Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Global warming naysayers live in a fantasyland


Civilization has endured a long list of cultists who bedeviled their generations with eccentric naysaying. Two that come to mind are those who insisted the earth was flat and those who plagued New Englanders with tirades against witchcraft.

Now the current fringe element insists, with the ferocity of flat earthers, that global warming is a hoax.

Reasonable people without any special expertise understand the logic of global warming. Industrialized societies cannot belch greater measurable tons of toxic gases into the air and water without causing destructive changes. One need only look at the air of China's dramatically expanding urban areas: A generation ago, air was clear; today it's a nightmare of blinding pollution, as bumper-to-bumper traffic has replaced bicycles and new industries bellow their unregulated filth.

If logic fails, there's a swelling collection of global scientific data pointing to depressing environmental losses. The tower of data generated by studies far and wide—and thus hardly the result of some coordinated conspiracy—is irrefutable.

Just yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency, armed with a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that requires it to determine whether carbon dioxide and five other gases are threats to human health, concluded that human health and the environment are endangered by CO2 emissions from vehicles, power plants, refineries and other sources. Coincidentally, the World Meteorological Organization also reported a continuing trend of global warming from man-made emissions.

Industry groups condemned the EPA finding saying that forcing industry to clean up its act is too costly.

Nonsense. The true costs of environmental pollution lie in the lethal effects on human health that inflict fatal or lingering respiratory diseases on tens of millions of people, adding to the soaring costs of health care and lost productivity, plus irreparable physical damage to the planet.

Nobel laureate economist Paul Klugman points out that industry's refusal to join the global warming fight is a mirror image of pooh-poohing the acid rain threat of the 1980s. A cap-and-trade program was instituted in 1990 that sharply reduced the acid rain menace.

As world leaders gather in Copenhagen to hammer out attacks on global warming, responsible members of Congress should join President Obama's global warming initiatives with legislation as vigorous as their support of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A war on global warming will have far more lasting benefits to all of humankind and the planet.




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