Feeling the Heat

While it's undoubtedly important to know who J.Lo's dating since Ben, and everyone wants to know about the latest fabulous party attended by the Hilton sisters, you'd think the news media could spare at least a few column inches for information on a recently uncovered Pentagon report predicting widespread nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine, rioting and a plunging of Great Britain's temperatures into something resembling Siberia. Why? Because global warming is real.The report clashes with the Bush administration's “what me worry” approach to climate change, and so got limited attention in the U.S., though it was front-page stuff in British papers. Reporters there took notice of sentences like, “With inadequate preparation, the result could be a significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the Earth's environment.” Remember this is a Pentagon report, not a dispatch from the Worldwatch Institute. The altered climate conditions, the report said, could last for a century, or maybe even 1,000 years. See all the grim details at http://home.earthlink.net/~icedneuron/ReportforPentagon.pdfSince the report was leaked, the Pentagon has been backtracking, claiming that the study's predictions are “still speculation,” a “what if” rather than a harbinger of our certain doom. But the study is a very sober assessment based on sound science-the same studies, in fact, that led to E's similar conclusions in our piece “The Reckoning,” which appeared in the November/December 2003 issue. For a fuller take on the issue, see E's just-published book on the subject, Feeling the Heat: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Climate Change(Routledge). The book (available at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0415946565/qid=1077910498/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-3804223-7831901?v=glance&s=books) reports from world “hot spots” where global warming is no longer speculative, but all too real. It tells of bleaching corals, rising tides, shifting species and melting glaciers in such locations as Alaska, Antarctica, India, Holland, Antigua, Australia and (in the U.S.) New York City, California and the Pacific Northwest.What fuels climate change? Cars and coal, basically, both powerful special interest groups that usually get what they want in Washington. Partly to protect their interests, the Bush administration has censored climate change reports and altered scientific findings on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. Some 60 scientists, including 20 with Nobel Prizes, signed a statement last month accusing the administration of distorting scientific fact to accomplish its policy goals. “Other administrations have, on occasion, engaged in such practices, but not so systematically nor on so wide a front,” the letter said.As if all this wasn't enough, the New York Times ran a series of stories revealing that Saudi Arabia (the top foreign supplier to the U.S.) may not have sufficient oil reserves to accommodate an anticipated doubling of demand in the next decade. In other words, even without the environmental implications, we can't simply continue burning oil in our ever-growing fleet of SUVs. Patrick Mazza is the research director of the Seattle-based Climate Solutions, and his book Stormy Weather (New Society) offers 101 solutions to global warming. There is a way out of this mess! The low-key prescriptions are already being followed in the Pacific Northwest, but we could learn from them everywhere. We can: fill our cities with greenery; reduce, reuse and recycle; drive energy-efficient cars; encourage cycling and walking; build wind and solar capacity; organize car-free days backed by schools and churches; buy green power; apply taxes on carbon; encourage sustainable farming; stop global deforestation; and form green alliances. Either we do this or the Pentagon's scary scenarios will likely come true.