"Global Warming Rally Cut Short by Cold Weather." That recent headline caught my attention as I continued to hear warnings from former Vice President Al Gore and other environmental activists about the imminent threat of global warming. But we're enduring the coldest spring in many years. So what's going on with the weather?
Of course I'm not a scientist and have no idea whether global warming is an imminent threat or not; however, I do know that this issue has been turned into a political football in the runup to next year's presidential election. Most Democrats are embracing Gore and the global warming issue while President Bush and many Republicans are skeptical. Who to believe, Gore or his detractors?
Obviously, global warming is a very complex and serious issue and I don't want to simplify it by choosing winners and losers in the ongoing debate. What I know for sure is the apocalyptic documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," won an Academy Award Oscar. On the other side of the debate, many reputable scientists have disputed Gore's frightening thesis and cautioned against overreacting to his repeated warnings about the dire fate of our planet.
What bothers me most about this spirited debate is the hypocrisy that it generates. For example, although Gore and his allies preach energy conservation and urge the rest of us to utilize public transportation, it has been revealed that just one of the former Veep's four homes - a huge mansion in Tennessee - consumes more than 20 times the energy of the average American household. Last August alone, it used up twice as much power as the average family consumes in a year. That's a lot of energy.
Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer recently took Gore to task by recalling the politician's performance at the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood last month. "Before they (Gore and actor Leonardo DiCaprio) spoke, the screen ... flashed not-so-subliminal messages about how to save the planet," he wrote. "My personal favorite was 'Ride mass transit.' This to a conclave of Hollywood plutocrats who haven't seen the inside of a subway since the (1969) moon landing and for whom mass transit means a stretch limo seating no fewer than 10 people." Well, you get the idea as hypocrisy runs amok in Hollywood.
Gore and DiCaprio also announced that the Motion Picture Academy had gone green for the first time ever by buying carbon credits to neutralize the evening's "carbon footprint." Krauthammer explained, however, that this environmental hocus-pocus means that the Academy "sent money to "a 'carbon broker,' who promised, after taking his cut, to reduce carbon emissions somewhere on the planet equivalent to what the stars spewed into the atmosphere while flying in on their private planes." Are you still with me?
The carbon credits scam is that it doesn't reduce world energy consumption by a single ounce, according to Krauthammer. "It is a way for the rich to export the real costs and sacrifices of pollution control to the poorest segments of humanity in the Third World," he added.
Meanwhile, the political debate continues. In testimony before Congress, Gore warned that global warming could lead to "killer heat waves" as it destroys our planet. But another expert witness, Danish environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg, countered that any increase in heat-related deaths would be offset by a corresponding decline in cold-related deaths. "He (Gore) has got carried away and showed only worst-case scenarios," Lomborg said.
Although Gore and his followers blame the Bush administration for rejecting the Kyoto Accords to control greenhouse gases, the fact is that the U.S. Senate rejected that treaty during the Clinton administration on a bipartisan 95-0 vote because it exempted some of the biggest polluters on the globe, including Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Korea. "Compliance with Kyoto would reduce global warming by an amount too small to measure," Lomborg has written, "but the cost of compliance just to the United States would be higher than the cost of providing the entire world with clean drinking water and sanitation," which helps to keep things in perspective.
Here's another interesting statistic: If California reduces carbon dioxide emissions 25 percent by the year 2020, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has urged, the state will have reduced global greenhouse emissions by 0.3 percent - that's three-tenths of one percent for those of you who failed high school math. Further, as Time magazine has noted, the world meat industry produces nearly 20 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions from animal flatulence and nitrous oxide in manure, which means that a 16-ounce T-bone is like a Hummer on a plate. That should make Gov. Schwarzenegger reconsider his lifestyle because he likes steaks and drives a Hummer.
All of this brings us back to Al Gore and his hypocritical save-the-planet admonitions. Journalist Krauthammer has some advice for the former Veep: "Turn off the lights. Ditch the heated swimming pool. Ride the subway. And spare us the carbon-trading piety." What we need on this contentious issue is more meaningful action and less hypocrisy.
• Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.