Tuesday, October 23, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 44


Global warming a serious threat, scientists confirm

By Ken Fountain
The Daily Cougar

Texas generates more "greenhouse emissions" (compounds that become trapped in the ozone layer of the atmosphere) than any other state in America. In fact, if Texas were an independent nation, it would the seventh-highest producer of such emissions in the world.

Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar

Journalist and author Ross Gelbspan discusses the political and scientific battle over global warming in a Houston speech Monday night.

That was one of many statistics revealed at a discussion on the problem of global warming and its possible solutions, held at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in the
Museum District.

Ross Gelbspan, a retired Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of the book The Heat is On: The High Stakes Battle Over Earth's Threatened Climate, said his
appearance at the meeting was one of his first speeches since the "heartbreaking and potentially spirit-breaking" events of Sept. 11.

He said he hoped to "find some meaningful links between this new recognition of our own vulnerability and the subject at hand.

"The most obvious one is that a transition to clean energy will make us far less dependent on oil, and that will make us less vulnerable to the political volatility of the
Middle East," he said.

He proposed that, in light of an expected economic recession across the globe, the creation of a massive public works program to "re-wire the world with clean energy
will create a surge of wealth and opportunity, which will go a long way to undermine anti-U.S. sentiment."

Gelbspan said that in recent years, the global climate had entered "a new state of instability" created by the waste products of the Industrial Revolution. Signs of that
instability, he said, include increasingly violent and chaotic weather -- droughts, wildfires, heat waves, massive storms and changing seasonal patterns.

The costs of these changes can be measured in real monetary terms, he said. In the 1990s, insurance companies paid out over $12 billion in claims related to "the
relentless expression of extreme weather."

He added that global warming also poses a "totalitarian threat and real anti-democratic potentials" in developing countries. The loss of jobs, shrinking markets, food
shortages and black-market crime that can result can lead to the permanent imposition of martial law in those countries.

One of the side effects of global warming is the increase of populations of disease-carrying insects, which could cause a huge expansion in malaria, cholera, Lyme
disease and others.

Gelbspan said the "central drama is the ability of our planet to sustain civilization versus the largest commercial enterprise in history, the oil industry."

Ever since mainstream scientists began releasing data about global warming, he said, the oil industry has engaged in a "campaign of deception and disinformation" about
the evidence. That campaign consisted primarily of paying "a handful" of scientist skeptics to "reposition global warming as theory rather than fact."

The campaign was successful, as indicated by two polls conducted in Newsweek magazine. In 1991, 35 percent of those polled believed in the validity of the
phenomenon. By 1996, that number had dropped to 22 percent.

While the United States rejected the Kyoto Accords, an international agreement to reduce global greenhouse emission by 70 percent, most other industrialized countries
have chosen to proceed.

"There is virtually no debate in any other country about the science, only a debate on the policy side of how to get it done," Gelbspan said.

Another speaker at the meeting was the Rev. Sally Bingham of Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco. Bingham was one of the initiators of "Episcopal Power and
Light," a religiously-based organization that works to convince churches to switch from traditional power generation sources, such as coal, to more environmentally friendly
sources, such as wind farms, solar energy, or biomass (plant matter).

The effort has had a huge success in California, she said, and has spawned similar programs in other states that have deregulated their utility industries, including
Massachusetts and Maine.

She said she hoped such an effort would succeed in Texas, which recently began to deregulate its utility industry, allowing consumers to select their own sources for

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