There were a lot of complaints about the heat at the Ride Around Torch
bike tour a week ago, followed by a lot of complaints by the public at
large throughout the next few days.
Most cyclists rode a 63-mile loop around Torch Lake in Antrim County. At
the bayside park in Elk Rapids where the tour wrapped up, many talked
about how tough it was cycling the last few miles of hills in the
90-degree heat, glaring sun and high humidity.
Then we packed up our bikes, climbed into our monster SUVs and
emission-friendly pickup trucks and took off down the highway, no doubt to
crank up the AC at home, doing our bit with the rest of the human race to
pump 90 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every day of
90 million tons. Every day and climbing.
Thats about the way it goes, isnt it? Yet I couldnt help wondering
while driving home in my own gas-guzzler if the day will come when well
look back on 90-degree temperatures as being quite pleasant compared to
what may be in store for us.
Whats ahead? 100-degree summers? 110? Last year, a city in Pakistan
recorded a temperature of 128.3 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest ever
recorded in an Asian city.
That bit is from a recent article, Climate of Denial, by former Vice
President Al Gore, who claims that the news media is letting major
polluters and right-wing ideologues get away with trampling the rules of
democratic discourse on the threat of global warming. By that Gore means
that pseudoscientists are well-funded by conservative think tanks to cast
doubt on the dangers of climate change; not to mention funding four
anti-climate lobbyists for every member of the U.S. House and Senate,
buying politicians wholesale, and pumping hundreds of millions of dollars
each year into misleading ads.
This is a familiar theme for anyone who follows environmental issues, and
probably a good fundraising message for Gores cause.
But, given the parade of climate disasters in the news these days, at what
point will even the most ardent denier become a believer in the dangers of
Perhaps when one too many tornadoes flattens another Joplin, Missouri or
Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Or when one too many hurricanes hits the Gulf Coast
or another city such as New Orleans.
There will be one too many floods washing away towns and farms along the
Missouri River in Montana, North & South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri and
Iowa. Unprecedented in duration, unprecedented in volume, and
unprecedented in modern recorded history, as noted by Republican
Congressman (and climate change denier) Steve King of Iowa.
Perhaps the tipping point will come in Arizona and New Mexico, where wild
fires have burned more than 1.5 million acres, prompting the evacuation of
a number of towns.
Maybe the tipping point will come after a few years of dangerous heat
waves of the sort we endured throughout the Midwest and the East Coast
last week, with heat index values (ie. how nasty it feels outside)
topping over 125 degrees.
Same story elsewhere around the planet: over the past few years,
Australia has experienced flooding over an area the size of Germany and
France combined with the Black Saturday wildfires that killed 173
people. Russia: 56,000 dead from massive fires and drought over the past
couple of years. Extreme droughts in Africa, China and France. Lack of
water likely to imperil the lives of millions in India and Pakistan... Is
it likely their citizens are skeptics of global warming?
Theres really quite a lengthy list of climate-oriented calamities out
there if you care to spend a few moments looking them up online.
Most of us dont care to.
So, to paraphrase Mark Twain, Everybody talks about global warming, but
no one does anything about it.
As Gore notes in his article in Rolling Stone magazine: Most of the news
media completely ignore how such events are connected to the climate
crisis, or dismiss the connection as controversial; after all, there are
scientists on one side of the debate and deniers on the other.
In our objective news media, deniers of global warming get the same
weight of coverage as scientists no matter to what insane extremes our
climate spirals out of control.
One can only imagine, however, that sooner than later the average person
will reach a tipping point tied to the thermometer, the hurricanes, the
floods, the droughts, the wildfires and the rising tides -- where we
finally take the steps needed to save our own skins.