George Will

WASHINGTON -- So, "the debate is over.'' Time magazine says so. Last week's cover story exhorted readers to "Be Worried. Be Very Worried,'' and ABC News concurred in several stories. So did Montana's governor, speaking on ABC. And there was polling about global warming, gathered by Time and ABC in collaboration.

Eighty-five percent of Americans say warming is probably happening and 62 percent say it threatens them personally. The National Academy of Sciences says the rise in the earth's surface temperature has been about one degree Fahrenheit in the last century. Did 85 percent of Americans notice? Of course not. They got their anxiety from journalism calculated to produce it. Never mind that one degree might be the margin of error when measuring the planet's temperature. To take a person's temperature, you put a thermometer in an orifice, or under an arm. Taking the temperature of our churning planet, with its tectonic plates sliding around over a molten core, involves limited precision.

Why have Americans been dilatory about becoming as worried -- as very worried -- as Time and ABC think proper? An article on ABC's Web site wonders ominously, "Was Confusion Over Global Warming a Con Job?'' It suggests there has been a misinformation campaign implying that scientists might not be unanimous, a campaign by -- how did you guess? -- big oil. And the coal industry. But speaking of coal ...

Recently, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer flew with ABC's George Stephanopoulos over Glacier National Park's receding glaciers. But Schweitzer offered hope: Everyone, buy Montana coal. New technologies can, he said, burn it while removing carbon causes of global warming.

Stephanopoulos noted that such technologies are at least four years away and "all the scientists'' say something must be done "right now.'' Schweitzer, quickly recovering from hopefulness and returning to the "be worried, be very worried'' message, said "it's even more critical than that'' because China and India are going to "put more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with conventional coal-fired generators than all of the rest of the planet has during the last 150 years.''

That is one reason why the Clinton administration never submitted the Kyoto accord on global warming for Senate ratification. In 1997, the Senate voted 95-0 that the accord would disproportionately burden America while being too permissive toward major polluters that are America's trade competitors.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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