"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.
"Longfellow's oft-repeated classic line has surely never been so true as now. The country has seemingly gone crazy over warming that might (or might not) happen in 100 years. Otherwise sensible people are joining throngs of numbskulls mindlessly rushing toward wholesale changes in our life, culture and standard of living to "save the planet". Al Gore claims the polar ice caps will melt, New York and Los Angeles will be flooded (would that be bad?), and we'll all roast - around 2100 - because we won't stop driving SUVs and burning carbon-based fuels. But Al has a financial interest in selling his story. So do a lot of politicians and businessmen. (Somehow, I suspect they won't be around in 2100 to explain to Congress, if they were mistaken.)
The latest global warming "messiah" is Sheryl Crow, a pop-singer who clearly has too much money and waaay too much time on her hands. Miss Crowe has been touring the country, trying to reduce our "carbon footprints", with a convoy of three tractor-trailers, four buses and six cars - plus a band of disciples to help her spread the Gospel of Green she believes will stop the warming and save us. (Would she consider staying home and sewing quilt squares while holding her breath?) Her latest "idea" - admittedly in the "earliest stages of development" - is to limit each American to one sheet of toilet paper per, ah, sitting (the "h" is silent) - although she concedes one might need a few extra sheets for those "pesky occasions" when... well, you get the idea. (Will Rogers would agree that nobody could make up stuff this good.)
Undoubtedly, saving the planet via reduced TP-use will catch on immediately - for obvious financial reasons. Service stations, hotels, restaurants, offices and myriad others will save vast sums on lavatory costs - all in the name of green purity. The new restroom protocol will also spur a huge employment boom, as attendants will be required at the entrance of every public toilet to hand patrons a single sheet. (Obviously, the honor system won't work.) Millions of immigrants will fill these jobs that Americans won't do. To pay for the attendants, facilities users will remit a small fee - perhaps ½ Euro (about 60¢), the going rate in Europe where most of the over-60 population (by my informal estimate) sits at lavatory entrances collecting coins.
Miss Crowe's brother - egad! a whole family of visionaries! - has made the very sensible suggestion that even more conservation could be achieved if everyone used just one sheet per day and washed it out after each use. (Could he be pulling our collective leg?) Really, the concept is breathtaking. It quite puts in the shade my own modest proposal to place a Sears Catalogue at every potté (as in my grandma's outhouse, ca. 1948). Unfortunately, Sears no longer sends out those catalogues with the tissue-thin pages, and today's glossy mailers - which arrive at our house in the hundreds each week - won't pass the underwriters laboratories' wipe-test... again, delicacy prevents a complete description. (Well, you can't score every time.)
As race-track announcers say, "we're rounding the clubhouse turn" on global warming. The frenzy to act "before it's too late" is in full cry. Hopefully, it's just a fad or even a joke, but if it isn't we can soon expect new laws mandating all kinds of changes in how we live and work. Will they include toilet-paper rationing? Maybe. But if more serious changes are mandated, TP-washing will be the least of our worries. Here are some possibilities:
Reducing Carbon Emissions.
Human beings have been burning wood, hay, stubble, dung, coal, peat, oil and other organic fuels for millennia without destroying the planet, but green activists have decreed that carbon dioxide from combustion is warming the climate and must be curtailed. They want CO2-emissions heavily taxed to compensate the government for the "damage" combustion causes to the climate. (Since government provides the very air we breathe, you can see why this is reasonable.)
Others want government to assign companies and individuals carbon "allowances" to cover specific combustion amounts. Those who want to burn more (or use more combustion-produced power) would purchase additional allowances, at a "market price", from companies or individuals that don't use all of theirs. Wall street traders have warmly embraced this concept, foreseeing vast fortunes to be made from a brokered market in carbon allowances (a "virtual" commodity).
For government, brokers, and net sellers of carbon allowances, this would be the next best thing to printing money in the back room. It would also end American life as we know it. Fuel and electricity costs would go into orbit - possibly becoming unaffordable for millions. This would leave politicians with the interesting dilemma of either subsidizing combustion for poorer people - thus undermining the program's stated objective of lower CO2-emissions - or else letting those in the lowest income levels do without heat, power, or personal transportation. We started a revolution over a few cents tax on tea. What will happen if millions can't drive cars, can't buy cars, can't heat their homes, and lose jobs because CO2 emissions caps have crashed the economy? The idea redefines insanity.
...is the foundational technology of the modern world. The economies of developed nations would suffer disastrously from any restrictions on their ability to produce electric power for industry and the uncountable aspects of modern life. (This shows why China and India - nations on the way up - stubbornly refuse to limit CO2 emissions.)
Undeveloped countries can't develop without access to dependable sources of electricity. By definition, electricity-generation requires reliable, uninterrupted power sources like hydroelectric dams and steam-powered (i.e., fuel-burning or nuclear) plants. Solar- and wind-powered electricity-generation have been only minimally effective because these power-sources cannot be continuous. The sun provides no power at night and little on cloudy days. Winds wax and wane, even in the windiest locations. Environmentally "clean" hydroelectric dams have limited utility because they can be built in relatively few places and typically require vast lakes tolerable only in remote, rural locations.
Radical environmentalists seldom admit it, but their campaign to stop global warming is really a war on technology and industrial development. They believe industry is the planet's mortal enemy, and they dream of an earth returned to a primitive state. In that new Eden, only a few hundred million people (global population now exceeds 6 billion) would be hunting, gathering, farming and living (freezing, really) in mud huts - presumably in a far cooler climate - whilst the infernal engines of industry remain forever banished.
Fundamentally, this is a war against electricity - unless the electricity is generated in ways that could never support an industrial society. As British Channel 4's "The Great Global Warming Swindle" (1) points out, a key goal of climate activists is to keep the developing world from developing. A romanticized primitivity keeps third-world people poor, susceptible to disease, short-lived, and bereft of vocational options. African leaders complain that their backward countries will not be able to power cities or build an industrial base with wind- or solar-generated electricity. Africa has vast resources of oil and coal, but climate radicals are fighting hard to keep them from being used.
Defeat of the Great Satan.
Marxists - who have merely changed their flags from red to green - still hope to bring down that international pariah and satanic despoiler of the planet, the USA. They failed militarily, but they might still do it if they can convince us to witlessly self-limit our own access to cheap, reliable energy. Our way of life will be impoverished, our economy ruined and our world-influence wrecked. Without our great sword of industry and technology, a swarm of midgets will slay us. We shall be the greatest national suicide in history.
Warming - for the record:
- Greenhouse Warming. No clear evidence "proves" that greenhouse gasses are warming the climate - only computer models whose assumptions are debatable and not universally accepted by climate scientists. Some scientists now say the polar ice historical record shows that increased CO2-levels actually lag warming periods by some 800 years. Thus, warming eventually produces more atmospheric CO2 - not the reverse.
- Climate Cycles. The earth has warmed and cooled repeatedly during recorded history, plus uncountable times over millions of years of pre-history. Scientists note that atmospheric CO2-levels have been ten times today's levels without ecological disaster.
- Long Cycles. Man caused neither the Medieval Warm Period (c.a. AD 850-1300) nor the Little Ice Age (c.a. AD 1300-1850).
- Short Cycles. The climate warmed from 1870 to 1940, before the modern industrial age, but cooled from 1940 to 1980, when the modern industrial age was in full swing.
- Sunspots. Many scientists theorize that sunspot activity is the major driver of earth's climate. (The Little Ice Age occurred while sunspot activity was minimal.)
- Recent Cycles. As recently as 1980, scientists were extrapolating the 1940-'80 cooling period into a "new ice age". Then, warming began in 1980. Temperatures today are only slightly higher than in 1940, when the 1870-1940 warm era ended. Scientists say 1980-‘98 was a warming period, with a slight cooling trend since 1998. The recent severe winter, lasting into late April, is part of this.
- Polar "Crisis". The polar ice caps are not in a meltdown crisis. Via satellite, we now see annual spring-thaw events. This makes us think iceberg-calving is unique to our era. Icebergs fill the North Atlantic every year. (One sank the Titanic in 1912.) Glaciers have advanced and retreated during recorded history. Scientists now know that the "ozone hole" comes and goes naturally.
- Storms. A warmer climate does not cause more intense hurricanes or blizzards. Scientists say the diminished temperature gradients of a warmer climate would occasion storms of lesser intensity, not greater. Storms in recent years have not been the worst in history. They only seem so because of 24/7 cable news coverage and a general ignorance of the past. (A disastrous hurricane killed 6,000 people when it hit Galveston, Texas, in 1900.)
(1) See "The Great Global Warming Swindle", AHH, 27 March 2007. (http://www.ahherald.com/content/view/1446/27/ )