Friday, February 6, 2009

Dangers in the Heartland

As part of a "national teach-in" on global warming, the SSCP graciously gave of his time to enlighten the students of COD on the issues facing the development of alternative energy sources. In the midst of the coldest winter in 20 years, at a time of now plummeting petrol prices, not to mention the worst recession in 60 years, give or take a decade, it is a bit of challenge to get really stoked about alternative energy. Yet there is probably no better opportunity than now, with the prospect of untold billions pouring from the Federal coffers, to get serious. Using Pascal's wager as an analog, I suggested that there is nothing to lose by betting on GW being real. If you are wrong, so what? You will have developed a new energy infrastructure that will be required by the loss of fossil fuels anyway. On the other hand, just like betting against God and being wrong, betting against anthropogenic warming and being wrong; well, you lose everything.

I was also curious to gauge the students' awareness of perceptions of global warming, so I asked how many listened to my close personal friend Rush Limbaugh. Astonishingly, none owned up. I even heard one mutter that he had no idea who he was. This is mildly encouraging, though I suspect it reflects that they generally listen to nothing. Rush, despite his $400 million contract for radio rant, should be concerned. Maybe David Horowitz is correct; we have corrupted our students with left-wing ideology. Bring on ABOR.

So, why Rush, and what is he to GW anyway? Because he symbolizes those who take a position for ideological reasons and are not swayed by either argument or facts. Our exposure to the loathsome ranter on Dulcie and Aylwin's Big Beer Adventure had taken me aback by his single-minded antipathy towards the alternative energy gang. We (I am identifying myself as one of them) are a bunch of liberal, left-wing activists engaged in some giant hoax to defraud the honest American public. These sorts of characterizations upset me. Quite what we are supposed to be trying to achieve by this I'm not sure. But truth is of little consequence to Rush. Ideas are even less important. Coherent, rational argument even less so. I had not fully appreciated the extent of the politicizing of global warming and alternative energy previously, though perhaps I should have. I was aware of the Christian Right, the James Dobsons (nice hair piece) and so on, being particularly skeptical of climate change. Fortunately, the church in general is getting to grips with the gravity of the situation quickly.

In yet another manifestation of synchronicity, when I collected my mail after the "teach-in" there in my pigeon hole was a big envelope from the Heartland Institute. In it was a thick, glossy (though not scented), very professionally produced magazine that purported to be a collection of "scientific" papers repudiating the anthropogenic warming thing. It also contained an invitation to attend the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change - or rather the absence of it. Among the actors are the usual suspects, some of whom I have exposed on these pages previously. Some geezer called Arthur Robinson who hails from Oregon and has "published" a paper in a fake medical journal. Honestly, do you think that a paper about climate change that had traction would appear in some obscure rag touted by right-wing doctors? It contains enough graphs to appear convincing to the untrained eye. Another one in the van is the wacky 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, who caused the gullible American Physical Society much embarrassment by being invited to contribute to the "debate" last year.

I was struck, not so much by the existence of these anti-global-warming zealots, but by their commitment to the cause. Who is paying Heartland all this loot to distribute these expensive magazines? Like many other institutes and think-tanks, of which this country has way too many, it's main purpose is political: anti-tax, anti-public spending and so on. On can speculate that the traditional energy companies would not be averse to a bit of covert PR to fight GW, while all the time trumpeting their virtues in becoming green, in order to combat carbon caps and other solutions to carbon emissions. It just points to the importance of staying vigilant in the fight. I am feeling quite weary from all the nutcase right-wing pressure: one day it's Horowitz, the next Heartland. I wish they would all just go away.

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