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
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
"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
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