias will love this movie, while doubters remain skeptical. But what I found disturbing, if not disingenuous, was the speciousness of many of the movie’s assertions:n Al Gore’s graphic predictions of temperature increases over the next 50 years are startling. But he doesn’t indicate if he used the Canadian, British or American models in his illustrations. Considering these models vary in their estimates by 800 percent, one would think that was a detail worth mentioning. n The movie accurately depicts the receding snows on Mount Kilimanjaro, but doesn’t mention that the Journal of Climatology, the Journal of Geophysical Research and the Cato Institute attribute the receding snows to the reduction of forests around the volcano, which reduced the amount of moisture in the air that once replenished the snow pack.n The movie includes film clips of Mr. Gore making presentations to enthusiastic Chinese, with the obvious implication that his premise is validated around the globe. But he neglects to tell us that China plans to build more than 500 new coal plants over the next 10 years!n He accurately tells us that much of the Aral Sea has dried up but fails to reveal that the former Soviet Union diverted three-fourths of its water to irrigation and development 30 years ago.n Gore fetes the signatories to the Kyoto Treaty but doesn’t disclose that the treaty exempted China, India and Brazil but not the U.S. from its most onerous provisions. Nor does he tell us that the Clinton administration never brought Kyoto to a ratifying vote before Congress because the Senate had already voted 95-0 against considering its provisions. Perhaps the Senate blundered, but Gore’s omission of those events is revealing.n He linked Hurricane Katrina with global warming, which while possible is also extremely speculative. Actually, as more evidence surfaces about the cyclical nature of hurricanes, this assertion becomes one of the movie’s more dubious arguments. But the aspect of the movie that troubled me most was its inconsistent use of time lines. In one segment the former vice president illustrated conditions on earth 650,000 years ago. In another example he goes back only 30 years. Then a later illustration begins at beginning at the end of the little ice age that cooled Europe from the 14th to the 19th centuries – all of which beg the question of why he cherry-picked his examples instead of using a consistent baseline. I’ve written before that the Earth has been alternately warming and cooling for 45 million centuries. So whether we transition to ethanol in 30 years or 50 years isn’t going to make a lot of difference to the melting ice caps. Besides, can anyone state unequivocally that on a planet where sea levels have been rising for the past 8,000 years, if Manhattan is destined to be 20 feet underwater is anything man can do actually going to prevent it? We must be mindful that our planet has limited human, financial and natural resources – resources that have alternative uses. So what IS important in this debate is to ascertain the effect that man has had upon climate change and what can be done about it. To that end, the movie did little to enlighten. I wish the former VP had used the humor and emotion he exhibited in the film to stir our collective imaginations with some of science’s more arcane solutions to global warming; i.e., increasing the iron content of the oceans or modifying jet fuel to reflect the sun’s rays back into space, or even something as pedestrian as reforestation.Instead of attempting to link global warming with Katrina (dubious science and back-handed politics at best), Mr. Gore could have linked our obscene use of fossil fuels with the second issue: pouring billions of dollars into the coffers of despotic governments in the Persian Gulf region and how our addiction to oil militates against us in the fight against militant Islam.Immediately after 9/11, George Bush missed a golden opportunity to tell a receptive America how our addiction to oil funds terrorists and then use that reality as a galvanizing force to create a moon-shot mentality and sense of urgency to lessen our oil dependency. But he didn’t. I believe Mr. Gore had a similar opportunity with his movie. But unfortunately he, too, failed to make an argument compelling enough to reach across the partisan divide.Such a shame.Butch Mazzuca, a local Realtor and ski instructor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com Vail, Colorado
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Lindsey Vonn no longer has a home in Vail, but a big piece of her heart will always remain here.