On July 28, 2003, and then again on January 4, 2006, a riled-up Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) boldly proclaimed from the Senate floor that global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Inhofe then alluded to global warming as a religion – a term designed to ring loudly in the ears of the anti global-warming evangelical base.
Inhofe’s anti global-warming invective worked. In May 2006, preempting Al Gore’s provocative An Inconvenient Truth , conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh cited global warming as “hysterical” and unsupported by the facts and by the “wacko” computer models.
The 2007 documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle , raised questions about the ability of carbon dioxide to cause warming. The film proposed that any observed warming is really due to the oceans and volcanoes, or even the sun.
One of the more circumspect propositions cited in The Great Global Warming Swindle was a reference to a warming trend circa the 15th century, which the film suggests was the impetus for a spike in creative culture that spawned such great works as Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper.
In other words, warming is a good thing! It produces periods of amazing cultural and artistic works. Not that periods where the humanities flourish could ever occur in colder climes or non-western cultures, of course.
However, some global warming detractors are beginning to concede that the earth is indeed entering into a warming trend because the evidence is so strong. For example, some Midwest farmers are seeing tangible changes in weather patterns relative to their agricultural and ranching activities. And indigenous peoples in the far northern latitudes are seeing dramatic changes in their ecosystems as well.
In a nutshell, here is the core of the debate: is global warming caused by human activity or by natural forces ?
There can be little doubt of the influence of politics in the great global warming debate. Republicans in particular have been loathe to admit the reality of man-made global warming. Why? Because as we see in Senator Inhofe’s case, the southern tier of the country (most notably Oklahoma and Texas) is comprised of oil-producing states who regularly pressure their pro-business, conservative Congressional representatives to deny man-made global warming.
Admission that energy plants cause global warming would be bad for business and may in turn cause the EPA to enforce stricter carbon dioxide emissions. And yet here is what Republican President George W. Bush, himself a Texas oil man, said in a July 10, 2007 speech in Cleveland, Ohio: “And there’s an environmental cost for being dependent on oil. When we’re burning carbon, it creates greenhouse gases, which is an issue that we need to deal with.”
This is the real reason we see denial of global warming: pure politics . The politicians “in the know” know full well it has nothing to do with ideology or religion, but it has everything to do with big money and Washington politics. To these politicians, the global warming debate is simply a Rovian tool used to manipulate conservative voters.
But to the scientists and researchers closely watching our modern-day warming trend, not only is it real, but its consequences could very well shape the way we work and live in the not-too-distant future.