When it comes to global warming, Americans have a right to be confused. Is it a problem or isn't it?
You don't have to look far to find passionate voices on both sides of the issue, while the amount of information and disinformation is staggering. Google "global warming," and you'll find about 13 million links. Monumental financial and political stakes further cloud the critical question: Are we, or are we not, heating up the Earth?
While the Earth has always undergone cycles of heating and cooling, some 2,000 scientists and more than 100 countries agree that the current warming trend is caused by human activity. Quick tutorial: Global warming refers to the process by which the Earth's atmosphere is warming owing to the accumulation of "greenhouse gases" (GHG), such as carbon dioxide, that are released from burning fossil fuels (gas, oil, coal) and other resources. The biggest culprits are said to be cars and coal-burning power plants.
Others say we're overreacting to a "hoax," to quote Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. To those in Inhofe's camp, global warming threatens not the Earth, but the economies of industrialized nations, while feeding a growing industry of environmentalists with a stake in creating fear, as author Michael Crichton suggested in his latest sci-fi thriller, "State of Fear."
With some notable exceptions, conservatives have embraced the hoax theory while liberals have cried havoc. Somewhere in the midst of such sturm und drang, we might wish to let loose the dogs of logic. If anything should be a bipartisan concern, surely the future of the Earth's climate should top the list.
Among those trying to make that happen is environmental activist Laurie David, who also happens to be the wife of "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David. An unrelenting student of global warming, David has launched a "virtual march" on Washington in hopes of stirring Americans from their repose.
The march began Friday on Earth Day in Shishmaref, Alaska, via a Web site - stopglobalwarming.org - and will proceed across the continent for the next 362 days, ending April 22, 2006, in the District of Columbia. Among those "marching" with David is Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who, with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., has sponsored the Climate Stewardship Act aimed at reducing U.S. CO2 emissions.