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What’s so funny about human caused global warming?

August 13, 2009

Thursdays are my “What’s so funny?” days.

Comedian George Carlin once asked, “If a pig looses its voice, can I say it’s disgruntled?”  I love the way he could use humor to bend our minds.  Paul Dickson’s Joke Treasury asks, “If lawyers are disbarred and clergy defrocked, doesn’t it follow that electricians can be delighted; musicians denoted; cowboys deranged; models deposed; tree surgeons debarked; and dry clearners depressed?”  To see the humor in things is a worthy exercise.   I’ll try one exercise:  “When the talking heads on the cable news shows scream and yell at each other, do you think they could be fined for being dumb and disorderly?”  Ok, not so funny, but I’d like to see less screaming and more seeking in our policy debates.  Wouldn’t you?

My good friend and I disagree.  He thinks global warming is a joke.  I think global warming is an existential threat to human kind.  My good friend and I agree on a lot of other things. We worked for nearly two decades together lobbying to curb the spread of conventional weapons.  We slogged through years of hard work to pass a Code of Conduct on Arms Trade; we worked together in the U.S. and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines; we’ve joined hands to stop the U.S. wars in Central America, Iraq, and Afghanistan; but we disagree on human caused global warming.

“Joe,” he says, “there is no such a thing as human caused global warming.  The earth goes through 100,000 year cycles of warming and cooling. The earth has a homeostasis system that somehow keeps the planet from completely freezing into a planetary ice cube and from boiling off all its water and becoming a barren space rock.  Humans are not powerful enough to overcome the system; it’s just too big.  The earth will go through a period of heating up, and, then, it will go through a period of cooling down.  The pattern is hundreds of millions of years old. You can depend on it.”

I said to my friend, “Let me ask you a question that – can you believe this – an Ayatollah asked me when I was in Qum a couple years ago.  ‘Mr. Volk, God spent millions of years – perhaps tens or hundreds of millions of years – sequestering carbon into the earth.  That carbon became coal and oil.  Now, by taking it out of the earth and burning it, we human beings have put all that carbon back into the atmosphere in a period of about 90 years.  Is it reasonable for us human beings to think that God’s creation will not be damaged by our doing that?  How can we not believe in human caused global warming?”

My friend said, “Enough about global warming. Let’s talk about something else.”  I think that’s where our national political debate about U.S. policy and global warming went this summer.  Instead of dealing with the existential threat that we pose to ourselves due to human caused global warming, our political leaders have decided to talk – no, scream and yell – about something else.  That something else is also very important, with life and death consequences, health care.  We need that discussion too.  I just wish that, instead of town hall fights, we could be smart and orderly about it.

One Comment
  1. Kathlyn Lew permalink
    August 20, 2009 11:59 am

    I liked this discussion – it was mindbending and an excellent anti-dote to the yelling-screaming mindbending going on at present everywhere, even my own head. Thank you. Kathlyn Lew

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