The headlines all send the same chilling message:
"Bitter Cold Grips Northern States..."
"Below-Zero Temps Close Schools..."
"Chilly Cold Spell Sweeping Hawaii..."
That can only mean one thing: global warming!
Yes, the -42-degree temperatures that left the town of Embarrass, Minn., red-faced earlier this week are, we are told, proof of global warming. The same is true of the heat wave that hit Europe last summer. When no major hurricanes hit the U.S. in 2006, that was also declared proof of global warming. So was Katrina in 2005.
Bad weather? Global warming. Good weather? Even worse. Car won't start? Your kid flunks a math test? Erectile dysfunction? Call Al Gore!
And if the Chicago Bears' Rex Grossman -- the Dan Quayle of quarterbacks -- had managed to beat the Indianapolis Colts, that miracle would no doubt have been attributed to the impact of global climate change, too.
Such is the miraculous power of the current weather panic: Everything proves that you're right, especially the stuff that proves you're wrong.
I make this observation not to re-debate the global warming issue, but to make the radical suggestion that we stop arguing, stop panicking, and (assuming it's not too late) start thinking -- thinking about what we really know about the weather and what we can actually do about it.
Because right now, we're not thinking. We're assuming:
a) The world is getting hotter by the minute. They'll be bailing floodwater out of midtown Manhattan any day now.
b) The rising temperatures are all our fault! We've got to fix it right away!
c) The way to fix it is for America to join all those rational and trustworthy Europeans in signing the Kyoto treaty.
That's what we believe because the media has convinced us this is what we're supposed to believe. Meanwhile, the editorial page editors and Prius drivers and casual tree-huggers among us have virtually no concrete information. Don't believe me? Take this quiz:
True or False?
1) Global temperatures are on the rise.
2) The oceans are currently getting warmer.
3) The Arctic is warmer today than it's been in at least a century.
For global warming kookery to inspire panic, all these assumptions must be true. They are all false.
When the last U.N. global warming screed was released in 2001, the climate models it relied on predicted we'd be measurably hotter by now. Instead, there has been no measurable change in Earth's average temperature. One reason for that is the cooling of the oceans that began in 2003 (despite contrary predictions from the UN scientists). Perhaps that's one reason why the Arctic today is cooler than it was in 1940.
Is the world getting warmer? Sure. It has been, off and on, since the mid-1600s. Why panic now?
I know, I know. "We gotta do something!" And that "something" is usually described as whatever Kyoto calls for. And nearly every person who thinks we should go Kyoto has absolutely no idea what that means.
What does "Kyoto" mean to you? Clean coal technology? Wearing more sweaters? Hitching a ride with Jane Fonda on the way to the "Impeach Bush" rally?
What Kyoto really says is that the only way to save the world is for America to be producing as little greenhouse gas 20 years from now as we were back in 1990. Think about that. We'll have 30 or more years worth of population growth, economic activity, increased competition from China, etc., but we'll have to somehow live on a power grid operating at the same level as 40 years earlier.
To put it in concrete terms, ask yourself if your house today, and the power strips lining your walls, could operate on the amount of electricity you used in 1990? Now add five more wall sockets attached to iPod chargers and Xboxes, and ask again.
Assuming Albus Dumbledore doesn't appear with a magic box that converts internet porn into a safe and efficient home heating source, cutting back that drastically means trillions -- that's TRI-llions -- of dollars over the next 10 years. It means losing an estimated 5 percent of our economy. In round numbers, it means 5 million American (mostly blue-collar) workers would have to lose their jobs.
And that's on the low end. Do you really support pink slips for five million of your fellow citizens to solve the "problem" that the world might be three degrees warmer 100 years from now?
By the way, George Will points out that, regardless of how many American jobs we destroy to fight the (electrical) power, China is scheduled to open a new coal-burning power plant every 10 days.
Is insanity a sign of global warming, too?