Global warming—It’s here, it’s now
The main hall of the region’s newest public space, the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, was well filled yesterday afternoon as Clean Power Now hosted “A Conversation with Ross Gelbspan and George Woodwell”.
Clean Power Now, the Cape-based grass roots group advocating for renewable energy, invited the journalist and the scientist to engage in a discussion with interested local people to answer the question: Global warming—It’s here, it’s now, what do we do about it?
Dr. Woodwell (on right), Director Emeritus and Senior Scientist of Woods Hole Research Center, pointed out in his opening remarks that recent scientific evidence has shown that even with immediate and realistic action, the effects of climate change will worsen for many years before they improve. Mr. Gelbspan, author of the well-regarded book on climate change ‘Boiling Point’, noted that the effects are already with us, citing areas in South America where villages are being abandoned because the land no longer supports the people living on it.
Dr. Woodwell also noted that while changes in individual lifestyles are essential to combat climate change, such changes are meaningless without committed involvement from governments and coalitions of governments. He explained that the problem is not simply one of temperature change, but that the constituent parts of the atmosphere must be returned to a ratio more supportive of plant and animal life, on which human life depends.
In response to a question on carbon rationing, Mr. Gelbspan (on right) said that, in the long run, such measures do not address the need to reverse current trends. He thought this idea would be only slightly more effective than voluntary conservation, and that what was needed were strict laws enacted by government to mandate such measures as compact fluorescent light bulbs, hybrid vehicles and wind power, and significantly increased taxes on fossil fuels. He also alerted attendees that because of the USA’s failure to address climate change problems we can expect international legal action against the U.S. from groups of countries such as Canada, France and Switzerland
Both speakers agreed that one of the effects of climate change would be the impoverishment of an increasing number of vulnerable areas, citing New Orleans as an example of an area that, having suffered from a storm made more violent by warmer sea temperatures, is unlikely to return to its pre-Katrina status.
Demand candidates state their position on climate change
On the subject of press coverage, Mr. Gelbspan, a thirty-year veteran of journalism, pointed out that the press has done a disservice to the nation by applying its formula of publishing conflicting opinions in stories that should really only contain facts. It is because of this tendency of the press to frame all articles as point-counterpoint stories, he said, that extreme minority opinions are often given as much publicity as accepted wisdom. Dr. Woodwell said that the press should ask itself the simple question of where the public interest lies.
In answer to a final question about political candidates, Mr. Gelbspan strongly urged his listeners to demand from candidates at all levels in the next round of elections a statement of their position and intentions on climate change issues.
The afternoon ended with a cheese and wine reception for the guests, during which individual discussions were carried on by attendees clearly in search of even more information on these vital questions. The event was sponsored by Clean Power Now.