TCS Daily

Reality Bites: "911" Halts the Global Warming Crusaders

By James Pinkerton - October 30, 2001 12:00 AM

Sometimes fate just deals you a bad hand. Youre going along, doing your thing, and then - wham! - something comes from out of nowhere and puts you out of business. So it is today for the global-warming crusaders. Before September 11, they had a modicum of momentum; today, they have no mo.

Why? Because suddenly one of the most important figures in the world is Osama Bin Laden, and nobody knows where he stands on the Kyoto Treaty. Most analysts figure he hasnt focused on the issue much - because hes too busy trying to destroy Western Civilization.

And so for as long as the war against Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda dominates center stage, the U.S. and other industrialized countries are not going to divert significant attention and resources toward a sideshow such as global warming.

The global-warming crowd wont like that, of course, but those who refuse to deal with reality will nonetheless discover that reality deals with them. This has happened before; its always hard for those riding high in one era to acknowledge the hard blow that lays them low. But eventually, the school of hard knocks graduates everyone.

For example, there was Vaughn Meader. In 1962 the young comedian released a comedy record, The First Family, featuring a dead-ringer impression of President John F. Kennedy. Everybody, including JFK, thought Meader was funny; the album sold 7.5 million copies. But the next year, Kennedy was assassinated, and suddenly the bottom dropped out of Camelot humor. Another comedian of the day, Lenny Bruce, summed up the comi-tragic course of Meader`s life when he said, "They put two graves in Arlington - one for John Kennedy and one for Vaughn Meader. Meader made a pledge never to do his Kennedy voice again as part of a comedy act, and he has held to that promise, even as he himself cascaded into financial ruin, alcoholism, and a near-fatal stabbing. Now in his 70s, he wrote recently that November 22, 1963, was the day I died.

As a second example, consider the once-popular diet pill called Ayds. In the early 80s, it was hit by a stroke of bad luck: doctors dubbed a deadly new disease AIDS. Other entities shared that acronym, but they quickly got out of the way. The American Institute of Decision Sciences changed its name to the Decision Sciences Institute, and the California ambulance service called AIDS - for Attitude, Integrity, Dependability and Service - changed its moniker, too. But Ayds, homonymically challenged, couldnt make the switch, and so the brand disappeared.

And now, September 11. The world changed on that day, and everyone who survived has had to adapt. A popular term for such secondary effects is collateral damage. Interestingly, that was the title of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie about a revenge-seeking, bomb-blasting fireman. The film has been shelved. The release of another movie, Serendipity, had to be held up at the last minute to remove a glimpse of the World Trade Center Twin Towers. And of course, this years Grammy awards were postponed twice. And what of those reality TV shows? The ones that featured yuppies committing such brave things as eating bugs - or betraying each other - in pursuit of a big prize? Suddenly the real courage of firemen and soldiers seemed a lot more compelling. Leanne Potts, of The Albuquerque Journal, wrote a mock obituary last week headlined, Reality TV Dead at Age 2; Cause of Death: Reality.

And as America girds for what could be a long war, the political reverberations will continue, forcing new priorities, whether wanted or not. As one indicator, a headline in the October 21 Washington Post reads, War Effort Pushes Green Issues Aside/Environmental Groups Rethink Agenda As Nation Focuses on Anti-Terror Fight. To be sure, environmental concerns havent disappeared, but as all Americans reprioritize their lives, the greens must reprioritize their agenda.

At least they should. But maybe they wont. Maybe they will cling to the view that nothing much happened on September 11. That seems to be the message coming from the most prominent of the American eco-groups, the Sierra Club. If theres any formal club-wide recognition that anything important happened last month, it is completely camouflaged. Indeed, a rummaging of the entire website using the search-terms terror, terrorist, and World Trade Center produced just two mentions, both messages of condolence, although the Texas chapter took the occasion to reaffirm the relevance of fundamental national ethics: the healing power of nature in an often chaotic world and the value of wildlife and wild places. Quick: tell the Taliban.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club continues to see the world through its own green-colored glasses. The global warming section of the site informs us, The human race is engaged in the largest experiment in history - what will happen to our health and the health of the planet when we make drastic changes in our climate. What? You were expecting something about the world war on terror?

Or one might consider, as another fr instance, Greenpeace International. Traditionally that group has been more vocal on political issues; indeed, it issued a post 911 statement, which reads in part:

Our plea to all parties in this emerging conflict is to view themselves as citizens of an imperiled planet, and to weigh their actions not against the short-term criteria of revenge and retaliation, but against the long term needs for our planet`s peace and security.

All humanity, regardless of our political or economic differences, share the same most basic rights and needs and values. Our task now should be to create a global response to the threats to our common future.

Is it really the lesson of September 11 that all humanity shares the same values? If so, how come theres a war on? And if not, then what are the chances that all parties in the emerging conflict will view themselves as citizens of an imperiled planet?

And so the global warmocrats stagger onward, like a chicken with its head cut off - or more precisely, like a bureaucracy that has kept its funding, but lost its function. The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which oversees the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 7) that opened Monday in Marrakech, seems serene; after laying out the upcoming red-tape-spewing procedure, the COP-ers declare their earnest hope: With the new funding and rules in place, the Parties to the Convention could start discussing the political issues that are likely to dominate the next few years, including the widespread desire to re-engage the U.S. in emissions limitation.

Maybe that will happen someday, but it wont happen soon. After all, the Bush Administration has a real war to fight against genuine enemies, and few resources to divert to a pseudo struggle against a phony problem. But the COP-ers, the Sierra Clubbers, and the Greenpeacers seem agreed: nothing has changed, and so theres no reason not to plow ahead with their pre-September 11 agenda.

Someone should introduce them to Vaughn Meader.

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