Every time it rains, we forget about the drought.
That sort of sums up the global warming debate, doesn’t it? It’s our nature to move on quickly, viewing issues and events in the now instead of comprehensively.
So as we emerge from a long, cold winter it makes sense to forget about global warming. Right now we could care less if every piece of ice on the planet melts.
We haven’t yet decided if global warming is real or a hoax, so it ranks pretty low on our list of national priorities — probably somewhere between reforming the tax code and funding the arts.
We can’t even settle on a name for the issue. Is it climate change or global warming?
The Environmental Protection Agency reports the earth’s average temperature rose 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 100 years. It further asserts the temperature will rise between 2 and 11.5 degrees over the next 100 years.
There exists a mountain of anecdotal evidence that our planet is warming up right now. The cause and impact of that trend is much-disputed, however.
Al Gore thinks we’ll be under water in a few years. Rush Limbaugh thinks the whole issue is a hoax, perpetrated by left-wingers to make us more dependent on government. As usual, the truth probably lies somewhere in between.
It stands to reason that our planet is warming up, and man is the likely cause. The planet’s basic structure hasn’t changed much in the past 200 years, yet the human population has almost tripled. We invented the internal combustion engine, witnessed the industrial revolution and began, in earnest, harvesting the planet’s natural resources for energy. We spew a lot of stuff into the atmosphere today that wasn’t around in 1814.
Simple arithmetic tells us there is more to this than an elaborate hoax.
Spend a few minutes changing a flat along I-35 in Fort Worth if you want a good illustration of how concentrated vehicle pollution can be. The fumes chased me into my car for air twice.
Don’t mistake my flat tire saga as an endorsement of the environmentalist movement, because it’s not. Just because many of us don’t believe global warming is a complete hoax does not mean we’re ready to start trading carbon credits on the open market.
Much of the environmental damage of the past century no longer applies in today’s society. The Clean Air Act, first passed in 1970, set air pollution standards that were considered onerous at the time. Today, those standards are widely accepted and followed by most legitimate industries. The same goes for the Clean Water Act of 1972. The EPA crafted standards for the amount of pollutants that could legally be dumped into rivers and streams, and many industries called them job-killers and anti-business. Today, they’re part of the landscape.
These landmark pieces of legislation created the groundwork for businesses to begin a long, slow evolution toward more environmentally friendly best practices. Being “green” wasn’t always as trendy as it is now, and it took a combination of government and private sector inertia to get us here.
During the oil booms of the early 20th century, thousands of acres of land were scarred by drilling practices that no longer exist. By comparison, today’s drilling rigs are far less invasive. (Challenges with fracturing remain, to be sure.)
Our parents and grandparents drove cars that barely cracked double digits on miles per gallon. Today, 30 miles per gallon is commonplace and many models are in the 40s. Any factory or power plant that comes on line in 2014 doesn’t even compare with those built in the post-war boom. They’re more efficient, cleaner and 50 years more advanced.
Our environmental footprint is shrinking organically.
Tightening environmental standards on businesses is a tightrope to walk. While the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act were radical at the time, they essentially set standards that didn’t exist up to that point. The modern environmental movement is different and more political.
And much less credible.
We’ve been hearing doomsday predictions for years and so far nothing has happened. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, many began to believe scientists who said climate change would lead to more frequent, violent hurricanes. A year later, not one single hurricane made landfall in the United States.
The environmental movement took a hit, and deservedly so.
But just because it rained does not mean the drought is over.
Steve Boggs is editor of the Tribune-Herald. Email email@example.com.