The announcement last week that Al Gore would share the Nobel Prize with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change would seem to finally shut down the anti-science, head-in-the-sand movement spearheaded by the President of the United States which has insisted over and over that global warming is some kind of college prank.
But stand by. I’m sure we’ll hear more from them, albeit coming in some new doors. Denial is not a river in Egypt, but it has run through too many equations in this country. Ten years ago, if I had told you that carpet bombing John Kerry’s distinguished heroic military record with lies would take hold of an informed American public, you’d have scoffed. Then I’d tell you that the language-challenged and talent-bereft son of a former mediocre president was going to win the next election, and you’d have been howling.
Gore’s honor will reasonably cause many to do a kind of happy dance of celebration, but unfortunately it does not signal the end of dim bulb leadership or denial of science. In a similar way, Harold Pinter’s writing credit on a current film doesn’t mean that industry is enjoying an intellectual renaissance. We had the information on global warming, and history will record our sluggish response as one of the greater “Nero fiddling” behaviors of civilized times.
So now the issue is framed and in full view. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say that the Nobel Prize does in fact confirm that the smart people of Earth have spoken. Will they win over the forces of environmental destruction for money, the blocking of new clean energy sources for money, the manipulation by oil companies of human lives and politics for money, the butt-dragging research and development of the American auto industry for money, the killing of the electric car for money, the continued use of landscape-destroying coal instead of cleaner fuels for money – Hey, stop me if you’ve heard this one…
If we had a TV show called Grandpa Liberal’s True Tales (some would argue there is such a show, hosted by Bill Moyers), one of those stories would describe how concerned citizens, reinforced by Three Mile Island and a little movie called The China Syndrome, sapped the momentum of the nuclear power industry. Nuclear was going to be a clean fuel… until it became the potential bomb in your backyard, and then more recently the bomb in your backyard that could be triggered by terrorists.
All that should have pushed us to adopt new energy technologies faster. Instead, we bought SUV’s because they appealed to our personal sense of achievement and vanity. However strong Prius sales are now, just remember that they were preceded by a too-long festival of “Me” that included things as hideous as the Humvee truck. Isn’t that right, Green Governor Schwarzen-flipper?
Shame from that period should add to our desire to stop being foolish, or fuel-ish, and get it together. Because now it’s a lock: The Nobel committee has informed the people of Earth that the time to act is now. Are we really going to listen to any more views leavened by the kind of “common sense” and “plain speaking” that we know translates as “business and money as usual”?
We used to fear sound, life-protecting environmental policies because they might cause pain for the workers of General Motors. But we know now that the number one cause of pain for GM is the executive management of GM. It’s not us or our desire to quite literally save the planet. All meaningful changes, at first, appear smallish. That’s why the re-useable grocery bags and the recycling matter. Because we need to integrate change into culture. And on top of everything else, we are still fighting a culture war. What will it benefit any winners if there’s no sustainable way to continue living on our cooking ball of dirt in space? Science is real, Mr. President. That perspiration on your forehead? It’s not your numbers. It’s because it’s hot outside, chump.