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September 21, 2009 – Last week, I recommended a couple of radio stations to you
that broadcast what I believe are important shows about global warming. While I
did not discuss Radio Ecoshock, a Canadian program originating in Vancouver with
host Alex Smith, I will now. First let me say that Smith does a superlative job of
not interrupting his interviewee’s, and of selecting the most important questions in
need of asking. Back in June of this year, he hosted a show he called “American
Climate Change.” The show was broadcast on June 18, two days after the release of
a “State of the Climate – National Overview” report by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States.

The report was released, with some degree of fanfare, by Dr.’s Jane Lubchenco, Thomas
Karl, and Jerry Melillo. Each made lengthy comments with regard to the various
impacts of global warming described in the report. (Let me suggest you visit http://www.ecoshock.org/ if you would care to hear their comments.) While the report was anything but cheerful, emphasizing, among other things, the severity of the rise in sea level if we continue on our present course, the most startling piece of information was revealed during the Q&A that followed. Seth Borenstein, with Associated Press, asked why the report had been changed after its release in draft form in April. The draft had said – hang onto your hats – that the cumulative effects of dumping so much pollution into the air and water have already caused us to reach the tipping point, a fact he pointed out and questioned.

What, you may ask, is the tipping point? The tipping point is that moment when we have done so much damage that, having reached it, we can no longer escape the severest consequences of our actions. In other words, any efforts at mitigation can only produce salutary results after the hottest temperatures, the driest droughts, the severest flooding, the deadliest diseases, the harshest famines, and the most toxic air and water have been endured. (Furthermore, in looking at a previous report at the NOAA web site, I came upon heart-stopping information: the ill effects of carbon dioxide on the climate are now irreversible.)

What was the wording changed to? According to Borenstein, the report released in June said that we were “approaching the threshold,” after which we will have reached the tipping point.
Borenstein’s question was, why had this change been made? According to Alex Smith, his question was never answered. So it is left to us to conjecture about the reason for the change.
Borenstein suggested that perhaps someone in another branch of government had pressured the
NOAA to edit their report. Let’s assume he was right; it’s as viable an explanation for the
change as any other. Borenstein’s question then becomes, why would such pressure have been brought to bear?

Two explanations come to mind. The first explanation for government intervention is based on the suspicion that the government is afraid of us finding out how far gone we truly are. A well-founded fear, in my opinion. If the American public understood that no degree of changed behavior on their part – particularly changed behavior that would be accompanied by additional costs – could forestall the worst consequences of climate change, it’s entirely possible they would be unwilling to pay for improved outcomes they would never get to enjoy. In other words, they would just give up. Whether the citizens of China, India, and other high-impact nations would give up as well is an open question. That our government fears such blindly selfish behavior tells me that, at some point, Americans may be “forced” to listen to the better angels of their natures. Marshall law, anyone?

Let’s look at another possible explanation. Again, Americans get wind of the fact that it is
no longer possible to mitigate the effects of climate change. Once comprehension of the full
import of that eventuality takes hold, panic ensues. Hoarding of money, hoarding of food, hoarding of gasoline, panic buying of guns … once the government has appealed to Americans
to stop engaging in these activities and been ignored, the solution becomes inevitable. It must step in and restore order. Though it is unlikely it would have to intervene everywhere, the possibility of widespread disorder raises the specter of American soldiers killing Americans. In the event of either of these scenarios taking place, our government would have to take drastic action. In all likelihood, the outcome of revealing this information would produce a combination of these two outcomes, along with other, unforeseeable, events.

All people, no matter their temperament, need hope. Before the government chooses to make
known the unalterable facts, it better have a spoonful of honey to help the medicine go down.
My own thinking says that the words “we will never give up” need to be employed. Regardless
of what the science tells us, we must persist, we must endure. Americans must, absolutely must,
believe that we’re all in this together, and that our only recourse is to help one another. We will need a reason to keep going, and I can’t think of a better one. No matter what!

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