Common Sense, Accountability, and Sound Science: Beyond Bush's Grasp
This week Bush, the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth, thumbed his nose at his allies, the global environment and all present and future generations of living beings on the planet. The Kyoto Protocol--the world's best present hope for acting to stem the advance of Global Warming before it is too late--just didn't measure up to Bush's "high standards." In a press conference Thursday, Bush's comments were as heavily doped with worn-out cliches as a bad country western song. "common sense.....accountability....sound science......economically feasible" is his tired, meaningless refrain.
Common sense? Does common sense tell you to alienate all of your allies in a world where countries are increasingly interdependent economically and in every other way? Accountability? Does being accountable mean you take a "wait and see" attitude when there is ANY CHANCE that you are placing the well-being of your nation and the world in jeopardy?
If this is common sense and accountability, then Bush is the sort of "accountable common sense" father who would let his child stay in a house he knew contained high levels of toxic gases simply because it wasn't "economically feasible" to move.
As for sound science, this is the biggest joke of all. Never in the history of science has a single topic been the focus of so much research by so many scientists from so many different countries.
I am a professional science abstractor--a hefty percentage of the abstracts you'll find in Cambridge Scientific's Science and Technology abstract collection were written by yours truly. Every year, I read a few thousand articles from at least 200 different scientific journals that range in scope from "Nature," "Science," and "Geophysical Research Letters" (among the most important general science journals in the world) to highly specialized journals such as "The Journal of Climatology," "Analytical Chemistry," "Environmental Engineering," and even journals in translation from Sweden, Russia, and China.
These journals represent the best of science--no article is accepted without being subjected to a rigorous peer review: Did the researchers use a valid study design? Were they unbiased and objective? Did they use an adequate sample base? Did they use the appropriate technology? Did the researchers have sufficient expertise in their fields to undertake the project? And so forth and so on.
Each week for four years I have abstracted at least three or four--sometimes as many as 10 --articles on global warming. Studies have been made from every possible angle--from ships, from land, from balloons, from satellites, from special planes whose sole reason for being is to track atmospheric activity. Data has been generated by every method possible, from the most advanced techniques such as microwave sounding unit radiometry, conical scanning laser altimetry and teraflop-capacity super-duper computer simulations to dendrochronological (tree ring analysis) and coral studies, ice-core and sediment core analysis using spectroscopic analytic techniques so sensitive they can detect the health of a pollen grain thousands of years old, to researchers slogging around in the field week after week, year after year, manually measuring the depth of snow and ice at sites all over the world.
These researchers continually share their findings, build upon their data base and continue doggedly on. Unlike the stars of the biomedical field, where the latest drug breakthroughs and cloning news promise to bring them fame and fortune (via patents), climate researchers almost never sell patents, get invited onto the Today Show, or are lured into comfy corporate gigs. Almost never. A very, very few of them are induced by corporate bucks to tweak their findings, thereby making it possible for Bush to suggest that "there is some doubt as to global warming."
But what does truly sound science say about global warming? In the four years that I have been doing science abstracts from respected journals, NOT ONE article has suggested that global warming is not occurring or that human activity does not contribute significantly. NOT ONE has suggested that it is in any way a positive thing. NOT ONE has suggested that carbon dioxide (CO2) is not a key, if not the key, contributor to the problem. The only debate has been as to just how great the human impact is (is it 50% or 80%--not is it any percentage), the specific mechanisms that lead to certain processes that drive the greenhouse effect, and just what the impact on specific climate patterns are.
One of the most chilling articles I have abstracted lately was a summary of the results of a study by a team of paleoanthropologists. After analyzing data on several societies that have risen and fallen in the past 10,000 years, the researchers concluded that the primary reason for the collapse of a culture is not war, not short-term economic crises, nor social-racial conflict: It is climate change.
Yet Bush refuses to see the writing on the wall. Recently, a coalition of 500 scientists tried to present sound scientific reasons why Bush should not drill in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. He did not care to listen to what they had to say. Instead, Bush choses to get his "sound science" from corporate "think tanks" where people are extremely well-paid to tell the corporations what they want to hear.
The think tank that Bush is obviously is using as his blueprint for most of his policies (we will write more on this in the future!) is the James A. Baker III Institute at Rice University in Houston Texas. That's right--named for the same Baker who was Secretary of State to Bush, Sr., the same Baker who sits on the board of directors of ENRON, the monopolistic energy corporation which has been circling California like a hungry shark. The same Baker who is a director of the Carlyle Group, a monster multinational investment group based in D.C. that boasts that it can avail itself of the "leverage" of the "government experience" of its partners, which includes former President Bush (who sits on its board of directors). And, of course, the same Baker who oversaw the theft of Florida's 25 electors - and the Presidency.
The Baker Institute last fall held a conference on Global Warming. The keynote speaker? Chuck Hagel--the same Chuck Hagel who co-authored the Byrd-Hagel Resolution that torpedoed the U.S. ratification of the Kyoto initiative. In the Baker Institute's report, I found the same sort of irrational, self-contradictory, destructive thinking I see on a daily basis in the Bush administration.
At the onset, the report stated that "Since 1958, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen about 14% and is now 30% above pre-industrial levels." The report also said that CO2 levels are predicted to rise this century to a level that is 90% above pre-industrial levels. Yet later, the report says that "some researchers" (their names, backgrounds, published work, and affiliations were strangely omitted) suggest that warming temperatures may actually be good for human health and that high CO2 levels may be environmental beneficial. UNBELIEVABLE! Yet, this is the thinking of one of our president's closest advisors.
It is ironic that at a point in time when the planet's problems are at their most complex, due to the interaction between technological man and nature, a time when the world's peoples are most interdependent, that America should have as its leader an isolationist who has no scientific background whatsoever. Bush is a man who, unlike Al Gore, is not even a perennial student, able and willing to study and grasp any topic, no matter how difficult. Bush's simplistic way of thinking represents a period in U.S. history that is embodied by 1950s--a time of narrowness, bigotry, ignorance, and irrational fears that lead the world to the brink of destruction. This era is gone--good riddance!--and has not place in the present, much less the future. Any efforts to reconstruct it will surely end it our total collapse.