“… but, baby, it’s cold outside!” — Frank Loesser

October 12, 2009

AUDREY CARSON, 3, PLAYS IN THE OCTOBER SNOW IN OMAHA / AP PHOTO

AUDREY CARSON, 3, PLAYS IN THE OCTOBER SNOW IN OMAHA / AP PHOTO

When I was a kid, one of my jobs at home was to take all the trash from the grocery store, haul it out back, and burn it in an incinerator. Everything went into that trash barrel, including aerosol cans that exploded with a blast that could be heard for blocks. Air pollution? In the 1950s that meant static on WMCA.

I once interviewed a Catholic priest who was running for a seat in the state Legislature. He told me that when he was a teenager he got a summer job with a chemical company in North Jersey, and one of his chores was to ride on a truck that went into the Meadowlands where he and the driver would empty drums of water that had been contaminated with mercury. If I have my science right, the mercury is still there.

And that was just the future priest and the future deacon. By what factor should we multiply that to calculate the damage that we all have done out of ignorance — to say nothing of what was done deliberately.

SEPTEMBER SNOW AT COOPER MOUNTAIN, COLORADO / Cooper Mountain Photo

SEPTEMBER SNOW AT COOPER MOUNTAIN, COLORADO / Cooper Mountain Photo

The BBC reported today that the earth is not growing warmer, rumors to the contrary notwithstanding. In fact, according to the Brits, global temperatures have not increased in 11 years. The Pacific Ocean, apparently a bellwether where this subject is concerned, has been cooling off for the past few years after running a fever in the 1980s and 1990s.

I’m surprised the “junk science” crowd isn’t all over this. What an opportunity to derail the Obama administration’s plan to make up for eight lost years in American participation in international environmental agreements. But not so fast. Global temperatures are a red herring anyway. Fluctuations are a result of a bewildering complex of factors, some of them just as influential as human activity. But we know what kind of liberties we have taken with the environment, and two kids dumping mercury in the marshlands and launching sulfates into the atmosphere are just the poster boys. Let’s put the thermometers away and act responsibly once and for all.

The BBC report is at the following link:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8299079.stm

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