By Amitabh Pal on February 24, 2010

Two months after Copenhagen, things on the global warming front are in a downward spiral.

At the summit meeting itself, nations failed to agree on binding commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions. And the resignation a few days ago of the main U.N. person dealing with climate change is yet another blow. Yvo de Boer departed mainly out of a feeling of despondency at the state of affairs, according to news reports.

Another top climate change official, Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has come under withering fire and calls for resignation for errors in the panel’s research and for the contracts he has secured in recent years for the Indian nonprofit he runs, The Energy Research Institute.

The fact that some errors crept into the IPCC’s most recent report (issued in 2007) is embarrassing. And Pachauri should have been more careful about drumming up business for his organization. But to claim that such missteps prove that global warming constitutes a fraud is a hoot. As Pachauri told me when I interviewed him in December 2008: “Thousands of people are part of what some of these people say is a conspiracy? My God! This is a conspiracy on a scale that’s absolutely astounding!”

Scientific organizations have come out with recent statements reaffirming that global warming is very much a reality.

“Over the last few months, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been attacked for minor errors in its sprawling 2007 report on climate change,” says a Feb. 10 press release by the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Overall, the IPCC's conclusions remain indisputable: Climate change is happening now and human activity is causing it. Nations around the world will have to adapt to at least some climate change, including sea level rise, changes in precipitation, disruptions to agriculture, and species extinctions.”

But minor scientific details haven’t stopped climate change deniers from seizing the moment. Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming has called for Pachauri’s resignation and an independent panel to investigate his organization. And the Utah House earlier this month passed a resolution questioning global warming, as Terry Tempest Williams reveals in our coming issue.

Such know-nothings draw sustenance from a deep distrust of basic science in the United States, including on climate change.

“It is a skepticism that stands in contrast with prevailing views in Europe and has been linked to the influence of U.S. talk radio, the ‘oil lobby,’ an enduring love affair with cars, and a history founded on limiting the role of government,” reports Reuters. “Science can be controversial in a country where evangelical Christians make up a quarter of the adult population. Many, for example, doubt the theory of evolution because they believe it contradicts the Bible.”

So, only 43 percent of Americans believe that global warming is caused due to human activity, and only 44 percent believe it to be a “very serious problem” versus 90 percent of Brazilians, 68 percent of the French and 65 percent of the Japanese population. The result? Widespread opposition even to the inadequate climate change cap and trade bill still stuck in the Senate.

If only the threat facing us weren’t so serious.

Amitabh Pal is the Managing Editor of The Progressive magazine. To subscribe for just $14.97 a year, just click here.

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He doesn't believe in it. But Mary Burke does, and she wants to raise it. So do most Badgers.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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