Sunday, March 19, 2006

Mixed messages

The lead item in the "Talk of the Town" section in this week's New Yorker discusses the growing body of evidence that global warming is a reality. It reports that Antarctica is losing ice and this past summer the Arctic ice cap had shrunk to the smallest area ever recorded.

The piece proceeds to report other ominous signs and then offers the conservative response to global warming, quoting the Wall Street Journal and National Review Online.

From the Journal:

The problems associated with climate change (whether man-made or natural) are the same old problems of poverty, disease, and natural hazards like floods, storms, and droughts....money spent on these problems is a much surer bet than money spent trying to control a climate change process we don't understand.
And from the National Review Online:
We can do more to help the poor by combating these problems now than we would be reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
To which the New Yorker responds:
The beauty of this argument is its apparent high-mindedness, and this, of coruse, is also its danger. Carbon dioxide is a persistent gas--it lasts for about a century--and once released into the atmosphere it is, for all practical purposes, irrecoverable. Since every extra increment of CO2 leads to extra warming, addressing the effects of climate change without dealing with the cause is a bit like trying to treat diabetes with doughnuts. The climate isn't going to change just once, and then settle down; unless CO2 concentrations are stabilized, it will keep on changing, producing, in addition to the "same old problems," an ever-growing array of new ones.
So the message is clear: We need to cease adding CO2 to the atmosphere.

Sixteen pages before that piece appears a can't-miss ad for the new 320-horsepower V8 Infiniti FX. On a 12-page insert, the reader is told relentlessly that this "SUV inspired by sports car design" is a marvel. The vehicle is "accentuated by distinctive, dynamic features that exemplify both elegance and power." It has a "muscular stance." It's "Brave. By Design."

The message is clear: We need to buy this vehicle which gets 18 mpg on the highway and add a big 'ol heap of CO2 to the atmosphere.