Global warming is a WMD?
July 28, 2003 11:47 AM   Subscribe

"Global warming is now a weapon of mass destruction. It kills more people than terrorism, yet Blair and Bush do nothing." So writes Sir John Houghton, former chief executive of the Meteorological Office and co-chair of the scientific assessment working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
posted by homunculus (24 comments total)
How sad for Sir Houghton.

I'm sure we'll be reading of his untimely demise in the next few days. A horrible auto accident or perhaps a suicide.
posted by damnitkage at 11:49 AM on July 28, 2003

Houghton must be using some obscure scientific definition of "weapon".
posted by Wood at 12:09 PM on July 28, 2003

Same as it ever was. Sadly, I don't think any real change will come until we run out of fossil fuels or a major first world country is faced with some sort of ecological disaster (even then).
posted by Quartermass at 12:11 PM on July 28, 2003

Really, really alarmist. From what I've read, there's not that much we can do about global warming. And we could provide everyone on earth with clean drinking water for a fraction of what the negligible-effect Kyoto accord is going to cost.
posted by orange swan at 12:12 PM on July 28, 2003

We need to commence the bombing, er, liberation of the Sun as soon as possible.
posted by SweetJesus at 12:12 PM on July 28, 2003

Ooh! Now we can declare war on it. Then again, our track record isn't so good lately
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:14 PM on July 28, 2003

Forget the paltry casualties of global warming. It's time to go up against the real enemies: Tobacco and Cars, each of which is responsible for more than 15 times the casualties of terrorism or global warming!
posted by kfury at 12:30 PM on July 28, 2003

Then again, maybe Bush is fighting the good global warming fight. He's a proponent of the Kyoto protocols, as long as the US doesn't have to abide by them. That seems in keeping with his anti-terrorist agenda, where there were roughly as many civilian casualties in Iraq as there were in New York.
posted by kfury at 12:33 PM on July 28, 2003

Growing up in Germany, I've been tought to think "what would you have done" all my life. Why didn't my grandparents speak out? Didn't they know what was going on? Didn't they know about Auschwitz?

And I always wonder, what is our holocaust? What is the horror we know about and shruggingly accept?

Look no further. Get your answers ready now, because they'll ask us. Didn't you know? they'll say. You must have known.

And we did know. And we did nothing.
posted by muckster at 1:03 PM on July 28, 2003

kfury, Iraq Body Count estimates the civilian casualties alone at approximately twice the 9/11 dead. Not that there's any real connection to begin with.
posted by muckster at 1:14 PM on July 28, 2003

I think we're just staving off the next ice age.
posted by alumshubby at 1:15 PM on July 28, 2003

Really, really alarmist. From what I've read, there's not that much we can do about global warming.

This seems like the all-too-common knee-jerk reaction to reports from climate-change experts.

So I have to ask, orange swan: what information do you have that a scientist who has dedicated decades of his working life to studing the climate doesn't? I'd love to see it.

Also: what muckster said. Exactly what muckster said.
posted by gompa at 1:17 PM on July 28, 2003

gompa, This "scientist who has dedicated decades of his working life to studying the climate" can't thank of any better solution to this so-called "problem" than to blame Bush and Blair. I personally haven't spent more than a few minutes of my life studying the climate, yet I can think of lots of solution that don't involve whining helplessly about the government. Where does Houghton ask people to stop eating meat? The depredation of cattle ranching upon our environment (not to mention their flatulence) is a huge contributor to global warming. You and I could end it tomorrow (I'm doing my part.) Where does he ask anyone to stop driving his or her car, or use less electricity? Where does he interface with businesses who may be contributing (in his view) to global warming? All this guy can do is plop his fat behind in chair, turn on CNN, and slobber curses at Bush and Blair. If you'd ever turn off your TV, you'd see that Bush and Blair are really a very small part of the universe, and that human beings have enormous powers, individually and organizationally, that have nothing to do with governments. I mean, who is this guy organizing? Nobody! He expects Bush and Blair to solve all the world's problems, and he's going to stomp his feet and wave his little fists until they do. Good luck, buddy. And as for you guys who think this is the new Holocaust, and want to know what to do about it: Stop driving. Stop eating meat. Turn off the air conditioner. If you really think this is the new Holocaust, no sacrifice, no personal discomfort -- even your own death -- is not too extreme to contemplate, if it will help end this threat. What would you do if you lived alongside the railroad tracks leading to Aushwitz? What would you do to stop the train? Would you throw yourself under the wheels if you thought that would work? Would you throw someone else under the wheels? Or would you call on Bush and Blair to DO something about it?
posted by Faze at 1:57 PM on July 28, 2003

Gompa: I have a dictionary with "weapon" in it. I'm disinclined to trust a scientist who doesn't use words precisely.

And if this is our holocaust, then I'm going to have to revise upwards my opinion of Germans who stood by while millions were being slaughtered in death camps. I don't think I'm gonna do that though.
posted by Wood at 1:59 PM on July 28, 2003

Basically what Faze said. It is not the fault of Bush and Blair, but the citizens of their countries. I Amongst others you rich, western Mefiers. Any politician advocating the price and tax hikes necessary to achieve these environmentally friendly ideals would have a snowballs chance in hell of getting elected.

Shame on the idiot who just had to blame it on B & B.
posted by Joeforking at 2:34 PM on July 28, 2003

Excess I
posted by Joeforking at 2:36 PM on July 28, 2003

This "scientist who has dedicated decades of his working life to studying the climate" can't thank of any better solution to this so-called "problem" than to blame Bush and Blair.

Well, Bush did appoint scientists to the US delegation on climate change only after getting the names approved by ExxonMobil (which also helped draft his disastrous environmental policy for Texas); then, the US lobbied to replace the chairman of the international climate change committee, again pressure from oil companies; also, the White House excised references to climate change from government websites and a recent EPA report, leading Christine Todd Whitman to put forward views that 'no longer accurately represent scientific consensus on climate change' for fear of 'antagonizing' her boss.

So, I think he's got a point; except that Bush, at least, is not doing nothing: he's adopting a policy that if you close your eyes and wish really hard, climate change will go away. Don't talk about it! Don't write about it! Then it won't bite! And Blair just poodles along.
posted by riviera at 2:38 PM on July 28, 2003

Well, I asked for it . . .

First. Faze. I'm inclined to think that Houghton's decades of work on major national and international organizations dedicated to finding the causes of climate change - the necessary first step toward any kind of solution to the problem - indicate that he does a bit more than "slobber curses." Accusing Houghton of doing nothing because he's not a front-line activist is, to my mind, akin to telling a doctor researching cancer that he's doing nothing to prevent death because he's not attending directly to famine victims or acting as a human shield.

As for what's to be done, well, I think personal consumer choices AND concerted action at the national and international levels by BOTH governments and NGOs are all essential. And actually I lean toward governments in terms of effectiveness. To cite a local example, even after several decades of rising vegetarianism, Alberta's beef industry was reporting "record levels" of sales as recently as April. But the Japanese and American governments' bans on beef imports (stemming from the discovery of a single cow infected with mad-cow disease) have crippled the industry in a few short weeks. When they want to, governments and the international organizations and agreements they participate in can create huge changes very quickly. Consumer choice, less so. And this is particularly true when it comes to a complex, fully global problem like climate change.

And Wood, for the record, I agree that the Holocaust is a bit of an awkward metaphor for climate change, but I still agree with muckster that climate change is a definite, known, unfolding threat to millions of lives, and that refusing to change our primary energy sources and such to combat it is in the same moral ballpark as not asking too many questions about where all the people on those trains were going.

And I'm willing to grant Houghton the use of "weapon" - as a way of differentiating between, for example, rain clouds and smog clouds. Or, for that matter, between the sun and the manmade hole in the ozone layer that has increased skin-cancer rates so precipitously. The latter in both cases being much closer to a weapon than the former.
posted by gompa at 2:45 PM on July 28, 2003

The latter in both cases being much closer to a weapon than the former

In the same way that a rutabaga is much closer to a wombat than a shoe is.

Sloppy and inflammatory language bugs me too, even with people I'd otherwise be inclined to agree with.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:23 PM on July 28, 2003

And as for you guys who think this is the new Holocaust, and want to know what to do about it: Stop driving. Stop eating meat. Turn off the air conditioner.

hmmm. . . well it's controlled by another tenant though we've often asked for it to be turned off

Can I slag Bush now?
posted by Fezboy! at 4:30 PM on July 28, 2003

muckster may prove to be correct if, in fact, the warning issued by the US National Academy of Sciences proves to be correct: "Recent scientific evidence shows that major and widespread climate changes have occurred with startling speed"

Houghton was merely using a rhetorical device to draw public attention to the fact the we are all, every day, shaping a collective catastrophe.........

Hello folks.....the NAS is a preeminent scientific body (both in the US and probably in the entire world) and it has issued a stark warning: "Global Warming could cause all hell to break loose. We have learned that the Earth's climate system is unstable and that massive and sudden climate shifts, on both regional and global scales, have occurred in the earth's recent past. We believe that Global Warming might trigger such shifts."

Helloooo. Anybody there?......if such an event happened - well, John Houghton would be the king of understatement.

orange swan - "Really, really alarmist. From what I've read, there's not that much we can do about global warming": wrong, and wrong again. Sorry to be so critical, but it is so - the sudden climate shifts talked about by the NAS are triggered when sensitive boundaries (or thresholds) are crossed. We can indeed take measured to pull back from crossing those boundaries. Will we? We will not do so if we keep up our current denial of the problem.

The Holocaust analogy breaks down here though: in mindlessly generating Greenhouse gasses and cutting down forests we are both targeting (quite without conscious intent) ourselves and also all life on Earth. If we do trigger a large and sudden climate shift, humans will survive, in some fashion. But we will have been responsible for the sixth major extinction event in the Earth;s history.

To those who believe in a supreme creator - we will have been responsible for the destruction of a significant portion of all life in God's creation.
posted by troutfishing at 11:30 PM on July 28, 2003

Folks like this make all Global Warming citers appear to be total nut cases. Someone should send him a copy of Chicken Little.
posted by HTuttle at 11:36 PM on July 28, 2003

Htuttle - No, they demonstrate that:

1) You did not bother to read my link, above, to the free online publication by the US National Academy of Science called "Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises (2002)" (which was commissioned to brief the US Congress on the subject),

2) You are willfully ignorant,

3) You do not believe in science.
posted by troutfishing at 11:58 PM on July 28, 2003

For a reference to my "Sixth Extinction Event" comment, National Geographic explained this quite well several years ago, and the case has only strengthened since.
posted by troutfishing at 12:04 AM on July 29, 2003

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