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Published on Tuesday, August 22, 2000 in the San Francisco Examiner
A Warning From The North Pole
by Harley Sorenson
The New York Times broke the story on Saturday and the San Francisco Chronicle did a nice front-page follow-up Monday, but coverage by The Examiner was more typical. Here in its entirety is the page A-4 story in Sunday's Examiner:

"For the first time in 50 million years, visitors to the North Pole can see something extraordinary: water.

"The thick ice that covers the Arctic Ocean at the North Pole has melted, leaving a mile-wide stretch of water at the top of the world, The New York Times reported Saturday.

"The water could be the result of global warming, although there is debate among experts about the case."

That's it. We now have frighteningly clear evidence that our little planet is getting hotter, and the story rates an inside, below-the-fold short in a big-city newspaper. The Associated Press article makes it sound like open water at the North Pole is some sort of tourist attraction.

The Harvard scientist who reported the open water at the North Pole made the same trip six years ago and that time saw ice six to nine feet deep.

I'm not sure why it is, but a good many of us seem to feel that global warming is a boring subject that will just go away if we continue to ignore it.

Al Gore, the Democratic candidate for president, has learned the hard way that people don't want to hear about global warming. An author of a 1992 book on the subject, "Earth in the Balance," Gore has learned that people's eyes start glazing over if he brings up the subject. So he doesn't, at least not much.

Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate, does talk about the danger of global warming, and people do doze off when he's at the podium.

George W. Bush, the Republican candidate, consistently denied until last year that global warming exists, Well-informed, deep thinker that he now is, he now admits its existence but has declared it's God's work and unrelated to his friends and sponsors in the oil business.

Bush's father, the first in an endless line of George Bushes, was so disdainful of the global warming threat in 1992 that he took to derisively referring to Al Gore as "Ozone Man."

America's religious opportunists, most notably Jerry Falwell, contend that global warming is a myth. Not to worry, Falwell said recently on Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect," God knew what he was doing when he created earth so we can trust in him to take care of it.

Last April, a group of similar religious phonies met in Washington and signed what they called the "Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship," which, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, "questioned doomsday statistics about global warming, booming population growth and a needed reduction in the use of fossil fuels."

These guys remind me of the tobacco executives who one by one stood with their arms raised and swore to God they knew of no connection between cigarette smoking and cancer.

If and when we get serious about global warming, nearly all Americans will have to change their lifestyles. We'll have to build decent intercity train lines and ride those trains. We'll have to use public transportation in our cities, and cities will be required to provide that transportation.

A genuine and justified fear of global warming and its consequences could lead us into building a better society. I, for one, love my car and the sense of freedom it gives me, and I'd hate to give it up, but I'm intrigued at what our cities could be like if they weren't filled with cars that create noise, dust, pollution, danger and congestion.

It seems to me that removing cars completely from some areas could actually speed transportation because of fewer vehicles vying for space.

If we continue to ignore global warming or give it short shrift, the future of planet earth is in doubt. Worst-case scenario, the placet could get too hot for human habitation. We could all die.

I don't expect that to happen, but, then, I didn't expect the Soviet Union to collapse, either. None of us can predict the future. As outlandish as some possibilities seem, they could happen.

The thing that I find most frightening is scientist after scientist saying that it's happening a lot faster than they would have predicted. The most pessimistic predictions are being surpassed. Hardly anybody predicted water, not ice, at the North Pole by the year 2000.

If what we're told is correct — that the last open water at the North Pole occurred 50 million years ago — we'd better start paying attention.

Ralph Nader and Al Gore have both expressed great interest in global warming. If you put human survival over oil company profits, you might want to vote in November for one of those two.

Copyright 2000 San Francisco Examiner


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