Boiling Point: How Politicians, Big Oil and Coal, Journalists, and Activists are Fueling the Climate Crisisand What We Can Do to Avert Disaster by Ross Gelbspan. Basic Books, New York City, 2004. Hardback $22.00.
Chairman of the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change), Rajendra Pachauri, said in February, "We are risking the ability of the human race to survive." This was the conclusion of the panel of 2000 scientists who have been studying climate change throughout the world.
"With all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? It sure sounds like it," said Senator James Inhofe (ROK).
Nothing has more alienated the Bush Administration from the rest of the world than its dismissal of the import of climate change, even before the Iraq War. Bush broke with our traditional allies in favor of the domestic allies of coal and oil industries.
Says Gelbspan, "Today the White House has become the East Coast branch office of Exxonmobile and Peabody Coal, and climate change has become the preeminent case study of the contamination of our political system by money."
In other countries, the major political discussion is about how to change national energy diets without wrecking national economies.
The U.S. even refuses to recognize the weak Kyoto Protocol, which has been ratified by other nations. If we met 10 times the Kyoto requirements, we could not prevent global warming. There is a lag effect of 50-100 years in the carbon dioxide effect. However, Kyoto is a global start. And yet in the U.S. Kyoto is outside the realm of the politically possible. What to do? How to break through our huge national blanket of denial in time to prepare for a different way of life, which could at least have a chance to be sustainable?
Insurance companies are paying attention. "Man-made climate change will bring us increasingly extreme natural events and consequently increasingly large catastrophic losses," an official of Munich Re, perhaps the worlds largest reinsurance company in the field of natural disaster mitigation, said recently. Swiss Re expects losses to reach $150 billion/year within this decade.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair regards climate change as "the single biggest long-term problem of any kind" facing his country. His governments top scientist, Sir David King, calls climate change "the biggest danger humanity has faced in 5,000 years of civilization."
Truly confronting global climate change requires us to think globally, and to respect both the parameters of nature and the value and creative spirit of human beings.
Once we begin to understand that global climate change is global, that it is happening, and that it does have inevitable consequences, we can draw on our courage and inventiveness to face it. I believe this is possible. I have two dramatic examples in my life.
One was when our family was in the hospital with my dying father. We would all take turns being with him, except for my mother. She simply did not want to face what was happening. Finally the doctor came out to the waiting room and made it very clear to her that her husband was dying. She got it. She marched right in to his room, and comforted him until the end.
The other example is our entry into WWII. The American people were very isolationist before the war. However, once we were in it, the nation mobilized like magic to defeat the Axis. When I hear people talk about how we couldnt give up this or that, or change our way of life, I know its not true. We changed then, all of us, all at once, in every detail of life, more than the current generation could imagine.
In fact, our climate crisis means completely reforming the huge industrialization which we set in motion then.
If we can open our eyes to understand the enormous challenge now facing us, we can rise to it.
There will be a massive discontinuity. What can we do? Ross has far-reaching suggestions and visions of new possibilities which can redeem our futures.
He closes by saying, "The ultimate hope is thatespecially given the centrality of energy to our modern livesa meaningful solution to this climate crisis could potentially be the beginning of a much larger transformation of our social and economic dynamics.
"It is just possible that the act of rewiring the planet could begin to point us toward that optimal calibration of competition and cooperation that would maximize our energy and creativity and productivity while, at the same time, substantially extending the baseline conditions for peacepeace among people, and peace among people and nature."
In fact, rewiring the planets energy systems sounds like a much easier place to begin reform than rewiring the planets morals!
Ross Gelbspan eloquently reports on the most vital issue of our time. book is full of facts and figures, and yet every paragraph is fascinating. This is a brilliant bookessential reading for all Americans.