Fuck the environment, or something like that.
I’m not a die-hard green freak, but I do have minimal respect for the environment. My thought is that since we’re all here on Earth together, the least we can do is try to be civil during our lives on this planet — put our garbage in garbage cans, bury our toxic waste far away from any sensitive environments, try mass transportation over cars, etc.
However, I have a problem with anyone who says that the shoddy evidence about global warming is reason alone to stop pollution reduction. In their support, I offer these two facts about global warming. First, any weather data collected previous to 1950 (or so, I don’t exactly remember the date) is inherently suspect. We rely on this data to do our climate modeling. The questionable data is due to the inaccuracy and the lack of calibration for the thermometers and barometers at the time. You could argue that the errors are evenly distributed over the time, but a two degree standard deviation when tracking a trend of one-tenth of a degree per year does not yield good results (you statistics people know what I mean). Second, all models of climate change are exactly that — models. Modeling is limited by two things: the inaccurate measurements described above and the smallest area of land used in the model. Specifically, models can’t predict the temperature at every point on Earth, so you instead model temperatures over larger spaces — say, the size of a medium U.S. state. Climate, like weather, has a large variability, and things like one acre of land can make a big difference (a.k.a. the butterfly effect, chaos theory).
These two limitations of accurate climate modeling are being chipped away. Air samples trapped in ice cores provide can give excellent data about climate conditions in the past. Also, more computing means climate modeling can improve.
However, none of this matters for the point I’m trying to make.
My point is that we should always err on the side of caution when dealing with something like the only known planet that sustains our life. For a long time, people were afraid that we (humans) were going to blow ourselves off the face of the Earth with nuclear weapons. This is still a possiblility, but it’s voluntary; someone has to fire the missle and start the cataclysmic chain reaction of nuclear war. Destruction of the environment is a bit less voluntary. For example, you can easily tell the person with his finger on the button not to fire the missle and he (hopefully) won’t. You can tell several billion people to stop driving their cars to work, to reduce factory emissions, and to help clean polluted areas. Unfortunately, the logistics of sending such a message nearly impossible, and they probably won’t listen to you either.
On the more pragmatic side, getting companies to clean up their factories’ pollution is a near impossibility without legislation. I cite the case of seat belts in my defense. Back in the 60’s (70’s? again, facts elude me…), the government was considering legislation requiring all cars to have seat belts installed on future models. The chairman of General Motors at the time testified to Congress under oath that the costs of installing seat belts are so overwhelming that it would bankrupt GM, making thousands of workers unemployed and ending one of the country’s largest corporations (probably the largest at the time). Congress told GM to screw off and passed the legislation anyway. GM is still with us today (though not exactly in the U.S.) proving that companies don’t always want to do what’s right and that sometimes the government really does act in favor of it’s citizens despite corporate interests. Likewise, the government can tell polluters to screw off and lay the smackdown of tough pollution controls on their asses.
Unfortunately, this round of environmental sellout goes to President George W. Bush. He proclaims publicly that there is no conclusive evidence that global warming really exists. He has faith in God, but for some reason he doesn’t have faith in global warming. I claim it takes much less faith (but more intelligence?) to believe in climate change than it does a Deity, but then again, I’m not George. All the environment decisions he’s made – arsenic levels in water, ANWR oil reserves, reports of air quality in NYC following 9/11, no increase in automobile fuel efficiency requirements – have reflected corporate interests rather than public interests. Maybe having faith in the environment is more difficult than faith in religion; Bush “knows” there’s a God, but somehow believing in the environment takes a greater amount of proof.
Environmentalism hasn’t become a large enough issues to get the attention of all the peple in the world. I think the popularity of Hummers is evidence of this. Without commercial interests taking an active part in sustaining the environment, this is a hopeless task. Likewise, a social revolution will need to take place so people understand that caring for the environment is a daily requirement. I’m not going to hold my breath until this starts. For now, I’ll just put on an extra layer of sunblock and catch some rays until it catches on.