Our Oregon weather is way too weird. In mid-February I shouldn’t have to water willow cuttings Laurel planted by scooping dribbles of water out of a usually full creek. In mid-February I shouldn’t have to be turning on the sprinkling system to keep our plants from drying out. In mid-February the thermometer outside our front door shouldn’t say 58.6 degrees.
But all this is true. So far this month Salem has gotten .43 inches of rain instead of the normal 3.73 inches. The average high for today is 52, not the actual 59. I’ve lived in Oregon for thirty-four years. I know that I shouldn’t be mowing our lawn in mid-February. Yet I did.
A few years ago I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post called “Global Warming…The Big Lie.” I was joking. Global warming is real. As this article is titled, “Here's the proof, Mr President.” Oceanographers analyzed more than seven million recordings of ocean temperatures from around the world. They compared the rise in temperatures at different depths to predictions made by two computer simulations of global warming.
Bingo. Right on. No doubt about it. Man-made greenhouse gases are the cause of observed changes in ocean temperatures. One of the researchers, a marine physicist, said: "We've got a serious problem. The debate is no longer: 'Is there a global warming signal?' The debate now is: 'What are we going to do about it?'"
Damn right, Mr. President. Good question. One thing you could do is send a federal employee out to do the watering for me. My left shoulder has been giving me some problems, and it wasn’t helped by carrying around lots of buckets of water. And if our well goes dry, you could pay for drilling a new one.
Again, I’m kidding. Actually, I’m not blaming Bush for Oregon’s dry spell. I want to save my Bush-Blames for problems that can be tied more directly to his screw-ups, of which there are many to choose from. What I do blame Bush for is not acknowledging scientific facts. Global warming is just one of many instances where the Bush administration politicizes science, choosing to ignore or downplay scientific studies that aren’t in tune with a neo-conservative world view.
There is room to disagree about the meaning of global warming and what should be done about it. The March 2005 issue of Scientific American has a fascinating article called “How Did Humans First Alter Global Climate?” William Ruddiman, the author, presents compelling evidence that starting about 8,000 years ago our human ancestors began contributing significant quantities of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by clearing forests and irrigating fields to grow crops.
As a result, the article says, “human beings kept the planet notably warmer than it would have been otherwise—and possibly even averted the start of a new ice age.” For analyses of the changes in the earth’s orbit that produce ice ages predict that one should be at hand. In fact, Ruddiman argues that without human activity the next round of glaciation would already have started.
So on the whole maybe global warming is good for humans. And maybe it isn’t. Some parts of the world likely will benefit from global warming, and some will suffer (like low-lying islands). Instead of rejecting the Kyoto treaty and hiding our scientific head in the sand, Bush should have the United States participating in a worldwide debate about the effects of global warming and what should be done about it.
Instead, this cartoon from “Funny Times” sums up the Bush administration’s attitude toward truth—including the scientific variety. I’d find it more amusing if I wasn’t sore from carrying all that water around today.