Scientists have been trying to warn Americans about the impending doom of climate change since the late 1800s. The paradox is that they cannot decide whether the earth is cooling off or warming up.
An article titled “Fire and Ice,” published by the Business and Media Institute, outlines four major swings in media hysteria concerning global climate change. In the early parts of the 20th century, The New York Times ran several stories about the signs of a new ice age. Then, in the 1930s, there was a series of articles about record-breaking heat waves with no end in site. This panic was followed in the mid 1970s by even bolder assertions of another impending ice age.
World renowned climatologists as recently as the 1970s were convinced that the world was entering a prolonged period of global cooling. Newsweek reported in April of 1975 that meteorologists “are almost unanimous” that catastrophic famines were sure to result from the global cooling.
Prominent scientists at the time were even making wild propositions about the drastic steps world governments should take to counter the cooling trend. In some of the more extreme cases, there were plans to divert Arctic rivers and to cover the poles with black soot to melt the polar ice caps to stave off the next ice age.
All of that alarmist talk about the dangers of global cooling seems ridiculous now, but it was mainstream scientific thinking just 30 years ago.
Now, Americans are inundated with dire predictions that human activity is causing global warming at an alarming rate. Climatologists warn that our affluent lifestyle, especially our cars and power plants, are causing a shift in greenhouse gases that will kill us all. Ironically, cars and power plants apparently were not making a significant impact when these same scientists predicted an ice age in the 1970s.
I’m not disputing or denying that there is evidence that our world is currently warming up. That may be true. I am just urging caution due to the long history of indecision about climate change.
We cannot afford to jump on every climate change bandwagon and implement every radical proposed change. Remember, if we would have listened to the extremists in the 1970s, we might have completely melted the polar ice caps.
This is one of the reasons why the ridiculous California Global Warming Solutions Act signed recently by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is so disappointing. He unilaterally committed our state, which already leads the nation, to even more stringent carbon emission standards. While cutting pollution is a noble goal, thinking that his actions will help prevent the entire world from heating up is comical.
The regulations will raise energy costs in California and further hinder our businesses in markets that do not impose these regulations. These economic reasons are what led the United States to reject the emission standards in the Kyoto Protocol. The Clinton administration estimated that joining the treaty would cost America “several hundred billion dollars each year.”
The most astonishing fact is that liberal environmentalists think the Kyoto Protocol is too weak to begin addressing their global warming concerns. They concede that the treaty would have no practical impact, but only a symbolic effect on slowing climate change. Peter Roderick of Friends of the Earth International admits that “everybody agrees that Kyoto is really, really hopeless in terms of delivering what the planet needs.”
Spending several hundred billion dollars every year and knowing it will make no difference is the worst policy we could ever impose on ourselves. The United States is doing the right thing by rejecting these expensive and worthless regulations and California would do well to follow the country’s lead.
Matt Bushman is a civil engineering senior and Mustang Daily political columnist.