Saturday, August 16, 2008

Carbon Cycle

The Carbon Cycle is not some new exotic mountain bike. Still, like a mountain bike in rough terrain, we are headed for a wild ride if we don't know what we are doing... and there is plenty of evidence that we don't.

Eric Roston's new book, The Carbon Age, gives a chilling story of why the carbon cycle is at the center of everything. His carefully chosen subtitle is How Life's core element has become civilization's greatest threat. I would recommend this book to everyone who is not convinced of the danger's of greenhouse gas accelerated global warming and who has an open mind.

If you can be convinced, this book will do it in such detail that you wonder what the professional deniers, especially politicians like Sen. James Inhofe (D. OK) or Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R. CA) are going. They pass themselves off as intelligent, educated people and so must really have decided that they don't really want to know anything about science and the future.

While I am disappointed in the role that politicians are playing, as they run their messages through focus groups looking for the words that will get themselves elected, as they talk about global warming and build their candidacies on policies that can only make matters worse, I am even more disappointed in the 4th Estate, a press that allows them to get away with it.

Here one good example of what I am talking about:

August 13, 2008. KGO-TV (ABC in San Francisco) based their story on a poll that examined the impact that the price of gas is having on Bay Area families. While that is news-worthy, they have obviously not gone beyond soliciting responses to this very particular question.

Responsible journalism would also give consideration to the well established fact that there is a connection between gasoline usage (as well as other combustion source) and the changes we are seeing in climate, changes that are lightning quick in terms of geological time. But that was not the story.

However, if you read the comments made by those responding to the poll you might see why the Democrats are in such a quandary over energy policy. I need only quote one.
It's time to tell the 'environmentalists' to SHUT UP and use our natural resources. As long as we're dependent on foreign oil we're going to have this problem. We have the oil; let's use it. Also- car manufacturers should make cars more efficient.
The public is obviously not getting the real message. This commenter seems to believe that the US have enough oil to solve the gasoline problem, (We don't.) or that setting up a program to drill offshore or in the Arctic will pay immediate benefits. (It won't.) Some, maybe those who would bother to read Roston's book, understand just how precarious our situation is, but only those who already understand would be likely to read The Carbon Age.

I want to see our media start connecting the dots... transportation to global warming to the question of gasoline prices and drilling for more oil. Maybe, we need our newspapers to start asserting themselves with a dose of truth. Tell it like it is, not like the public wants it to be.

I wonder how the survey results would have changed had they asked this question. If you knew that increasing the supply of petroleum now would cost America $3 Trillion to mitigate the effects of global warming that it will cause, would that change your position? Of course, with Exxon-Mobil sponsoring convention coverage we should not expect aggressive television journalism or the truth from politicians.

There are many small decisions being made every day and the tyranny of those decisions will be devastating.

Near the end of The Carbon Age, Roston asks us to imagine a not so distant future.
...forty years from now some of those Americans living a lower quality of life may wonder about the generation that knew they had it all and set decline in motion, unfazed. Ours will be a generation of narcissism. Each of us is competitive with Nero, who fiddled while Rome burned, frittering away time on bread and circuses. Each of us is Tsar Nicholas II, whose attention to traumatic personal circumstances -- am ill son -- distracted him form his empire, crumbling toward what would become the Soviet dictatorship. The climate debates stands at an analogous point. There is still hope that industrialized nations can transfer civilization on to an energy system that will not scorch the earth.

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