As the Copenhagen conference on global warming ends inconclusively, I am reminded strongly of the world’s reaction in the 1930s to the rise of Nazi Germany.
As Adolf Hitler took his first steps toward conquest, many thinking people realized that the Nazi regime was a grave threat to world peace.
But what to do about it? Scarred by the slaughter of World War I, most European nations — and the United States — wanted to avoid war at almost any cost. They dithered while Hitler marched.
They tried appeasement. When Hitler demanded a slice of Czechoslovakia, the leaders of Britain and France let him take it, without allowing the Czechs any say in the decision. Within a year Czechoslovakia ceased to exist, absorbed into the Greater German Reich.
Most Americans wanted nothing to do with the storm brewing in Europe. Isolationism was a powerful political force in the U.S.
Despite the desire for peace, despite the appeasement, despite everything, the war came. More than a hundred million people were killed in World War II. Much of Europe and Japan were smashed into rubble. The war cost trillions of dollars.
Are we going through the same dangerous routine in dealing with global warming? Are we dithering when we should be acting? Are we clinging to the hope that it will go away if only we ignore it? Are we denying that the danger is real?
I fear we are.
Just before the Copenhagen conference opened, hackers revealed that Phil Jones, director of the Climate Research Unit at Britain’s University of East Anglia and a major contributor to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), had urged fellow scientists to bury scientific studies that didn’t agree with the “standard” view that the global climate is warming dangerously, and much of the warming is being caused by human-produced greenhouse gases.
“Global warming is a fake!” cried those who have long denied that our climate is swiftly changing. Jones resigned his post.
Yet the fact remains that scientific reports casting doubt on global warming and its causes have indeed been published. Jones’ admonitions to throw out data that doesn’t agree with the “standard” view have not been followed.
The Earth’s climate is warming. You can see satellite pictures of the Arctic Ocean’s shrinking ice cap. Glaciers are melting all over the world.
Animals are migrating northward, and up to higher elevations, in response to the warming climate. Plant species are blossoming earlier in the spring because the weather is warmer.
Is this warming being caused by human activities? After all, the Earth’s climate has swung from tropical to ice age many times in the past, long before human beings even arose. It seems certain that human-produced greenhouse gases are a part of the warming, but how much of a part? That remains unclear, so far.
How much warmer will the climate become? That isn’t firmly nailed down as yet, either. What will the effects of the warming be? Rising sea levels, desertification of areas that are now productive farmlands, more powerful tropical storms — those are all possibilities, but the amount and severity of such changes are unknown, to date.
So, like the world in the 1930s, we can see the possibilities of a severe problem arising. What should we do about it?
The Copenhagen conference accomplished little, except a promise from the industrialized nations — including the United States — to give hundreds of billions of dollars to the poor nations to help them deal with the effects of warming. That seems to me about as useful as allowing Hitler to swallow Czechoslovakia.
I fear that we will do nothing effective. Scientists will continue to measure and try to refine their estimates. Those who deny the reality of global warming will continue to insist it’s all a hoax. Politicians will continue to dither and try to buy peace and quiet.
And the climate will continue to get warmer. We will continue to spend billions for imported petroleum, and billions more for “compensation” to poor countries, whose leaders will pocket the money.
We are heading for serious change, whether we admit it nor not.
Bova, a Naples resident, is the author of more than 120 books. His Grand Tour novels depict the political and social changes resulting from severe global warming. Bova’s Web site address is www.benbova.com