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While world leaders and the Sierra Club denounce President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate change agreement, look on the bright side. A decade ago one of the nation’s leading science guys sounded like Donald Trump when he challenged environmental pessimists on the issue of global warming. Could he have been right?
It’s been ten long years since NASA’s then director Michael Griffin sounded like our current president when he dismissed the concerns of environmentalists over global warming. Although he later backpedaled, claiming he misspoke, Griffin’s analysis elicited a responsive chord across the political spectrum. Today, Griffin would probably find a spot on a Trump pro-global warming task force.
Consider these gems! While agreeing that “a trend of global warming exists,” Griffin discounted its seriousness: “I’m not sure that it’s a problem we must wrestle with.” You can almost imagine Griffin as Trump’s point man on climate change.
More than that, Griffin suggested that global warming may have positive benefits for mankind. He argued that it’s “rather arrogant” to assume that the current climate is the optimum one. “Which human beings, where and when, are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings?”
That raised some interesting possibilities. Assume that both political parties agree with Griffin that a hotter temperature is not necessarily a bad thing. Republicans envision a challenge that proves the necessity of private enterprise. Democrats foresee an excuse to extend governmental power. At that point the thermometer replaces illegal immigration and the war on terror as the touchstones of American politics.
Republican and Democratic strategists hunker down in an effort to determine what the worldwide optimum temp ought to be. Hard rock conservatives, prodded by the religious right, want to let Mother Nature take her course. They see God’s hand in all this, and know that in the end all will be right with the world.
On the other hand, mainstream Republicans will want to nudge the whole warming process along with some aid from Washington if the private sector can benefit from a warmer climate. How a jurist stands on the constitutionality of state laws hindering a temperature rise will become their litmus test for supreme court appointments.
Or perhaps Republican Neocons will win out. A “war on warming” could be just the ticket for a sluggish economy. Billions spent on creating an artificial heat shield over North America will line the pockets of Halliburton, Boeing and related aero-space corporations. But the president and Trump-style conservative penny-pincher’s, Minute Men and most right-wing talk show hosts will deplore spending their tax dollars to protect Mexico.
Since an increase in world temperature means rising sea waters and flooding of coastal locations, it will start a new debate over rebuilding New Orleans. Democrats will rush to move the entire port a few miles inland, preferably to a small burg on the Mississippi River, the hometown of Louisiana’s most powerful Democratic congressman.
“Recovered environmentalists” will change from pessimists to optimists. They’ll predict that melting ice caps on Greenland and Antarctica will open vast new areas for agriculture just as population growth threatens to outpace agricultural production. The effect will parallel the opening of the Missouri Valley and Australian wheat fields in the 19th century, which stimulated both economic growth and population expansion.
Huge areas now too cold for farming in the northern hemisphere will gradually come under cultivation, further increasing the world’s food supply. An iceless Greenland could feed half the world. The loss of farmland in overheated equatorial regions will have little effect since those places have been in turmoil for centuries and have provided only a small portion of the world’s foodstuffs.
In the end, Griffin’s gaffe may turn out to be a Godsend. Al – “An Inconvenient Truth” – Gore’s next documentary could be entitled “A Fortuitous Misstatement.”