Global worming

Monday, January 7, 2008

Look, I'm just dying to have my mind changed on this, but this is how I see it going down.

We will spend the rest of our natural lives debating the causes of global warming, worming and squirming, which will distract us from the fact that we're doing nothing really about it, even if we arguably could. And so in a couple of hours from now, or a couple of zillion years, give or take a weekend, our primordially oozing imperfectly mammalian souls will explode across the Milky Way, the whole planet will rocket into the sun, and the last thing time will remember is some really cheesed off mutant polar bears eating our spleens in poetic irony as the whole shooting match implodes on a worse ending note than a Wham! song.

Or else, it won't.

So, whether we are bound for oblivion, or likely to look back upon a hyped-up scare that makes Y2K look like child's play in comparison, the bottom line may be that nothing you or I do is likely going to change the course.

Only a nincompoop would sit around and claim global warming isn't real. Leading scientists around the world agree that average temperatures are up around 1.3 degrees over the past 100 years, and are likely to keep right on rising, maybe faster, even if we did somehow stabilize greenhouse gas levels. For the record, Iowa in 2007 averaged 1.1 degree warmer than in 2006. I'm just sayin.

It is 4 degrees out as I write this. As you scrape the fifth ice storm of the season off your monster SUV, your frozen brain might think global warming isn't such a bad deal - if you can hang on long enough, Storm Lake in January may look like Tahiti, and if California has to eat a tidal wave to get you there; well, que sera, sera.

Even so, though, you have that little three-inch-tall version of Al Gore perched on your shoulder, and every time you fill up your OPEC-mobile at the pump or throw out your own weight in unrecycled garbage, Little Al hauls off and kicks you right in the earlobe.

And every time you see that darn baby Coca-Cola polar bear on a TV commercial, computer-generated, but nonetheless doomed, a little pang of guilt zips up your spine.

Oh, we argue the science. There's no proof we did this. After all, in the course of planetary history, Storm Lake has been at the bottom of a steaming tropical sea, and buried underneath ice-age glaciers a couple of hundred feet high. You have a point, too - climate has, does and will change on its own, with or without you and your Escalade with the 26-inch spinner rims.

You can ignore facts, like the 20 percent increase of America's carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels since 1990 alone. Don't want to ponder that kinda stuff too much.

It's darn hard to solve a problem that is too big for us even to comprehend.

Reversing a hundred-plus years of environmental rape and changing the mindset of the entire human species and diverting the dire endstage destiny of the entire globe is asking a bit much from a guy who still hasn't quite mastered parallel parking and never can quite finish the newspaper crossword puzzle.

Sheesh - ask that W fellow. While 358 mayors of U.S. cities representing 60 million Americans have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement pledge to meet or beat Kyoto goals in their communities, Congress has managed to pass excatly zero bills to attempt to cap the kind of pollution contributing to global warming, and while our president loves his mountain biking, he's mentioned climate change a total of once in all of his State of the Union messages combined.

You can't blame the guy. I don't imagine that he knows how you would go about capturing and sucking back in the 380 parts per million of carbon dioxide we'e inflicted on the atmosphere, any more than you or I do. We have a better shot, odds are, of dating Jessica Simpson.

Even if you hit the gym three times a week, I doubt if you think you could push back a polar ice cap, or wrestle a wave of hurricanes and wildfires. Isn't it enough that you figured out how to change the batteries in the TV remote last weekend?

We can't and won't do anything about it, because it is too big of a problem for us to get our heads around alone - alone as in one person, one city, even one country. It will overwhelm us, and so, as I see it, we will do nothing at all except talk.

Unless someone makes it bite-size for us.

We can't uninvent the wheel. But we might be able to demand flexible fuel options that should have been developed a generation ago, and expect automakers to give us say 10 more mpg on average. We can't take tech back to the stone age, but we can find better ways, one smokestack in our towns at a time.

One family can't undo climate change, but we could do a better job sorting recyclables in our own kitchen, we could ride bikes once in a while, plant a tree or two, buy a few energy-saving light bulbs and turn the thermostat down a hair.

I was a B-minus student in science, so I'm not going to snow you and say that if we all try a little harder in our own little ecosystems that we can stop this.

But at least doing a little something ourselves would mean that if mankind does end up frying like eggs on a sidewalk in August, we can go out sunny side up, with a clean conscience.

And our neigborhood could be a little cleaner and nicer at least while it lasts.

Just maybe this is another of those solar variation periods that come and go, and this will all blow over.

If not, well it's been a good ride, earth, and sorry sparky, there's not much you or I can do to save a whole world.

'Course, if we divide it up into 6,672,391,742 little pieces for each of us to take responsibility and look after our little bitty chunks a bit better, it sounds more do-able.

The only option may be investing in a good pair of board shorts and thong sandals for wintertime in Iowa, and to start planning that big going-away beach bash.